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The Refugee Rights Unit is a research unit situated in the Law Faculty. The work of the Unit comprises a legal aid clinic, a research unit, teaching, and advocacy and training. The provision of legal aid for refugees was started as a project within the existing UCT Law Clinic, fulfilling a social responsibility function. The Refugee Rights Project became operationally independent from the Law Clinic in 2006 and has since evolved into a fully-fledged research Unit, incorporating a Refugee Rights Clinic which provides direct legal services to thousands of refugees and asylum seekers each year. The Unit conducts applied research in refugee law and related topics and teaches refugee law to undergraduate law and masters' students within the Department of Public Law. The Unit also undertakes a significant amount of targeted advocacy and training of government officials, the judiciary, civil society partners and refugee communities.

The Refugee Rights Unit is funded by, and operates as an implementing partner of, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It currently receives further funding from EU Horizon 2020 as part of the Global Asylum Governance and the European Union’s Role’ (ASILE) project, as well as the Julia Taft Refugee Fund. Previous funders include the Atlantic Philanthropies and the Sigrid Rausing Trust.