Staff, Advisors, Editors and Resource People

Rights in Exile Programme Coordinator

Bernadette Iyodu

Bernadette Iyodu joins AMERA International as Rights in Exile Programme Coordinator with over 15 years of legal experience including 10 years’ experience working with refugees and asylum seekers in Uganda and the UK with a focus on legal assistance provision. Most recently, she worked in the field of alternative dispute resolution at the Singapore Management University School of Law. Previously, she was a senior legal officer at the Refugee Law Project, a part of the School of Law at Makerere University, Uganda. On a pro bono basis, she also assisted with asylum cases as an expert witness and as a consultant in Oxford with the Rights in Exile Programme, working closely with Dr. Barbara Harrell-Bond. She has practiced law in Uganda and is a member of the Uganda Bar, as well as a member of the Uganda and East Africa Law Societies. She also has Caseworker Accreditation with the UK Law Society’s Immigration and Asylum Accreditation Scheme. She holds a Bachelor of Laws from Makerere University, and an LLM in human rights and democratization in Africa from the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Formal Advisers

Themba Lewis

Founding editor of the Rights in Exile Newsletter

Themba holds graduate degrees in refugee studies from the University of Oxford and the American University in Cairo, and Level 2 Senior Caseworker Accreditation with the UK Legal Services Commission. He has taught on refugee rights in Bulgaria and Egypt, provided legal representation for detained asylum seekers in the United Kingdom, and is a Registered Member of the Law Society of England and Wales. Previously, Themba served as a Field Team Leader at the US Refugee Admissions Program Resettlement Support Center, before joining the Rights in Exile Programme as co-director in August 2012. He is currently the General Secretary of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network.

Tabea Dilling

Chair of AMERA International

Tabea Dilling is a German lawyer with an additional degree in Human Rights Law. Her role in AMERA International is to manage the Rights in Exile website and to promote the Refugee Information Processing System. She is also managing the internship programme of AMERA International. Tabea worked with AMERA Egypt in 2012 where she conducted research about acts of persecution in South Sudan and supported asylum applications with independent reports. Besides her expertise in human rights, she worked for an international law firm in Pune (India), Cairo, Geneva, Oxford and Germany. She worked as a manager for the Oxford Intensive School of English (OISE) – using her research, communication and marketing skills to promote the organisation. Currently, Tabea is working as a fundraiser at BMS World Mission, a Christian development aid organisation. Academically, she focused on how to strengthen the rule of law through the wording of international conventions and on the protection of refugees who also experienced human trafficking.

Victoria Goodban

List-serv Moderator

Vicky joined the Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Network in January 2010 after completing an LLM in international humanitarian and refugee law at Nottingham University. She has previous experience working for a national charity in London in a marketing and communications capacity and has undertaken voluntary work in the UK with the Rift Valley Institute (London) and overseas for NGOs in India (Development in Action) and Madagascar (Azafady). She has now taken up the position of Gender and Refugee Project Officer with Oxfam Cymru/Wales and continues to moderate the list-serv and serve as Secretary for the Southern Refugee Legal Aid Network.

Martin Jones

Research and Training

Martin is a lawyer and specialist on refugee law. He practiced refugee law in Canada and has taught at the Centre for Refugee Studies (Canada), the University of East London (UK), the University of Michigan (USA), the American University in Cairo (Egypt) and the University of Melbourne (Australia). He has provided training to legal aid NGOs in Egypt, Hong Kong, Jordan, Malaysia and Turkey. With Dr. Harrell-Bond, he implemented the Asia Legal Aid training programme funded by USIP, the programme funded by the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on contemporary forms of Slavery for training in Egypt and Turkey, and is a Resource Person.


Guglielmo Verdirame

Professor Guglielmo Verdirame holds a degree in Law from the University of Bologna, a PhD from the London School of Economics and is Professor of International Law at the Department of War Studies and the School of Law at King’s College London. Before taking this position, he was a Lecturer at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law. His main areas of research and teaching are public international law, and legal and political philosophy. His publications include: Rights in Exile:Janus-Faced Humanitarianism, co-authored with Barbara Harrell-Bond (Berghahn Books, 2005), and The UN and Human Rights: Who Guards the Guardians? (Cambridge University Press, 2011). He practises as a Barrister from 20 Essex Street Chambers. He is a trustee of two charities involved in the advancement of human rights through law: the Africa and Middle East Refugee Assistance, and the Human Dignity Trust.

Richard Carver

Richard Carver is Senior Lecturer in Human Rights and Governance at the Centre for Development and Emergency Practice, Oxford Brookes University. Previously an associate of the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, he has been on the research staff of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and ARTICLE 19. An early proponent of understanding refugee law in the context of human rights, he was the author, with Chaloka Beyani and Joe Oloka-Onyango, of African Exodus(1995), the first study of protection and human rights of refugees in Africa, as well as Voices in Exile (2001), a study of African refugees’ right to freedom of expression, with Professor Guglielmo Verdirame. Richard teaches on human rights and refugee protection. As an international law scholar, his focus is on mechanisms for implementing international standards at the national level and he is currently researching the role of national human rights institutions in protecting the rights of refugees.

Merrill Smith

Merrill Smith holds a B.A. from Columbia, a J.D. from Vanderbilt, an LL.M. from NYU, and the Diplome from the International Institute of Human Rights and is admitted to practice in the State of NY. He was the editor of the annual World Refugee Survey, (editions 2003-9), with the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), and an active leader in the international civil society advocacy movement to end the human “warehousing” of refugees. He was the Washington Representative of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (2000-2), a leading lobbyist for increased appropriations to the U.S. Migration and Refugee Assistance account and for the establishment of Legal Orientation Presentations for immigration detainees. He also directed Church World Service’s legal department representing Haitian asylum seekers from Guantanamo in Miami, worked as human rights observer for the UN in Haiti, and directed Haiti Advocacy in the United States. Merrill advises the Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Network on international refugee protection and advocacy.

Editors, Rights in Exile Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter

Themba Lewis, 2010 – 2018 (Founding editor)

Themba holds graduate degrees in refugee studies from the University of Oxford and the American University in Cairo, and Level 2 Senior Caseworker Accreditation with the UK Legal Services Commission. He has taught on refugee rights in Bulgaria and Egypt, provided legal representation for detained asylum seekers in the United Kingdom, and is a Registered Member of the Law Society of England and Wales. Most recently, Themba served as a Field Team Leader at the US Refugee Admissions Program Resettlement Support Center, before joining the Rights in Exile Programme as co-director in August 2012.

Fiona McKinnon, 2012 – Present

Fiona holds a BA in English Literature from Harvard University and a JD from University of Virginia. She expects to compete an LLM in International Human Rights Law at Chicago’s Northwestern University this year. Fiona has lived and worked in Mexico, Hungary, Egypt and Ethiopia. She began her legal practice in Washington, DC, practicing exclusively in the area of U.S. Immigration and Naturalization law with a focus on asylum. She has been named a Haywood-Burns fellow at the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild in Boston and served as a Legal Advocate at Africa and Middle East Refugee Assistance (AMERA) in Cairo. She has lectured at Northwestern University and recently joined the Law Faculty at Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia.

Mandy Jam, 2014 – Present

Mandy has recently completed her MA degree in Cultural Anthropology at Leiden University (2015), for which she has conducted ethnographic research into locally expressed, informal structures of humanitarianism and the discursive production of alternative camp (hi-)stories amongst long term camp residents in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya. Parts of her research were published in article-form in the Oxford Monitor of Forced Migration (OxMo), 2014. She gained an undergraduate degree in Cultural Anthropology & Development Sociology from the same university (2011), and holds a postgraduate certificate in Forced Migration and Refugee Issues from York University, Toronto (2013). Previously, she interned as psychosocial officer at Africa and Middle-East Refugee Assistance (AMERA), Cairo. Mandy has lived and worked on refugee issues in East Africa, Egypt, Canada, and the Netherlands, and is currently based in the UK.

Natsumi Paxton, 2015 – Present

Natsumi completed an MA in African Studies at SOAS in London, where she also worked with people detained in immigration removal centres through SOAS Detainee Support and Detention Action. She has continued to work with immigration detainees in New York with Queer Detainee Empowerment Project. She is also a member of Books Through Bars NYC, a collective that sends free literature to people who are incarcerated and advocates for prison abolition. Natsumi is interested in the issues surrounding the expansion of immigration detention systems, and hopes to work in research and advocacy.

Susan Fratzke 2015 – Present

Susan Fratzke is an Associate Policy Analyst and Program Coordinator with the Migration Policy Institute’s International Program, where her research areas include forced migration and European Union asylum policy. Before joining MPI, she interned for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and worked with an adult literacy program serving immigrant and refugee students in the rural United States. Ms. Fratzke holds an MA in German and European studies, with a concentration in European migration policy, from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, where she also received a certificate in refugees and humanitarian emergencies from the Institute for the Study of International Migration. Ms. Fratzke also holds a BA in political science (with honors) from Iowa State University.

Catherine Tyson 2015 – Present

Catherine holds a BA, Magna cum Laude, in Anthropology and International Studies from Northwestern University. She has worked at the Center for Forced Migration Studies and Heartland Alliance and volunteered at mutual aid associations. She conducted ethnographic analysis of two refugee communities, Iraqi and Bhutanese-Nepali, in Chicago, IL and analyzed U.S. resettlement policy to propose a new framework for U.S. resettlement policy by which to improve integration outcomes. While living and studying in Egypt in 2012, she studied the dynamics of Syrian forced migration and analyzed the prospective effects of durable solutions on the crisis. Parts of her research were published in the Oxford Monitor of Forced Migration (OxMo), 2014.

Kavita Kapur, 2017 – Present

Kavita Kapur is an international human rights and immigration lawyer, focusing on asylum and refugee protection and migrants’ rights. She has previously been affiliated with UNHCR operations in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Malaysia, and the United States, and has volunteered in detention centers, unaccompanied minors’ shelters, and solidarity camps in Greece.  Kavita holds a JD from the Washington College of Law, an MA in International Human Rights Law from the American University in Cairo, and a BA in Environmental Studies and Political Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Mohamed ElSayeh, 2017 – Present

Mohamed holds a BA in Political Science from The American University in Cairo and an LLM in International Human Rights from the National University of Ireland, Galway. He previously held the positions of Refugee Status Determination (RSD) Legal Advisor Intern and RSD Legal Officer at Africa and Middle East Refugee Assistance (AMERA) in Cairo. While serving as Research Associate at the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies (CMRS) of The American University in Cairo, he conducted field research on the socioeconomic conditions of Egyptian returnees from Libya, as part of the EU-funded Migrants in Countries in Crisis (MICIC) project. Mohamed worked with human rights defenders at risk when he held the position of Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Research and Training Fellow at Front Line Defenders in Dublin.

Christian Jorgensen, 2017 – Present

Christian is a law student at the University of New Mexico School of Law. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa with a BA in political science and a graduate of DePaul University where he received an MSc in Forced Migration and Refugee Studies. He has volunteered with various organisations throughout the midwest of the United States, where he helped provide social welfare assistance to recently resettled refugees and assisted immigration attorneys and their clients with the preparation of visa and citizenship documents. Christian has previously worked for the Rights in Exile Programme in Oxford, United Kingdom, where he helped provide legal support to individuals seeking asylum. Most recently Christian worked with the politics and immigration focused news organization, Migration Voter, in Berlin, Germany, and also was working for the organisation KISA in Nicosia, Cyprus.

Nejla Sammakia, 2015 – 2016, 2017 – Present

Nejla has an LLM in International Human Rights Law from University College Cork, Ireland, where she examined EU efforts to provide protection to asylum seekers in the aftermath of revolutions in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria, while simultaneously preventing the arrival of irregular migrants. She has written on the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, in particular in North Africa, identifying the extent of adherence to international standards, and providing recommendations for national authorities and for the EU. She has covered refugee issues as a program officer with a major donor organisation, and as human rights researcher with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Prior to that, she worked as a journalist with the Associated Press and wrote about various human rights issues, including on refugees and migrants. Nejla has dual Irish and Egyptian citizenships, is fluent in Arabic and French, and has a working knowledge of Turkish.

Nicolas Parent, 2018 – Present

Nicolas is a critical geographer and independent researcher. Through a mixed-methods field investigation, he produced a ‘Distinction’ level thesis entitled “Syrian refugee inflow and risk perception in Izmir, Turkey: Understanding Turkish attitudes through the evaluation of cultural cognition”, earning him an MSc in Risk, Crisis, and Disaster Management (University of Leicester, 2016). Currently living in Peru, he has published on the difficulties faced by Venezuelans in receiving adequate protection, and is currently developing a research project that will explore how extractive industries in the Amazon participate in indigenous displacement. From 2012-16, he lived in Turkey, where he coordinated an educational project for refugees and asylum seekers through the Association for Solidarity with Refugees (Multeci-Der), and was a researcher at the Observatory for Human Rights and Forced Migrants in Turkey (OHRFMT). Nicolas also holds a BA in Geography (2011) and BEd (2012) from the University of Ottawa, Canada.

Taylor Brooks, 2018 – Present

Taylor is a PhD Candidate in the Media, Communications and Sociology Department at the University of Leicester.  The central focus of her research involves understanding the current nationalist and nativist sentiment surrounding undocumented immigration, the border wall and deportations in the United States.  Taylor completed an MSc in International Development (Poverty, Inequality and Development) in 2014 at the University of Birmingham. Her thesis work examined women’s land rights in Ethiopia. Taylor also lived and studied in Sweden. She completed a BA from Malmӧ University in Human Rights in 2011, where the focus of her research was on the human rights to water and sanitation. Her thesis work centered on climate migration. Taylor has dual Swedish and American citizenship and lives currently in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

Cristina de Nicolás Izquierdo, 2018 – Present

Cristina is a political scientist, specialising in conflictology, humanitarian action, and forced migration, with 20 years of experience in governance and multisectoral leadership, civil society capacity development, and management of humanitarian missions, particularly in conflict and unstable post crisis situations. Additionally, she has provided technical assistance in governance to countries recipient of the Global Fund and currently teaches humanitarian practitioners and UN staff about forced migration, international humanitarian law, and ethics in humanitarian work and in development cooperation. She’s currently completing her MA on Refugee Protection and Forced Migration with the University of London, and participating in a research about the integration of Syrian refugees in Turkey. Cristina is fluent in Spanish, English, French, and Russian.

Previous editors

Resource People

Katia Bianchini

Eddie Bruce-Jones

Cairo Community Interpreter Project

Heaven Crawley

Marisa O. Ensor

Aryah Somers

Maryellen Fullerton

Anna Marie Gallagher

Micheal Gallagher

Jane Herlihy

Martin Jones

Jean La Fontaine

Maria Sian Lew

Leslie Miller

Grant Mitchell

Elna Sondergaard

Michael Kagan

Galya Ben-Arieh

Frances Webber

Courtney Welton-Mitchell