Rights in Exile Programme

Refugee Legal Aid Information for Lawyers Representing Refugees Globally
Centralising resources for refugee legal aid, globally.

Welcome to the Rights in Exile Programme


Themba Lewis

This morning, 11 July 2018, Barbara passed away quietly in her Oxford home. She was surrounded by her family and her files, in her bed and comfortable. 

It would be difficult to overstate her contribution to refugee rights and to legal anthropology, and impossible to quantify her impact on the lives or refugees, students, colleagues, and institutions around the globe.

Barbara is perhaps most notably affiliated with the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, which she founded in 1982 as the Refugee Studies Program and directed until 1996. The annual Harrell-Bond Lecture salutes her legacy in the centre, and other early initiatives, such as the Refugee Participation Network (now called Forced Migration Review) continue the push for greater understanding of refugee rights frameworks and challenges to refugee protection from the ground up.

It was the global south, however, where Barbara dedicated the majority of her efforts. These countries, the countries that host the vast majority of the world’s refugees and shoulder the greatest responsibility for protecting people, were where support was needed, she determined. She had seen it first hand, working as a researcher across Africa and the world since the mid-1960s.

She established the Refugee Law Project at Makerere University in Uganda, the Forced Migration and Refugee Studies Program at the American University in Cairo, and Africa Middle East Refugee Assistance (now AMERA International) to provide legal aid to refugees and ensure young people were able to study refugee law. She was a founding member of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, The Euromed Rights Network, the International Detention Coalition, and the Southern Refugee Legal Aid Network. She helped draft the Nairobi Code of Ethics and trained student after student in appropriate refugee interviewing technique, testimonial drafting, argumentation, and research.

Barbara was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2005 for “services to refugee and forced migration studies”. She is an awardee of the Franz Boas Award for Exemplary Service to Anthropology awarded by the American Anthropologist Association, and was awarded the Lucy Mair medal for applied anthropology.

Barbara dedicated her final decade to building a global movement for refugee legal aid through a centralised information hub: Rights in Exile. She watched the clock ticking as she aged, and worked tirelessly to formalise the networks, contacts, expertise, and research she had compiled into what is now the Rights in Exile programme, which she co-directed with Themba Lewis and maintained with teams of dedicated interns, each learning from her experience, and each supported by her to pursue careers in refugee rights. In 2013, Rights in Exile became the refugee rights component of the International Refugee Rights Initiative, which issues the monthly refugee legal aid newsletter, Rights in Exile.

Barbara pursued a people-first, rights-based approach to protection and argued for it with a ferocious intellect, razor-sharp wit, experience lasting decades, and a confidence that humbled even her loudest critics. This legacy will continue as students read her work, including the seminal text in refugee studies, Imposing Aid: Emergency Assistance to Refugees, the eye-opening Rights in Exile: Janus-Faced Humanitarianism (with Guglielmo Verdirame, Zachary Lomo, and Hannah Garry), and her vision-plan article for her final years, Starting a Movement of Refugee Legal Aid Organisations in the Global South.

Barbara was a supporter of many, a friend to refugees everywhere, and inspirational in her commitment and unwavering dedication. She was also a mother and grandmother. 

But what Barbara really is, for so many of us who knew her and so many that knew of her, is a collection of unforgettable moments and life changing experiences.

For those looking to donate in Barbara's memory, AMERA International, the organisation she continued to Chair, is a good place to do so. There are PayPal options and JustGiving options at the bottom of the AMERA International donations page: http://www.amerainternational.org/donate/

Refugee or migrant? Words matter

As the refugee crisis in Europe continues, the words ‘refugee’ and ‘migrant’ are being splashed across media front pages worldwide. But what is the difference between a refugee and a migrant?  

The Rights in Exile Programme promotes the legal protection of refugees, globally. We do this by centralizing resources for legal assistance providers and refugees themselves. Legal aid is in its infancy in most of the world, but is crucial to the realisation of refugees’ rights, especially the critical first step: recognition of refugee status. Few countries provide legal assistance to refugees, and it is vital that legal service providers share their experiences and assist in the better development of refugee legal protection everywhere. Read more here.



Who we are

The Rights in Exile Programme (IRRI) was created to provide access to knowledge, nurture the growing refugee legal aid and advocacy movement in all countries, and encourage active sharing of information as well as expertise among legal practitioners throughout the world. It links refugee-assisting networks both on line and off line, that is, real people meeting real people. 

See our Staff, Advisers, and Editors and our Volunteers pages.
Please also see acknowledgements and our Equal Opportunities Policy.
The Rights in Exile Programme was partly funded by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, and you can read what we did with that funding in our last Annual Report.

What we do

We bring resources together for use by refugee legal aid advisors and advocates.

Resources for legal aid providers are scattered over the internet; we bring them together at one site, thus making it easier for legal aid organisations from any country to work collaboratively. Our aim is to strengthen and expand rights-based advocacy as well as to promote skilled legal aid for refugees through increasing efficiency, effectiveness, and raising standards of professionalism in the specialty of legal aid for refugees.

We promote information exchange between refugee legal aid advisors, through facilitation connections and providing avenuers for contact. We hope our resources, particularly those outside of our organisation, are helpful. It is important that you check it meets your needs. Please contact us if you find problems. Check here for your organisation. If you are not listed but you provide legal aid somewhere in the world, please contact barbara [dot] harrellbondatgmail [dot] com immediately so we can discuss with you your work and list you.                                                                                                                          

Rights in Exile is a monthly forum that updates aspects of refugee legal aid so that legal aid providers can stay current on issues. With a focus on major geographical areas in the global South (Asia, Africa, Latin America, and non-EU Europe), it highlights issues and major events relevant to legal aid providers, clarifies developments in the interpretation of refugee law, and lists cases which might serve as precedent from other constituencies. The newsletter also supplies helpful reports and resources for refugee legal aid NGOs and provides articles that bring forth accounts of struggles and of success in the field.

Training in Refugee Law

Training in refugee law is badly needed, as is the continual upgrading of legal advisers’ skills and knowledge of developments in refugee law.  The IRRI provides training opportunities through remote tutoring, self-study courses on this website, and — funding dependent — intensive courses implemented in critical sites around the world.

Moderated List-serv: Rights in Exile Mailing List

In order to join Rights in Exile Refugee Assistance click here. This google group enables lawyers/paralegals to discuss refugee cases & urgent matters in which they need assistance, anonymously. If you are asking a question about a case, remember not to reveal a name, although it is likely that nationality and the particularities of the law in the state you are dealing with will be relevant to any help or suggestions another lawyer may try to give you. You can always ask for help directly via your personal email.

Users can also talk to each other around the globe about policy issues that we might sometimes decide to act together on, and exchange information about relevant conferences, vacancies, and the like.

This is a list primarily for lawyers and researchers. It is not for government officials or UNHCR staff (the latter may be a member of staff where a member of this group is discussing a case they are representing).

Please encourage lawyers/paralegals in your country who represent refugees to post to this group and become members.

Objectives of the Rights in Exile Programme

The Rights in Exile Programme works to achieve better protection of refugee rights by networking legal assistance providers with resources and training, and facilitating access to free legal assistance and information for refugees around the world. We do this through:

A centralised database of contact details of free legal assistance providers in over 230 countries, a database of country of origin experts, our post-deportation monitoring project, and information on legal processes relating to refugees.

Refugee Resources

Contact information for UNHCR offices and free legal assistance providers all over the world.

Other Resources

A selection of publications, films, media contacts, courses, and other tools for improving understanding of refugee circumstances and legal processes.

Special Issues

Resources and contacts on special issues in refugee status determination, including LGBTI, witchcraft accusations, the exclusion clause, gender-based persecution, and other emerging or under-resourced areas.


Specialised distance learning courses on refugee law.


A monthly newsletter highlighting key developments in refugee and asylum law from around the world

We encourage refugee law practitioners to join the discussion.

This website has been designed to accommodate those who only have low-bandwidth internet access; hence no pictures or logos. The exception is our films.

Please contact us with your suggestions, to get involved, or to help us grow our network.

Our Partners

Asylum Research Centre

Asylum Research Centre (ARC) provides a country of origin information (COI) research service including country reports to support individual asylum claims for use in representations to refugee decision making bodies. Its case-specific research service is primarily fee-paying, but ARC may be able to undertake pro bono research for NGOs with limited funds who provide free services to refugees.

ARC also provides country specific and thematic COI research for UNHCR, publishes commentaries on UK Home Office Country Policy and Information Notes (CPINS), and on European Asylum Support Office's (EASO) COI reports. ARC also undertakes research consultancy, project management and training to the asylum, immigration and human rights sector.

ARC further manages the international COI Forum which provides a platform for COI researchers and practitioners to share publications and ideas on COI research and sources. ARC also provides a free bi-monthly COI Update, which contains notifications of new Home Office COI publications as well as recent publications and developments in the top countries of origin of asylum seekers in the UK.

 International Association for Refugee and Migration Judges (IARMJ)

The International Association of Refugee Law Judges seeks to foster recognition that protection from persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion is an individual right established under international law, and that the determination of refugee status and its cessation should be subject to the rule of law.


RSDWatch.org was launched in February 2005 as part of a widening effort by grassroots refugee rights organizations to promote reform of the way that UNHCR conducts refugee status determination (RSD). The aim of RSDWatch is to monitor UNHCR’s procedures of determining refugee status so as to promote fairness, transparency and accountability in its RSD adjudication, and to provide a forum in which to discuss the protection challenges posed by UNHCR’s RSD procedures.

The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN)

The APRRN is an open and growing network of over 200 civil society organisations and individuals from 26 countries committed to advancing the rights of refugees in the Asia Pacific Region through information sharing, mutual capacity building, and joint advocacy. APRRN advocates for the rights of people in need of protection in the Asia Pacific region specifically refugees, asylum seekers, stateless person and internally displaced people, and all of those affected by forced migration. APRRN has been functioning since its formation in November 2008 at the First Asia Pacific Consultation on Refugee Rights held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Contributions to the website are welcome, including contributors’ analysis of key issues in their own country or the region or stories of being a refugee advocate or a refugee in the Asia Pacific region.

Contact: websiteatrefugeerightsasiapacific [dot] org.

The APRRN publishes an online newsletter, to sign up for the newsletter see here.

The International Detention Coalition (IDC)

The International Detention Coalition is a unique global network of over 300 non-governmental organisations, faith-based groups, academics and practitioners in 67 countries that aim to promote greater protection of and respect for the human rights of those held in detention and to raise awareness of detention policies and practices. It also aims to promote the use of international and regional human rights standards and principles as they relate to the detention of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. The Coalition reaches these objectives through networking, advocacy, awareness raising and researching and reporting on issues worldwide relating to the detention of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants.  

The IDC collates the latest news on immigration detention from around the world in its monthly e-newsletter, the International Detention Monitor. 

To join, subscribe or find out more, visit www.idcoalition.org or email infoatidcoalition [dot] org.

Centre for Refugee and IDP Studies (CESI)

The Centre for Refugee and IDP Studies (CESI) was established through partnership of UNHCR in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and Faculty of Political Science at University of Sarajevo in 2011, as a first academic centre in BiH and Western Balkans region dedicated to forced migration studies. CESI is dedicated to improving awareness and understanding of the causes and consequences of forced migration by providing a forum for education, research, training and dialogue in the field of refugee and IDP studies.

Netzwerk Flüchtlingsforschung (German Network Refugee Research)

Netzwerk Flüchtlingsforschung (German Network Refugee Research) is a multi-disciplinary network of scholars in Germany working on asylum, forced migration and refugee protection. It is also open to international scholars working on these issues in regard to Germany. The network aims to establish and foster refugee research in Germany as well as to serve as a platform for information, cooperation and exchange. It collects and shares information about its members, their projects and publications. Moreover, it promotes refugee research in academia as a field of study and publically, to highlight the relevance of studying refugees and forced migration. For these ends, Netzwerk Flüchtlingsforschung offers a homepage, publishes a newsletter and is present on Facebook.

The German Network Refugee Research runs the FlüchtlingsforschungsBlog, a German language blog where members and other scholars and practitioners publish short articles covering a wide range of issues regarding displacement, forced migration and refugee protection. Read the blog here: www.fluechtlingsforschung.net/blog

To find out more, email infoatfluechtlingsforschung [dot] net or, for non-German speakers who have specific requests for information, contact Ulrike Krause: ulrike [dot] krauseatstaff [dot] uni-marburg [dot] de

The Rights in Exile Programme is the Secretariat of the Southern Refugee Legal Aid Network (SRLAN). SRLAN began in 2007 at a conference in Nairobi, Kenya. It was born out of a common understanding amongst its members that refugees are people with rights enshrined in international human rights and refugee law who are often treated as passive victims with endless needs, and whose rights are regularly violated. The human suffering refugees endure often results from restrictions on their autonomy as human beings, and thus must be addressed by ensuring their ability to exercise basic rights. This is particularly challenging in the global south, where judicial institutions to redress rights violations are less developed and/or accessible. To remedy this, organisations are increasingly conducting rights-based advocacy for refugees in the global south, through pro bono legal aid and/or research and policy advocacy. These organisations are bound by a common desire to foster respect for the rights of refugees in the global south.

These organisations are often unique in their countries and isolated from each other internationally. While they face common challenges, they have not had sufficient opportunities to learn from each other’s experiences. Slowly and informally, however, rights-based refugee organisations have been increasing their information sharing and coordinated advocacy. The Southern Refugee Legal Aid Network was thus initiated to formalise such cooperation, with a view to channelling disparate refugee rights organisations into a movement for refugee rights in the global south. At the time of inception, the SRLAN concluded the Nairobi Code by which all members of the Network agreed to abide. The SRLAN continues to develop and invites new members from the refugee legal aid world.

The SRLAN invites new members in the refugee legal aid sector from around the world. The SRLAN Charter (2007) outlines its objectives and membership requirements and the SRLAN Bylaws aim to refine and implement the principles, vision and mission established in Nairobi and memorialised in the 2007 Charter.

To apply to become a member, please read the Nairobi Code of Ethics and SRLAN Bylaws before completing the SRLAN Membership Form. Please see the SRLAN website for more information on how to join.  

The Rights in Exile Programme is a member and the Secretariat for the Southern Refugee Legal Aid Network.