2020/21 Theme: Borders and Human Rights

With the theme of Borders and Human Rights, Oak Institute seeks to explore many aspects of the intersection of borders and human rights, including immigration, refugees, militarization, colonialism, imperialism, indigenous rights, and free movement. We will also consider the different ways to address borders and human rights issues through an exploration of policy, advocacy, and resistance.

2020 Oak Human Rights Fellow: Nasim Lomani

Nasim Lomani is a human rights defender and migrants’ rights activist working both in the field and at the political level in Greece and the greater EU for over a decade.

Lomani arrived in Greece nearly two decades ago as a 16-year-old from Afghanistan. Upon arrival, he was arrested and charged with illegal crossing of the Greek border, ultimately serving a two-year prison sentence. During the process of appealing to the court for having his rights as a refugee abused and violated, he learned about the bureaucratic difficulties that all migrants face while on the move to Europe. He joined a number of solidarity groups, such as the Network for Social Support to Immigrants and Refugees and the Migrants’ Social Center in Athens, where he coordinated free language classes and the Athens Anti-racist Festival. He also engaged in solidarity work that included lawyers, human rights defenders, as well as refugees and migrants.

Lomani, together with other solidarians, founded and served as one of the key organizers of City Plaza – Refugees Accommodation Solidarity Space in Athens, where he organized daily life for migrants, managed media communication, coordinated international volunteers, and served as the public representative to researchers, students, and academics.

© Marios Lolos

City Plaza, once one of the largest solidarity migrant accommodations in Athens, was a repurposed abandoned hotel in central Athens that offered people on the move (400 at a time, 3,000 in total and for almost three and half years) the right to live in dignity in the urban space with access to social, economic, and political rights. Lomani lived inside the now-suspended City Plaza as long as it was open, organizing to create international solidarity.

Lomani faces increasing risk, as migration solidarity work and defending human rights in Greece, and Europe at large has been criminalized in recent years. Helping refugees and criticizing human rights violations by authorities is now a major offense by both national and European law. In Greece, this has led to large-scale evictions of refugees and asylum seekers from housing sites and increased arrests and prosecutions of activists.

Lomani has been active in the human rights field since he was a child. The Oak Fellowship will offer some much-needed respite. As the 2020 Oak Fellow, he will teach students at Colby about the Balkan Route, solidarity organizing, and anti-racist politics.


2020 Oak Human Rights Fellow: Adriana Jasso

Adriana Jasso is a Human Rights Advocate based in San Diego, California. She currently serves as the Program Coordinator at the U.S.-Mexico Border Program, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), where she documents border enforcement-related human rights abuses, organizes community civil rights education, monitors and documents immigration enforcement activities (such as I.C.E. raids), and conducts ongoing media work focused on keeping migrant communities informed of immigration enforcement-related news.

© Pedro Rios

Jasso has an M.A in Education Studies (2006) and a B.A. in Latin American Studies and Spanish Literature (2002), both from the University of California, San Diego, along with an A.A. in Social and Behavioral Sciences (1996) from Oxnard College. Jasso presently serves on the Advisory Board for San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (SDIRC), which represents over 30 community-based, human rights, labor, and religious organizations that collaborate on immigrant rights work. Since 2012, she has been a representative of Friends of Friendship Park Coalition, a binational coalition committed to protecting public access to Border Field State Park as a cross-border point of contact frequented by families who have been separated due to immigration status.

As the San Diego County Liaison, Jasso is the contact person to help mediate communications between San Diego county community organizations and various local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. Jasso is also the San Diego Representative for the Defund Hate Coalition, a national coalition seeking to defund Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) and Customs and Border Protection (C.B.P.).

© Pedro Rios

One of the primary areas of Jasso’s work for the U.S.-Mexico Border Program is the documentation of civil and human rights abuses. Her work includes tracking abuses against documented and undocumented migrants, as well as U.S. citizens. She is responsible for interviewing the impacted person and/or family members and she formalizes the complaint with the corresponding government agencies. Another aspect of her organization’s work is documentation and production of reports highlighting patterns of abuse by law enforcement agencies and making recommendations to end inhumane practices. Jasso’s current work goes beyond U.S.-Mexico Border documentation of civil and human rights abuses and includes influencing local, state, and federal policies, community base building, and inter-organizational alliance building. Ultimately, Jasso is building towards her goal of ensuring that the dignity and humanity of migrants are respected. Jasso’s plans for the future include writing a book of short stories that will be based on the different stages of trauma that migrant families experience as they make their way to the southern U.S. border region.