The University of London has a long history of engagement with national and multinational agencies in the field of refugee policy and practice. Its Refugee Law Initiative (RFI) is the only academic centre in the UK to concentrate specifically on international refugee law. As a national focal point for leading and promoting research in this field, the RFI works to integrate the shared interests of refugee law scholars and practitioners, stimulate collaboration between academics and non-academics, and achieve policy impact at the national and international level.
In response to need identified through the RFI, and to help address urgent UN priorities, in 2016 the University launched a new online MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies. Since then, it has become one of the largest programmes on forced migration anywhere in the world. With students across the globe, the programme provides a legal, practical and theoretical understanding of refugee protection and forced migration. The programme enables students to become more independent in managing and critiquing law, policy and practice, and in gathering, organising and deploying evidence to form balanced judgements and develop policy recommendations.
Graduates pursue careers in a range of professional contexts in the refugee, human rights or humanitarian fields; and employers include international agencies, such as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), governmental bodies and non-governmental organisations.
Recently the University established a partnership with the UNHCR to provide bursaries for Commission employees around the world. The University’s collaboration with the UNHCR extends also to representation on the Commission’s panel of specialist advisors; and the University has developed a MOOC on Internal Displacement, Conflict and Protection to support the UN’s heightened focus on the growing global challenge of internal displacement. The programme also attracts talented scholars funded by the Commonwealth Scholarships Commission.
MA Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies: graduate stories
Yasha Mirzashev, Kyrgyzstan
Yasha has worked for the Danish Refugee Council across diverse contexts including South Sudan and in Bangladesh, working with Rohingya refugees from neighbouring Myanmar.
“I learned great skills in refugee, human rights and humanitarian law. I now know about statelessness and asylum, about Geneva conventions, child rights, women rights, about regional conventions and how UN works in terms of human rights. I became a humanitarian professional with knowledge of important legal components. I use the above skills in training sessions during my work and I’ve shared those with my colleagues.”
Noah Ssempijja, Uganda
Noah heads Opportunity International UK’s Refugee Financial Inclusion Programme which enables refugees in Uganda to access financial products, training and services as well as business advisory support. To date, this programme has benefited over 4,000 refugees. Noah manages the programme’s key partnerships with the Office of the Prime Minister, UNHCR, and other refugee Implementing partners.
Noah also runs Youth Initiative for Community Empowerment (YICE), a social enterprise that he founded in rural Uganda. His team of 20 trains farmers to adopt regenerative farming practices that enable them to produce food in small spaces in a sustainable and eco-friendly way, throughout the year, using a mobile drip irrigation kit that Noah invented. YICE carries out community-based activities including permaculture training and regenerative farming, water harvesting, irrigation, organic fertilizers and mobilizing beneficiaries into savings groups. Since 2016, they have directly benefited over 1,500 households.
Sylvester Chapotari, Malawi
While studying for his MA, Sylvester undertook field work with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Malawi. A year before graduating, he was promoted to the role of Reporting Officer with the Africa Bureau at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.
“The humanitarian crisis in the Sahel and Lake Chad region is becoming ever more interlinked with other factors. In the Lake Chad region, for instance, the continuing conflict and violence there is impeding physical and economic access to food, particularly through the disruption of livelihoods and markets. In turn, these factors are not only fuelling the conflict but also preventing returns. In order to effectively analyse complex humanitarian situations, one needs to be equipped with a solid interdisciplinary understanding of forced displacement, including appraising a range of non-legal sources. The MA has provided me with the required perspective as well as all the necessary skills and competencies to deliver in my current job.”