W&M Libraries Partner with the Immigration Clinic to Add New Resources to Assist Afghan Asylum Seekers

By Nicole Alanko, J.D. ‘18, Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow

The Immigration Clinic and W&M Libraries have partnered to assist William & Mary students in their research for Afghan asylum cases. Building on the Asylum Country Conditions Research Guide first published in October 2020, research librarian Liz Bellamy ‘13 and the Clinic’s IJC Fellow Nicole Alanko, J.D. ‘18 worked together to add more resources specific to the conditions Afghans are fleeing. The new page of the research guide includes information on relevant US government databases, official NATO and United Nations documents and reports on Afghanistan, and W&M Libraries’ 500+ databases that can be relevant to a wide variety of claims.

“The Asylum Country Conditions Research Guide has been an incredible tool for our students,” said IJC Fellow Nicole Alanko. “Students in the Clinic have conducted vital and detailed research on topics and countries as diverse as discrimination against people with disabilities in Honduras to feminism in Turkey using these resources. Now, we are looking forward to the incredible impact that this research guide will have on the cases of the Afghan families we serve here in the Clinic.”

“W&M Libraries believes that the right information in the right hands at the right time can be life-changing, and few initiatives exemplify that more than the W&M Immigration Clinic,” said Liz Bellamy, research librarian at Swem Library. “We’re proud to continue our support for their incredible work by helping to make quality information about country conditions easily findable and accessible so that Clinic students can make their strongest possible arguments based on clear and reputable evidence. It’s important to us that our guide is a living document, and as events continue to unfold on a global scale, we will continue to add resources.”

According to Commonwealth Catholic Charities, over 200 Afghans have been resettled to the greater Hampton Roads region. The Immigration Clinic has nearly doubled its caseload to meet the needs of our new Afghan neighbors and assist them with staying permanently in the United States. This includes working with many families who are applying for asylum.

In order to win asylum, a person must demonstrate that they have suffered past persecution or have a well-founded fear of future persecution on account of their race, religion, national origin, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Asylum seekers must corroborate their claims, through direct evidence such as psychological evaluations, and through indirect, supporting evidence about life and conditions in their home country. Gathering this supporting evidence requires complex, fact-specific research about an applicant’s country. In the context of Afghanistan, this means detailed research on the treatment of minority groups such as the Hazara, the treatment of those who used to work in the Afghan government or who assisted the US military, restrictions on journalists and freedom of the press, and violence against women and girls. Beyond news articles and reports from international organizations, this research requires sources from a variety of academic disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, political science, history, and public health. This guide connects students to the breadth of resources available through William & Mary. 

The Asylum Research Guide, including the new Afghan-specific resources, can be found on the William & Mary Libraries main website