University of Cape Town (Refugee Law Clinic)

The Refugee Rights Unit (RRU)was founded in 1998 as a Project within the UCT Law Clinic, aimed at providing legal support services to the growing number of refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa. It has since evolved into a fully independent Unit with four main components: The Refugee Law Clinic provides direct legal services to 5000 refugees and asylum seekers each year, conducts applied research in refugee law and related topics, teaches refugee law to undergraduate law and masters’ students within the Department of Public Law, and, undertakes a significant amount of targeted advocacy and training of government officials, the judiciary, civil society partners and refugee communities.

The Refugee Rights Unit remains not only committed to directly assisting refugees and asylum seekers but also in engaging in research which can be used to promote and further the law in this area and as an advocacy tool in the future. The RRU undertakes to develop the law with regard to refugees in a number of ways. This is done by means of advocacy interventions, which in itself can take various forms (media interventions, delivering talks, organising seminars, roadshows), by producing reports and academic material, printing and disseminating information on the rights of refugees, teaching the law and practice to prospective lawyers and by making submissions to parliament.


Role in ASILE

UCT will be involved in WP1 – Inventory of Asylum Governance Instruments and Actors, concretely in Tasks 1.1, as well as in WP2 on Actors Networks (Task 2.1). UCT will conduct a Country Report and a series of interviews at the national area with policy makers, Civil Society organization working in the country and asylum seekers. UCT will therefore facilitate to the ASILE researchers the access to regional policy makers as well CSOs working in the field and has proved to have the means to host the Annual Conference.

Team Members

Dr. Fatima Khan

ASILE Researcher 

Short biography

Dr. Fatima Khan is Fatima Khan is an Associate Professor and the Founding Director of the Refugee Rights Unit (RRU) at the University of Cape Town, Law Faculty. The RRU incorporates a Research Unit and a Legal Practice registered with the Legal Practice Council of South Africa. The Refugee Rights Unit is funded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and operates as an implementing partner for the UNHCR in South Africa. 

Dr Khan is the Course Coordinator of three courses – Refugee and Immigration Law (PBL 4506F), Public Interest Litigation (PBL 4111 S) – two electives for final year students as well as the Refugee law and Human Rights course (PBL 5653F) a master’s level course for LLM and MPhil students.

Dr Khan was awarded a Doctoral degree in December 2017 from the University of Cape Town Law Faculty where she wrote a critique on South Africa’s legal regime for refugees in Protracted situations. She has also  has co-authored and edited two books on refugee and immigration law.

Nandi Rayner

ASILE Researcher

Short biography

Nandi Rayner is a junior researcher at the Refugee Rights Unit. She joined the Refugee Rights Unit as a candidate attorney and has since been admitted as an attorney of the High Court of South Africa.

She completed her B. Soc.Sci at the University of Cape Town (UCT), majoring in Gender and Organisational Psychology. She went on to complete her post-graduate LLB degree at UCT in 2016. In 2018 she completed her Masters in Constitutional and Administrative Law at UCT Law Faculty and wrote her dissertation on addressing unaffordable rental housing prices in Cape Town.