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Special Report- Working as ‘Protection Intern’ with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

I undertook a six month internship with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2014 at their field office in Cape Town. I have outlined the various responsibilities and experiences that I had in my role as ‘Protection Intern’.

During my internship I was primarily responsible for the co-ordination of refugee reception sessions held weekly at the Scalabrini Centre.

During these ‘intakes’ I conducted short interviews with the aim of assessing the protection needs of clients and appropriately advising them.

This involved referring clients on to partner organization such as

the Cape Town Refugee Centre (CTRC) – when the client presented social or financial needs,

or to the University of Cape Town (UCT) Law Clinic – when the client presented legal challenges.

Where serious protection needs were identified, I scheduled and conducted further Protection Needs Assessment interviews in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of both the client’s refugee claim as well as their protection challenges in South Africa.

In May, I joined the UNHCR Cape Town staff on a refugee reception field mission to Strand in order to gain a broader assessment of refugee protection needs outside of the Cape Town metropolitan. I was also responsible for updating the refugee reception database which included tracking and recording any follow-up action that needed to be taken following the weekly sessions.

Through these refugee reception interviews I identified a number of cases that met the criteria for resettlement. As such, I have gained experience writing comprehensive resettlement referrals and witnessing the progress of such cases through the resettlement process.

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