From education to employment

From war to law – Syrian refugee inspired by own nightmare asylum battle, trains to be a lawyer at Manchester firm


A Syrian war refugee who was inspired to study law following a successful legal battle to stay in the UK after initially being rejected asylum and left without a country to call home, has taken the first step towards his dream of being a lawyer.

Ahmad Ismaiel describes being “given a new life”, as he embarks on his legal training at Barings Law, Manchester, but his journey since escaping the war in 2011 has taken him around the world.

The 25-year-old paralegal initially won a scholarship to study at the University of Evansville, USA, before coming to Harlaxton College, Grantham, in 2017 as an exchange student on a temporary visa.

However, his visa was soon to expire when disaster struck for Ahmad who describes being “lost without a country” when former president Trump banned Muslims from entering America.

“I didn’t know what to do and had nowhere to go. It was like being lost in a foreign country,” says Ahmad.

“I remember applying for asylum to the UK, but the Home Office initially rejected my application. I couldn’t study, couldn’t travel, or work and just remember feeling helpless. I was completely on my own and because Syria was at war, I didn’t even have a country to go to.

“Luckily, I did some reading around the law and remembered something I learned while volunteering at the British Red Cross and appealed my decision, which thankfully I won. It was a huge relief for me and felt like I’d been given a new life.

“I want to thank Barings Law for giving me the opportunity to fulfil my ambition of becoming a solicitor. It is my own experience of the legal system that inspired me to enter the profession and help others.”

After he was eventually awarded asylum in 2018, Ahmad went to The University of Sussex to study Law.

Having graduated with his LLB (Hons) last year, he plans to take the Solicitor’s Qualification Exam (SQE), for which he is seeking funding, after gaining 2 years of legal experience at Barings.

Currently working in the Data Breach department at the firm, he wants to show people how having legal knowledge can help in life.

Ahmad is originally from Jableh in Syria, and hasn’t seen his family in four years, but speaks to them regularly especially since the recent earthquake which caused destruction to parts of the country.

“Thankfully my family are all okay, but it’s the last thing Syria needed. My thoughts and prayers are with those affected,” he added.

“My beloved Syria will always have a special place in my heart and what has happened recently is utterly devastating. I wish I could go back and help with the relief efforts.

“People are now beginning to see the immense suffering that my nation has experienced and the urgent need for relief, reform, and justice. Syria needed this help long before the calamity occurred.

“The country has been in war for 11 years. I was one of the lucky ones that got out, but sadly I’ve lost many friends in the conflict. When I see images on the news, it’s hard to believe that those places I used to play and walk, are now under rubble.

“I hope one day I will switch on the news and hear ‘the war has ended’.”

Ahmad also volunteered at his university’s law clinic, which he says taught him a great deal about the judicial system.

His goal is to become a qualified solicitor at Barings Law, a firm which specialises in helping victims of mis-selling and employs more than 100 staff at its headquarters in Manchester.

He adds: “Upon qualifying I want to promote access to justice by working with Barings and organisations that support vulnerable and marginalised communities.

“I understand that certain groups may face additional barriers to accessing justice, and I am committed to using my skills, expertise, and personal experience to help them overcome these obstacles.

“I believe that it is essential for me to be an active advocate for the legal profession, and I am dedicated to promoting laws and reforms that advance access to justice and guarantee that the judicial system is just and equitable for all citizens of this nation.

“After working towards this objective in the UK, I will feel more confident and have more resources to concentrate on my long-term objectives of advancing access to justice in my beloved country, Syria.”

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