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The Migration Unit is a thematically specialised unit of the Centre for Human Rights which conducts research, advocacy and monitoring in the area of migration in Africa. It works to promote the rights of forcibly displaced persons, to empower displaced persons, and positively impact on decision making on issues that have bearing on forcibly displaced persons in the African region. The main activities of the Unit are the following.


The Unit is mandated to conduct research in areas of critical importance for the protection of the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons (IDPs), migrants and stateless persons. It aims to produce, and facilitate the production of research outputs that have practical significance to address the challenges encountered by these groups of persons.


The Unit organises workshops, seminars and short courses on forced migration in Africa, focusing on the promotion and protection of the rights of non-citizens. It strives to bring about change by training key stakeholders, including policymakers, refugee law judges, practitioners, media personnel and human rights activists. Its advocacy activities are geared towards influencing states to honour their obligations towards the rights of non-citizens and to ensure durable solutions for forcibly displaced persons. 

It launches campaigns for the protection of the rights of non-citizens. It also advocates for urgent action in situations that require taking immediate measures to alleviate the suffering of forced migrants and violations of the rights of non-citizens in Africa.

The Unit also contributes to the Centre’s academic programmes in various ways, particularly through the Migrant Rights Clinic. The Clinic comprises groups of students who work on migration and produce evidence-based policy recommendations on addressing migrant issues within the South African context, but broadly also in Africa.

As one of its areas of work, the Unit further coordinates the Global Engagement Network on Internal Displacement (GENIDA). GENIDA is an international collaboration for the furtherance of the protection and assistance of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Africa which responds to the paucity of research on internal displacement and the importance for more evidence-based knowledge in the furtherance of protection and assistance of IDPs.


The Unit engages in the human rights monitoring activities of the Centre. It contributes to the Centre’s monitoring activities by keeping track of developments that trigger forced migration in the African region, collecting, analysing and compiling data on the situation of the rights of displaced persons, making calls for urgent action when serious violations of the rights of asylum seekers, IDPs, migrants, refugees and stateless persons occur, and submitting reports and complaints to treaty monitoring bodies.

What the Unit has done in the past

On 21 June 2021, in line with the theme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Unit hosted a webinar on ‘The inclusion of refugees in Africa in health, education and sports in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic’.  

Against the backdrop of the AU Theme of the Year 2019 relating to refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), the Unit hosted an international conference on forced migration from which an outcome statement emerged from stakeholders across academia, civil society and international organisations. In terms of advocacy and influencing norms at the regional level, the Unit provided technical support to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in the development of General Comment no 5 on The Right to Freedom of Movement and Residence under article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The General Comment was adopted at the 65th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in November 2019.