Advocacy and Human Rights Internship in Cape Town


Offer legal advice and practical assistance to refugees, migrants and asylum seekers with the aim to ensure their rights are respected.

Do you have an interest in migration and refugee issues, and a passion for legally assisting refugees? This Advocacy and Human Rights Internship might be exactly what you are looking for.

During this exciting internship, you will be working on the Advocacy Programme that offers legal advice and practical assistance with a special focus on vulnerable individuals, with the aim to ensure that their rights are respected. You will be assisting with asylum application processes, documenting and following up on hate crime/xenophobic incidents, researching South African legislation and refugee issues in Africa or dealing with unaccompanied minor projects. An excellent opportunity to make an impact and contribute to cultural, social and economic integration between migrants, refugees, and South Africans.


This organization started in Cape Town in 1994 as religious assistance to different communities of migrants but soon expanded to offering more tangible assistance as they were confronted with the problems experienced by refugees from Angola, the Congos, Rwanda, Burundi and other African communities. In 2003 a secular non-government organization was started to run these projects, the Scalabrini Center of Cape Town (SCCT).

Migration is perceived as an opportunity by this organization, so they are on a mission to alleviate poverty and promoting development in the Western Cape while fostering cultural, social and economic integration between migrants, refugees, and South Africans. In providing their assistance they advocate respect for human rights and use a holistic approach that considers all basic needs.

Every month around 2000 people visit the center, which offers service through six main programme areas:

  • Advocacy: Protecting, promoting and advancing the rights and freedoms of migrants and refugees by providing paralegal advice and practical assistance to individuals on a walk-in basis. In addition, this team works on driving deeper systemic change in the South African society and immigration and asylum systems.
  • English School: Providing a specialized English language school for refugees and migrants.
  • Employment Access: Providing a gateway to employment by providing support to foreign nationals who are legally entitled to look for work in South Africa. The organization provides a combination of skills training, professional development, and resources needed for success in the job market.
  • Unite: A unique extra-curricular curriculum for grade 8-11, which provokes a deep exploration of the themes of identity, integration, and diversity to promote activism and critical thought in youth living in South Africa.
  • Welfare: Accessing services for migrants and refugees in need. Through a process of consultation, they assist individuals to access basic services such as medical care, schooling, shelter, South African Social Grants (SASSA grants) and assistance with advice/application for voluntary repatriation.
  • Women’s Platform: A multi-national network of women that strengthens individuals to enhance economic independence and integration into the broader South African community.


During this internship, you will be working on the Advocacy Program that offers legal advice and practical assistance with a special focus on vulnerable individuals, with the aim to ensure that their rights are respected. While the program takes on any kind of issues related to discrimination due to someone’s nationality, the program has a particular focus on the needs and protection of persons affected by xenophobic violence, disabled refugees, and protection of unaccompanied refugee and migrant children. In addition to assisting individuals, the program also conducts ‘higher level’ advocacy with the aim to change legislation and ensure the implementation of existing laws and procedures. You will assist in the following areas:

  • Documentation: Information and referrals regarding asylum application process, expired documentation/permits, appeal process, repatriation
  • Hate Crimes/Xenophobic Incidents: interview to document details and follow up of individual cases where needed (contact police stations, South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), counseling, etc.)
  • Children’s Project: Research (compiling research on policies and practices relevant to unaccompanied and separated minors in South Africa and on a comparative level). Casework ( assisting the Advocacy Officer in advising clients with regards to unaccompanied and separated minors, upkeep of Children’s Project database, assistance with translation if applicable, with the guidance of the Advocacy Officer). Individual assistance (making referrals and sometimes accompanying clients to services, with the guidance of the Advocacy Officer)
  • Research: South African government legislation and refugee issues in Africa


  • Paralegal advice to clients who attend the walk-in advocacy clinic (after you have been trained and have shadowed a staff member on on advising clients). Think off advice on documentation, asylum system access, appeal processes, hate crimes and xenophobic incidents, referrals to other organisations, among other topics
  • Research: this may include assistance in compiling submissions, internal research required, or other research on topics that interest you (and suit the program) as well as compile a weekly press review on refugee and migration related news items
  • Administrative assistance and support as well as assistance with the upkeep of records and databases
  • Participation in stakeholder forums and workshops that are of interest or relevance
  • Assistance with other tasks that are necessary for the daily business of the organization

In general, your tasks will also strongly depend on your previous knowledge, skills, and personal interests. If possible, the organization will try to create a small project that you will be able to lead. The type of project will depend on other projects that are running at the moment and on the current political situation. An example could be a research-oriented project that involves creating a survey, conducting interviews and compiling the collective data.


  • Must have (or be studying towards) either an LLB or LLM degree
  • Previous practical experience in working with refugees/migrants
  • Knowledge of refugee law and/or migrant issues
  • Pro-active engagement and willingness to get involved in the organization’s various activities
  • Good communication and administrative skills
  • Fluent English skills are necessary. Knowledge of French, Swahili, Lingala, Somali, Arabic or Portuguese is an advantage
  • You should be highly motivated to learn about issues related to refugees and migration in South Africa and be an independent worker capable of doing their own research
  • Practical, organized and motivated, with a strong ethical motivation
  • Preferably available for 6 months

This organization also offers internships in Communications, English School, Female empowerment, Empowerment of Refugees or a 3-month all-round position.


You’ll be staying at The Lenox, a comfortable guesthouse in the heart of Cape Town. Built in the old Cape Dutch style, The Lenox is characterful and historic. It has multiple balconies, a large dining room, and many other communal spaces. Shared bedrooms include 2 twin beds, and there are plenty of single rooms available as well (at an extra fee). You’ll be walking distance from many shops, cafes, restaurants, and some of the touristy highlights Cape Town has to offer as well.

Safety & Support

Safety & Support

Be sure to prioritize hydration in the summer to avoid heatstroke. South Africa does have high crime rates, so it’s important to be aware and use common sense to stay safe. Some safety guidelines are to always walk in groups, take a taxi/Uber in the evenings, know safe/dangerous areas, secure your belongings, don’t walk around with large sums of cash (you can pay everything with a card), minimize wearing flashy accessories, and be cautious of overly friendly strangers.



The accommodation offers free Wi-Fi to keep family and friends up to date via WhatsApp, Zoom, etc. Cafes/restaurants also offer free Wi-Fi. You can also consider getting a local SIM card if your phone is unlocked, or setting your phone’s status to roaming, depending on your provider’s rates.



A simple breakfast, lunch and a delicious cooked dinner (vegetarian & vegan options available) from Monday to Friday are included in your fee. Indulge in local dishes, like bobotie and South African Braai! For desserts, don’t miss out on milk tarts and malva pudding. There is a diverse food scene in Cape Town, so no matter your cuisine preference or dietary restrictions you’ll have plenty of options. Let us know in advance if you have any allergies/dietary needs.

Location details

Location details

Discover Cape Town’s attractions: Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch Gardens, city tours, historical sites, and the Cape Point Peninsula. There are also opportunities to surf, kayak, paraglide, cage dive with sharks, and more! Cape Town has a mediterranean climate with cool winters and hot summers so be sure to check what the temperature will be like during your stay.


Fee Breakdown

You can begin your internship every week, so your start and end date are based on what suits you and the organization the best. Please keep in mind: the organization is closed for four weeks in December and January.

What you’ll pay (2024 rates)

20 WEEKS USD 3,273

26 WEEKS  USD 3,987


  • Careful matchmaking. It takes time to find the right internship for each person, and we take this process very seriously.
  • Initial interview with one of our team to gauge your skills, interests, and desired learning outcomes.
  • An academic internship eligible for university credit. Check with your university to confirm if this internship qualifies for credit or alternatively we can assist you with purchasing transfer credits.
  • Accommodation in a shared room (2 pax). If you prefer a single room, please contact us for availability and prices.
  • Airport transfers upon arrival and departure
  • Meals from Monday to Friday
  • Wifi access
  • Housekeeping service
  • Assistance with your visa arrangement and other preparations
  • An orientation program with your supervisor
  • Supervision and support during your stay
  • Regular check-ins during your internship with your supervisor
  • Troubleshooting if needed
  • A reference letter at the end of your internship
  • A discount on weekend activities, exclusive to Roots Interns


  • Flights to Cape Town International Airport
  • Visa and medical/travel insurance costs for the duration of your placement – must include cover for repatriation
  • Transport to the office
  • Meals during weekends
  • Drinks, snacks, and items of personal nature (f.e. curios, gifts, clothing)
  • Costs for additional excursions or activities


Some of our most commonly asked questions for programs in South Africa.

What can I expect from a NGO internship in South Africa?

During your internship in South Africa you can expect to meet people from around the world, as well as indulging yourself into the culture of this beautiful country! If you want to know more about what to expect, make sure to check out our top 7 reasons for an internship in Cape Town.

Will I have time to explore South Africa during my internship?

Yes! We partner with various activity organizers that can offer discounts exclusive to Roots Interns, for example, a road trip through the Garden Route and bungee jumping off the world’s largest natural bungee. You may also explore the country on your own and we are happy to give recommendations.

Am I able to do an internship while on a study program in Cape Town?

Yes! You are able to do a part-time internship with certain organizations so that you can continue your studies, while also gaining valuable work experience.

Will I receive a stipend of any kind during my internship with Roots?

Unfortunately, no. When working with a nonprofit organization, your internship will be unpaid, but there are many ways to fund your internship. Your experience will bring a wealth of knowledge and opportunities for both professional and personal growth that are invaluable!


LOCATION: Cape Town, South Africa
TASK FOCUS: Human rights, refugee law and migration issues
LENGTH: 20-26 Weeks
COST: From USD 3,273


  • Gain practical experience in human rights, refugee law, and migration issues
  • Assist with offering legal advice and practical assistance with a special focus on vulnerable individuals
  • Get a thorough understanding of the needs & protection of persons affected by xenophobic violence, disabled refugees, and unaccompanied refugee and migrant children
  • Live and work in Cape Town, arguably one of the most stunning cities in the world
  • Enjoy exploring South Africa’s many highlights during your time off


If you’re ready to apply for this internship, here’s what to do:


Fill in the application form (it will show in a new screen) which includes sharing your CV to us.



We’ll set up a call with you to go through your application.


If we feel it’s a good match, we’ll set up a call between you and the supervisor for this internship.


If everyone’s happy, we’ll provisionally confirm your placement! We’ll then send you the invoice for the deposit, getting started with the booking process and all the info you need.


Only once we receive payment of the deposit your placement will be confirmed.


Or if you’d just like to ask us some questions about this internship first, just fill in the contact form below. We’ll be happy to assist!



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