Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh

Head, Refugee and migrant Rights Programme, lawyers for Human Rights

Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh was seven months pregnant and pretty much immobile when hundreds of refugees and foreign nationals lost their livelihoods in the xenophobic violence of May 2008. Like a grand master at her chessboard Ramjathan- Keogh had to deploy her staff to different parts of the country. Their job was to monitor the attacks on immigrants, help them replace crucial asylum documents lost in the chaos, and assist them in laying criminal charges against the perpetrators. Ramjathan-Keogh joined Lawyers for Human Rights in 2002, having studied at Oxford University's Refugee Studies Centre. Her specific area of interest is providing legal assistance to children. She has worked towards ensuring that refugee and migrant children are enrolled and registered in schools, and can access health care and documentation. Her current challenge is to develop a process to assist children stranded here without papers or guardians; such children need to be reunited with their families, or helped to stay legally in South Africa. The Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme provides legal assistance to more than 15 000 refugees, asylum seekers and migrant workers every year. On Ramjathan-Keogh's watch the programme has won a series of precedent-setting court challenges. These include a 2004 ruling that barred the department of home affairs from detaining unaccompanied children at the Lindela Repatriation Centre near Krugersdorp, and a 2010 ruling that prevents home affairs from detaining asylum seekers for more than 120 days. Ramjathan-Keogh says: "I enjoy challenging unjust laws, especially where this makes signifi cant and positive changes in people's lives.� Lawyers for Human Rights has been nominated for the Nansen Refugee Award in 2010, awarded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in recognition of its outstanding service to refugees. �Lionel Faull

Lunch spot: Trattoria Renato, Emmarentia, Johannesburg