Melissa Phillips, Chair
Dr Melissa Phillips is an Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne and a non-resident fellow at the Center on International Cooperation at New York University. She was formerly a Senior Regional Advisor on refugee protection and migration for Danish Refugee Council based in the Middle East and has academic expertise on issues related to migration, mobility and displacement that is informed by her work in the field. Melissa has worked for the UN and NGOs in Libya, the Horn of Africa and South Sudan in the areas of protection of civilians and humanitarian coordination. Her Doctorate in Social and Political Sciences on the pre-migration experiences of migrants and refugees was completed at the University of Melbourne (2013). She also holds a Master of Arts (Applied Anthropology and Development) and Bachelor of Arts (Honors). Her published work in open-source outlets and academic journals focuses on multiculturalism, migrant and refugee settlement, and transit migration. Melissa is also a Regional Advisor for the International Detention Coalition and is an Assistant Editor for the Journal of Intercultural Studies.
Jacques Tassi is a graduate of the College Ecole Supérieure de Commerce and he is a certified public accountant. He served for 22 years at Ernst & Young as a partner, then as the deputy-managing partner for France. In 1999, he joined Handicap International France Board of Trustees, where he served first as treasurer and then, in 2006, as chairman. In 2009, he was appointed the first chairman of the board of the newly launched Handicap International Federation. Since 2013 he is involved in the social business being member of several non-profit.
After having served previously as a refugee community leader in Malaysia, the Afghan community elected Nematullah Ahmadi in an effort to reinvigorate the ACC. “We have so many talents in our community,” Nematullah explains, “but no way to express them.” Working with URBAN REFUGEES, Nematullah is learning how the ACC can more effectively amplify the voices of community members. In 2015: Certificate of attendance in UNHCR meetings From Mr. Richard Towle (HQ UN Malaysia). In 2016: Certificate of volunteer cooperation with UNHCR Malaysia as Afghan refugees representative.
Sofia Imad is the Chair of URBAN REFUGEES France and is specialized in humanitarian programs management. Sofia started her career in 2011 as a Humanitarian Affairs assistant at OCHA in Geneva. She then worked at the MENTOR initiative NGO in Chad and in Angola, managing health programs successively as a Finance and Administration Manager, Program Director and Program Manager. In Chad, Sofia managed a 500 000 USD budget and conducted malaria control programs for Central African refugees with a BPRM grant. She also volunteered with refugees in the West Bank and worked as the coordinator for a student program in the region during her studies. Sofia holds a Master’s degree in International Affairs from the French Political Sciences Institute of Bordeaux and is currently preparing a Masters in Public Health at the Pasteur Institute to continue her work on health programs in developing countries.
Dale Buscher is the Senior Director for Programs at the Women’s Refugee Commission where he leads the organization’s work on refugee livelihoods, youth, gender, and disabilities and oversees the Commission’s work on sexual and reproductive health and migrants’ rights and justice. Buscher is also an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs where he teaches courses on Gender, Livelihoods and Displacement.
Buscher has been working in the refugee assistance field since 1988 in a variety of capacities including with Vietnamese boat people in the Philippines, with Haitian refugees interned at Guantanamo Bay, with displaced Kurds in Northern Iraq, with Bosnian refugees in Croatia and with Kosovars in Albania and in Kosovo. He also led the International Catholic Migration Commission’s $25 million international programs in 20 countries. In addition, Buscher has consulted for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and wrote the handbook, Operational Protection in Camps and Settlements. He has assessed and researched refugee situations around the world, published numerous articles and presented at a multitude of global conferences. Buscher has a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Utah and a Bachelors of Science degree from Iowa State University. He lives in New York.
Thomas Thompson-Flores, Director of Legal Affairs
Thompson-Flores, Esq, is a licensed New York attorney with experience in international human rights and refugee law. He has worked at NGO’s, international tribunals, and law firms both in the US and abroad. He has represented asylum seekers in refugee status determination claims before the UNHCR. He has experience conducting research on human rights violations committed in countries around the globe to support advocacy campaigns, human rights litigation cases, and submissions to the Human Rights Committee seeking justice for victims. Thomas earned a Bachelor Degree in Political Science from the University of Michigan, a JD from the University of Miami School of Law (Cum Laude), and an LL.M. from The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. He is Brazilian/American has lived in North & South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. He speaks English, French, Portuguese, and some Spanish.
Hitomi Kubo, Director of Field Programs and Security
Hitomi Kubo is a member of the Microclinic International (MCI) leadership team and oversees MCI’s policy department, translating practice evidence into systems, institutional and policy improvements at the local, national and international levels. Hitomi is a specialist in human security policy and practice, focusing on interdisciplinary responses for critical global challenges and developing frameworks for such cooperation that place people at the center of analysis. She was a faculty member at the Master of Public Affairs, Sciences Po University in Paris where, from 2007-2012, she was also the Co-Director of the Concentration in Human Security. She regularly consults with UN Agencies, Funds and Programs as well as other international and national crisis management organizations on human security, and from 2011-2012, she worked at the United Nations Human Security Unit, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Previously, Hitomi worked on U.S. domestic policy issues including welfare reform, workforce investment and the differential impact of such policies on vulnerable communities. She has field and community-based research experience in West Africa, the Great Lakes Region, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe and the Balkan region.
John Citti, Director of Finance
John has a 30-year career in accounting, budgeting, treasury, planning, audit, investments, and operations management. He has worked for global Fortune 500 companies as well as small for-profit and non-profit organizations. Throughout his career, he has helped organizations identify, develop and implement efficient and effective financial and operational systems that have reduced expenses and improved management information. He holds a Master of International Management degree from Thunderbird School of Global Management and a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology from Franklin and Marshall College. He is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Treasury Professional, and holds three securities licenses.
Adiel Suarez-Murias, Director of Communications
Adiel is a communications professional based in Washington, D.C. with over ten years of experience working with individuals and nonprofits to find the most resonant ways to express their ideas, engage with stakeholders, and exceed their goals. She currently serves as Communications & Marketing Director for Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE), a national network of funders and foundations that invest in civic engagement and democratic practice, a theme that is garnering a swell of attention and investment in the US since the 2016 election. Formerly, she was the Communications & Development Manager at the Alliance for Peacebuilding, a global network of over 100 organizations working toward sustainable peace. She also serves as a mentor for We Are Not Numbers, a grassroots nonprofit that pairs writing mentors in the US with youth in Gaza, and aims to share their often-unheard stories. She holds a M.A. in Communication from Wake Forest University, where her research centered on rhetoric, conflict communication, extremism, and narrative theory. Her passion for language and narrative has evolved into a focus on prioritizing honest storytelling as a core theme in her work, and she is thrilled to devote her energy toward Urban Refugees’ mission.
Dale Buscher, Director of Programs
See International Board section
Sofia Imad, Chair
See International Board section
Alain Violet, Secretary and Director of Marketing and Communications
Alain Violet is a retired consultant in Marketing and Communications. He holds a BA in Mathematics and an MA in Economic Sciences from the prestigious French Institute of Political Sciences (Sciences Po Paris). He started his career as a consultant in Marketing and Commercial development in 1973, and co-founded Praxion SA, a consulting firm specialized in recruitment in the energy, industrial and construction sectors. From 1991 to 1993, he directed activities in consulting and support to companies at the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Touraine. He then worked for almost ten years as a manager in Marketing and Communications in the insurance sector. Alain is retired since 2005 and has since then put his skills and experience to the benefit of the non-profit sector.
Sylvie Glaesener, Treasurer
Sylvie is the Director of Administration and Finance and the Manager for Human Resources at Praxion SA, a French medium size company and its two branches, since 1979. Sylvie started her carreer as an assistant at the French Newspaper ‘Les Echos’ and later on co-founded an advertising agency specialized in the industrial sector. She then worked as an advertising assistant at the French perfumery Jean Desprez before joining Praxion SA. Sylvie holds a degree in Communications and Advertising and is currently the Treasurer of URBAN REFUGEES France.
Damien Simonneau, Secretary Assistant and Director of Policy Advocacy
Damien holds a Phd in political science on comparative border policies from the University of Bordeaux (Sciences Po Bordeaux) in France. His research interests lie on the contemporary process of militarizing borders. He is questioning the construction of the consensus in western societies based on the idea that closing borders is the solution to managing mobilities. More specifically, he investigated strategies of pro-“border fence” groups in Israel (hosted by the French Center of Research at Jerusalem (CRFJ)) and in the USA. In Arizona, he was a Fulbright visiting scholar at the North American Center for Transborder Studies at Arizona State University from 2012-2013. In France, Damien volunteers with the Anafé (Association Nationale d’Assistance aux frontières pour les étrangers) to provide legal assistance to detained migrants and asylum seekers at the french borders and airports. Damien is currently a teaching fellow at the University Paris 13 in political science and international relations.
Kellie C. Leeson
Kellie C. Leeson is an independent consultant. She has over fifteen years of experience focused on refugee issues working throughout East Africa, Russia and Cote d’Ivoire with the International Rescue Committee and Concern Worldwide. Most recently she was the Managing Director at the Development Research Institute at New York University. She supervised the assessment and advocacy report titled, Hidden and Exposed: Urban Refugees in Nairobi, Kenya. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a Master of Arts from Teachers College, Columbia University.
Brendan is an education and evaluation specialist with 10 years of international experience working as a manager, researcher and technical consultant. He is the co-founder of WhyDev and has worked for a range of organisations committed Education For All, including UNICEF, Plan International and Engineers Without Borders. Brendan cares deeply about issues affecting asylum seekers and refugees, having interned with the Centre for Refugee Research during which he conducted human rights consultations and trainings with refugees from Burma living in Mizoram and New Delhi in India.
Philip Webb is the Chief Operating Officer at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, an urban research and advocacy organization. His career has moved between the academic work of research on urban social policy and the nonprofit world of management and planning in community and social justice organizations. He has taught on urban displacement and social justice at Emory University, Georgia Tech, DePaul, and the University of Oklahoma. His book Homeless Lives in American Cities was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2014. He is now underway on a new book Beyond the Global City, in which he looks, in part, at those urban residents socially and economically excluded from the benefits of globalization. Philip has a Ph.D. in urban studies and social theory from Emory University and a Master’s in Social Ethics from Harvard University.
See International Board section