Providing legal support to refugees in Cameroon

Practices & Experiences

Providing legal support to refugees in Cameroon

Lead organization
Refugees Welfare Association Cameroon (REWAC)
Civil society organization
The Refugees Welfare Association Cameroon (REWAC) is a grassroots volunteer-led NGO in Cameroon that works to defend the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons at the community level. Since 2018, the organization has provided legal assistance and advice to refugees and displaced people in Bamenda, a city in northwestern Cameroon, through 49 pro bono legal experts and volunteers. As a result of support from REWAC volunteers, 68 asylum seekers have been supported through the refugee status determination process, with 21 completing the process to date. REWAC emphasizes support to the most vulnerable groups within displaced communities. Since 2018 its volunteers have supported 173 displaced women to register the births of their children in Bamenda, enabling them to have civil status documentation, while support by REWAC pro bono legal experts has also led to the release of 87 displaced women under arbitrary detention. Alongside the legal support programme, REWAC volunteers also distribute emergency kits, with special kits for women, and have held workshops and livelihoods training for over 150 female migrants.
SDG contribution highlights

In 2019, Cameroon was home to more than 1.7 million people of concern to UNHCR, including refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people. These displaced people are often subject to human rights violations but they and, those who should protect them, often lack awareness of the rights that should be afforded to them and the options they have to improve their situation. By using pro bono legal experts and other volunteers to provide direct support, and by raising awareness of those institutional actors who can help protect displaced people, the REWAC volunteers have mitigated risks, including related to lack of documentation, arbitrary arrests, detention and limited access to services. REWAC volunteers also contribute to creating more effective, inclusive and resilient systems to protect displaced people in the local area; training local lawyers on the rights of displaced people and holding workshops to sensitize the police, the judiciary system, community leaders and legal students.

Lessons learned and success factors

Since 2018, 11 online volunteers have helped REWAC access international legal expertise that they might otherwise have found difficult, including from UNV’s online volunteering platform. This has helped to increase the visibility of REWAC within the local support system for migrants and ultimately led to a reduction in the cases of violations and abuse of the rights of vulnerable migrants.

More information