April 07, 2017

Ed O’Toole and Sarah Park secure asylum for family from The Gambia

2 min

In furtherance of the New York office's long history of working with the City Bar Justice Center on asylum cases, Sarah Park and Ed O’Toole won asylum for a mother and her family from The Gambia. The pro bono client fled The Gambia after facing the pressure from her mother-in-law to circumcise her daughters.  In November 2012, the client's mother-in-law gave an ultimatum that the daughters would be circumcised during the school holidays in December 2012, so that the eldest daughter could marry an uncle upon finishing school in 2013. The client understood she could not protect her girls in The Gambia any longer and escaped with both daughters and her eldest son on the final day before the holidays in December 2012. She subsequently sought the assistance of the City Bar Justice Center, who referred the case.

A parent cannot make a derivative claim for asylum based solely on a threat of harm to her children, and there is a circuit split as to whether a parent may claim asylum based on the pain and suffering she would experience from seeing a daughter subjected to circumcision or forced marriage. Thus, in our client's application, the Venable team and the City Bar Justice Center argued forcefully that the client would face persecution in The Gambia, pointing to evidence of threats to her own safety. The same argument was made in the interview, which was granted a long three years after the application was submitted.

After a significant delay of six months, the client received notice that asylum was granted for herself and her family, ending her four-year journey.