Sylvester Chapotera, from Malawi, graduated from the MA Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies in 2018. While studying for his MA, he undertook field work with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in his country of birth. A year before graduating, he was promoted to the role of Reporting Officer with the Africa Bureau at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. He talks to London Connection about skills, strategy and solutions, and how the MA has provided him with both specialised and multidisciplinary training.
The MA programme has enabled me to develop high-level expertise in the field of refugee protection and forced migration. The skill sets acquired are so numerous that I cannot name each one of them: among others, I have acquired an advanced understanding of international refugee law including the legal and policy standards and mechanisms pertaining to IPs, statelessness and stateless persons; a critical comparative understanding of the key components, standards and mechanisms of regional asylum systems; an advanced critical understanding of gender, age and sexuality in refugee and forced migration contexts; as well as the practical protection competencies and skills needed to secure protection of all persons in forced displacement situations. For this reason, studying the MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration has helped me to build a solid foundation upon which I hope to advance a promising international career in Refugee Protection.
It is, at its best, the finest academic response to the challenge posed by the evolving nature and scope of forced displacement.
Every item of course content is blended and interwoven like a piece of well-designed art. It is, at its best, the finest academic response to the challenge posed by the evolving nature and scope of forced displacement, which has not only grown in scale and scope but also in terms of complexity. The fact that the MA programme is multidisciplinary, and offers ‘Securing Refugee Protection in Practice’ as one of its elective modules, makes it particularly unique.
We are no longer in an era where protection is exclusively about law or policy. We have already seen the recognition of this fact in the ever growing approval and acceptance of a whole-of-society approach as a viable strategic response to emerging protection challenges and the problem of forced displacement. The dawn of the Global Compact for Refugees and the implementation of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework echoes this level of maturity which is centred on the principle of inclusion.
I joined the Africa Bureau in 2017 as a Reporting Officer for the West and Central Africa sub-region, after working in the field for over eight years in different protection capacities. Unlike my field work, which mainly involved direct contact with persons of concern to UNHCR, my current profile involves collecting and analysing information of all global, sub-regional and national developments of concern to the UNHCR protection mandate and programme activities in the context of the West and Central Africa region. Mostly, I prepare reports, briefings and background notes, as well as other documentation for senior management. It is the kind of work that requires high level and detailed mastery of refugee protection, not to mention research, legal analysis and the ability to evaluate humanitarian, protection and security situations. [Pictured below: Sylvester Chapotera and MA Programme Director, Dr Sarah Singer, outside Senate House, University of London.]