School of Law

SOLM171 International Refugee Law (Sem 1)

Module Description

This module examines the international law dimensions of protecting refugees and other categories of forced migrants.

It provides a comprehensive overview of the concepts and workings of international law, in general, and international refugee and human rights law, in particular, as they relate to the phenomenon of forced displacement. While international refugee law forms the backbone of the course, the module will also cover aspects of international criminal law, international humanitarian law, and the law of the sea as these apply to refugees and other forced migrants.

The module will start by studying the historical origins and development of refugee law up to its codification in the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol. The institutions tasked with overseeing the implementation of these instruments will also be examined, with particular focus on UNHCR and its evolving role through time. The study of substantive law, including State practice and case law of national and international courts and Treaty bodies, will follow thereafter, following ten thematic blocs: 1) the refugee definition (inclusion, exclusion, and cessation of refugee status); 2) the status of Palestinian refugees; 3) non-refoulement and complementary forms of protection; 4) status determination procedures; 5) the content of international protection and other 'durable solutions'; 6) access to asylum; 7) war and displacement; 8) 'climate refugees';  9) poverty, destitution and 'survival migration'; 10) and the ethical roots of refugeehood, to be taught in 3-hour blocs from Week 2 to 11.

Module Aims

This module will raise awareness among students of the global and current phenomenon of forced migration and the problem it poses from a legal perspective. The module will equip students with the necessary tools to understand how the international community's concern for forced migration translates into an evolving set of legal norms, mechanisms and procedures. The course aims at providing students with a conceptual framework and legal methodology for the analysis of forced migration under international law and related sub-systems. At the end of the course, students will be able to understand the potential and limits of international law, both as an operative and normative system, for the protection of refugees and other categories of forced migrants. They will be able to analyse and articulate informed legal arguments on forced migration and their regulation under international law, making use of the relevant sources.

Applicable Groupings

  • LLM in Human Rights
  • LLM in Public International Law
  • LLM in Immigration

Mode of Assessment

5,000-7,500 word essay


30 Credits