The Refugee Law Project (RLP) was established in 1999 to provide legal aid to asylum seekers and refugees in Uganda. This was in response to an extensive research project led by Dr Barbara Harrell-Bond and Dr Guglielmo Verdirame. They found that, despite Uganda’s strong international reputation for providing asylum to refugees, refugees did not always enjoy their rights in accordance with domestic and international law.
Since then, the provision of legal aid has been supported by adding a psycho-social unit which provides clients with counselling and referrals on a range of non-legal matters, including sexual and gender based violence, access to medical care, housing and education. The provision of direct support is complemented by education and training activities. These are targeted both at duty bearers such as police, immigration officers, judges, magistrates and local government officials, and also at refugees themselves.
In particular, we have a well-established English language training program which helps refugees to speak on their own behalf in encounters with officials and Ugandan citizens. All these activities are supported by an active research and advocacy department which seeks to provide the necessary empirical support for any debate about policy and legislation, and to advocate on behalf of our client base.
Over the last twelve years our focus has broadened. While we started by looking exclusively at the situation of refugees and asylum seekers, it has become increasingly important also to assist other forced migrants, notably Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and deportees. We have also found it important to consider the question of transitional justice as it affects forcibly displaced populations. As such, our overall focus can now be described as Justice & Forced Migration.