We are a dedicated network of advisory and staff members, influential stakeholders, and committed volunteers who share a common belief that no decisions should be made about refugees without refugees.
Rez Gardi, Co-Managing Director
Rez Gardi is an international lawyer and human rights activist of Kurdish descent. Rez sought to use her difficult start in life as motivation to help others, becoming New Zealand’s first female Kurdish lawyer. She also became the first Kurd to graduate from Harvard Law School, where she received an LLM as part of a Fulbright Scholarship. Prior to joining R-SEAT, Rez worked in Iraq as a Harvard Human Rights Fellow in support of cases prosecuting ISIS for its genocidal campaign against the Yezidis. Rez is the founder of ‘Empower’ – a refugee-led organization which aims to address the underrepresentation of refugee youth in higher education. Rez represented New Zealand at the first ever Global Refugee Youth Consultations in 2016, helped establish the Global Youth Advisory Council to the UNHCR, and is a co-founding member of the Refugee Steering Group to the UNHCR Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement (ATCR) and currently leads as one of its representatives. Rez has received an array of awards including: 2017 Young New Zealander of the Year, 2018 Women of Influence Finalist, 2018 NEXT Woman of the Year Finalist, 2019 Outstanding Youth Delegate Award at the UN Youth Assembly, 2019 Eisenhower Youth Fellow, 2020 Global Impact Award, and 2021 Peace Ambassador for the One Young World Summit.
Mustafa Alio, Co-Managing Director
Prior to joining at R-SEAT, Mustafa Alio was a co-founder and former Managing Director of Jumpstart Refugee Talent, an organization devoted to the economic inclusion of refugees. In 2017, Jumpstart pioneered the Economic Mobility Pathways Program (EMPP), currently supported by IRCC to help resettle Ukrainian refugees. In 2019, Mustafa became the first refugee to formally represent Canada at the Global Refugee Forum. In 2021, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Decorations (Civil Division) from the Office of the Governor General in Canada. Mustafa sits on multiple national and international advisory boards. He has worked closely with multiple government partners, international refugee networks, UNHCR, civil society actors from around the globe, and other stakeholders to address gaps and improve programing that meet refugee needs internationally, and especially within Canada. Mustafa has authored several articles on refugee issues, and can be found in The Independent, The New York Times, The Stanford Social Innovation Review, The Apolitical, The New Humanitarian and Forced Migration Review.
Marisa Leon Gomez Sonet, Partnerships & Communications Coordinator
Since 2015, Marisa has worked on policy and advocacy on migration, refugee, and human rights issues extending from the multilateral sphere to the national, regional, and city levels. Most recently, she has worked with Quaker organizations on advancing migration justice. At the national level in the United States, she lobbied Congress to promote regularization pathways for undocumented migrants, halt discriminating travel bans, and increase refugee resettlement numbers. At the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) in Geneva as part of the Human Rights and Refugees Programme, Marisa engaged with a wide range of people from across States, civil society, and the UN system. In her work with QUNO, she supported the development of engagement strategies, including meaningful migrant participation, for core migration multilateral processes, particularly the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) and the International Migration Review Forum (IMRF). At the city level, Marisa worked to advance and strengthen sanctuary practices and policies in Chicago, following the lead of directly affected communities. Marisa is from Tegucigalpa, Honduras and began her career with a focus on human rights issues in regard to U.S. foreign policy and military spending in Central America. Marisa has a master’s degree in Global Affairs, International Peace Studies concentration from the University of Notre Dame and a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies, International Development, and French from Salve Regina University.
James Milner, LERRN Project Director
James Milner is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Carleton University. He is currently Project Director of LERRN: The Local Engagement Refugee Research Network, a 7-year, SSHRC-funded partnership between researchers and civil society actors primarily in Canada, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon and Tanzania. He has been a researcher, practitioner, and policy advisor on issues relating to the global refugee regime, global refugee policy, and the politics of asylum in the global South. In recent years, he has undertaken field research in Burundi, Guinea, Kenya, India, Tanzania, and Thailand, and has presented research findings to stakeholders in New York, Geneva, London, Ottawa, Bangkok, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, and elsewhere. He has also worked as a Consultant for the UNHCR in India, Cameroon, Guinea, and its Geneva Headquarters. He is the author of Refugees, the State and the Politics of Asylum in Africa (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), co-author (with Alexander Betts and Gil Loescher) of UNHCR: The Politics and Practice of Refugee Protection (Routledge, 2012), and co-editor of Refugees’ Roles in Resolving Displacement and Building Peace: Beyond Beneficiaries (Georgetown University Press, 2019) and Protracted Refugee Situations: Political, Human Rights and Security Implications (UN University Press, 2008).
Hannah Loewith, Senior Policy Analyst
Hannah Loewith is a graduate of the Master of Global Affairs program at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, University of Toronto. The focus of her graduate studies were Human Rights and Global Justice, and Global Policy and Asia. She received her Honours Specialization in Political Science which focussed on International Policy and Regional Politics from Western University, where she also holds a Minor in Transitional Justice and Post Conflict Reconstruction. During her studies, she had the opportunity to study at the National University of Singapore which fostered her interest in South East Asian politics. She is currently a student at SOAS University of London studying for her MA of Migration and Diaspora Studies. Some of her interests are refugee rights, food sovereignty, anticolonialism, and the intersection between power and accountability.