Refugee Law Project kids“We envision a country that treats all people within its borders with the same standards of respect and social justice. We work to see that all people living in Uganda, as specified under national and international law, are treated with the fairness and consideration due fellow human beings.” – The Refugee Law Project

Larissa Russell NY, NY–For decades, refugees from several African countries have been forced to abandon their homes, jobs, friends – and in some cases, their families – in order to save their own lives and seek asylum elsewhere; namely, Uganda. While several failed asylum seekers have been deported violently, those that remain in Uganda continue to exist in a sort of “legal limbo,” facing discrimination, cultural alienation and unemployment.

Ten years ago, Dr. Barbara Harrell-Bond and Dr. Guglielmo Verdirame conducted a joint, three-year research project and came to the conclusion that the refugees who sought asylum in Uganda were too often denied basic human rights because of their legal status. Out of their research came the Refugee Law Project (RLP), initially meant to provide aid to the refugees by tackling the legal nuances underlying their hardships. According to director Chris Dolan, the RLP remains “the only civil society organization in Uganda providing legal aid specifically to forced migrants in Uganda.”

A community outreach endeavor of Makere University (Uganda) that also has an international focus, the RLP brings about internal change in the country by providing free legal assistance, language training and psychosocial counseling to refugees. The company also advocates for domestic legislative changes with regard to refugee policy and universal human rights.

As the RLP has grown and developed, however, it has expanded its scope of interest far beyond refugees and asylum seekers. “With global shifts in asylum policy and practice and a corresponding increase in the numbers of Internally Displaced persons,” writes Dolan, “the Refugee Law Project has increasingly found it necessary to confront issues of internal displacement alongside its ongoing work with those who have crossed international boundaries.”

The RLP is also dedicated to protecting the rights of refugee/forced migrant children within Uganda. Currently, neither the Government of Uganda nor the UNHCR have a suitable procedure to care for lone children seeking asylum: Some are placed under foster care, but their security and livelihood are not monitored effectively. Others are left to fend for themselves, risking abuse from strangers. For all forced migrant children, RLP advocates for a fast-track Refugee Status Determination process, a social support system, post-trauma counseling, and access to education and medical services.

The RLP is currently working on establishing a memorial to commemorate the “internally displaced” Ugandans – including the children – who made sacrifices as a result of the war in Northern Uganda. Proudly, Shine Global has donated copies of War Dance and War Dance Returns to be presented at the memorial, helping to inspire change and raise awareness about child soldiers and their families who have been denied basic human rights for too long.

For more information about the Refugee Law Project, please visit