The United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol defines a refugee as someone who, ‘owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country’. The definition of a refugee was expanded by regional conventions in Africa and Latin America to include persons who had fled war or other violence in their home country. It is important to note that article 33 of the Convention provides for the principle of non-refoulement which means that no contracting state shall expel or return (refouler) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to territories where his or her life or freedom would be threatened. Those who seek refugee status are referred to as "asylum seekers". The conditions under which a person is granted refugee status is left to the discretion of States. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the principal UN organ that protects and supports refugees. Over time, UNHCR's mandate has been expanded to cover other persons of concern, including some internally displaced persons. The UNHCR assists refugees in their resettlement or return and finds other solutions to their plight. On an international level, debates continue regarding the nature of the protection that refugees should be granted, the obligations of receiving countries and the role of the international community towards refugees.
This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research on Refugees. It provides the basic legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. See the Librarians Choice for the latest important publications on refugees and internally displaced persons. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library's subject heading (keyword) Refugees is instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention in the Research Guide is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.
Sources of international law
- Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees
- Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa
UN Declarations and Resolutions
The resolutions and decisions of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council may provide valuable information on Refugees. Although they cannot themselves constitute international law or serve as conclusive evidence of a rule of customary law, such resolutions do have value in providing evidence of existing or emerging law. This point of view has been acknowledged by the International Law Commission.
As every Member State has been recognized and has a vote in the UN General Assembly, finding General Assembly resolutions that passed unanimously or near-unanimously may serve as an excellent starting point in the legal research process. Pay attention to the language of the resolution. Those with firm obligations versus those that are merely aspirational or advisory in nature are more likely to be considered valuable as evidence of customary international law.
→ Official Document System Search. ODS is the UN's Official Document System. You can search for UN declarations, resolutions and other documents by keywords, then narrow your search.
→ Start Your Research: (7) Resolutions and Decisions of International Organizations.
- Cartagena Declaration on Refugees (see also this interpretation of the extended refugee definition)
- Compendium of International Legal Instruments on Human Migration
- Handbook on European law relating to asylum, borders and immigration
- History of diplomatic asylum in Latin America, see this UNHCR historical
- Michigan Guidelines (guidelines produced by academic experts for confronting a cutting-edge problem in refugee protection. Michigan Guidelines on the Internal Protection Alternative (1999); Michigan Guidelines on Nexus to a Convention Ground (2001); Michigan Guidelines on Well-Founded Fear (2004); Michigan Guidelines on Protection Elsewhere (2006); Michigan Guidelines on the Right to Work (2009);Michigan Guidelines on the Exclusion of International Criminals (2013);Michigan Guidelines on Risk for Reasons of Political Opinion (2015).
- UNHCR Guidelines on International Protection
- Abou-El-Wafa, A., The Right to Asylum between Islamic Shari'ah and International Refugee Law: A Comparative Study, Riyadh, Naif Arab University, 2009.
- Alland, D. et C. Teitgen-Colly, Traité du droit de l'asile, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 2002.
- Boeles, P.(et al.)(eds.), European Migration Law, Cambridge/Antwerp/Portland, Intersentia, 2014.
- Boswell, R.A., J. Moore, and K. Musalo, Refugee Law and Policy: A Comparative and International Approach, Durham, Carolina Academic Press, 2011.
- Carlier, J-Y. , Droit de l'Asile et des Refugiés: de la Protection aux Droits, Recueil des Cours, Vol. 332, 2007.
- Clayton, G., Textbook on Immigration and Asylum Law, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2014.
- Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (et al.) (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2014.
- Fitzpatrick, J.F.(ed.) , Human Rights Protection for Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Internally Displaced Persons: A Guide to International Mechanisms and Procedures, Ardsley, New York, Transnational Publishers, 2002.
- Gibney, M. Global Refugee Crisis: a Reference Handbook, Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, 2010.
- Goodwin-Gill, G.S. and J. McAdam, The Refugee in International Law, Fourth Edition, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2021.
- Grahl-Madsen, A., The Status of Refugees in International Law, Leyden, Sijthoff, 1966.
- Hathaway, J.C. (ed.), Human Rights and Refugee Law, Cheltenham/Northampton, Edward Elgar, 2013.
- Hathaway, J.C. and M. Foster, The Law of Refugee Status, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2014.
- Loescher, G., Beyond Charity: International Cooperation and the Global Refugee Crisis, New York, Oxford University Press, 1993.
Selected books and articles
- Ahsan Ullah, A.K.M., Refugee Politics in the Middle East and North Africa: Human Rights, Safety, and Identity, Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMillan, 2014.
- Akram, S.M. and T. Syring, Still Waiting for Tomorrow: The Law and Politics of Unresolved Refugee Crises, Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Publishing, 2014.
- Bradley, M., Refugee Repatriation: Justice, Responsibility and Redress, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2013.
- Dastyari, A., United States Migrant Interdiction and the Detention of Refugees in Guantánamo Bay, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2015.
- Gatrell, P., The Making of The Modern Refugee, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013.
- Islam, R. and J.H. Bhuiyan (eds.), An Introduction to International Refugee Law, Leiden, Nijhoff, 2013.
- Juss, S.S (ed.), The Ashgate Research Companion to Migration Law, Theory and Policy, Farnham, Ashgate, 2013.
- Kneebone, S. D. Stevens and L. Baldassar (eds.), Refugee Protection and the Role of Law: Conflicting Identities, London, Routledge, 2014.
- McAdam, J., Climate Change, Forced Migration and International Law, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012.
- O'Nions, H., Asylum: A Right Denied, Farnham, Ashgate, 2014.
- Reneman, M., EU Asylum Procedures and the Right to An Effective Remedy, Oxford/Portland, Hart Publishing, 2014.
- Simeon, J.C. (ed.), The UNHCR and the Supervision of International Refugee Law, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013.
- Smyth, C.M., European Asylum Law and the Rights of the Child, London, Routledge, 2014.
- Bank, R., "The Potential and Limitations of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Shaping International Refugee Law", International Journal of Refugee Law, 27 (2015), No.2, pp. 213-244.
- De Boer, T. and M. Zieck, ICC Witnesses and Acquitted Suspects Seeking Asylum in the Netherlands: An Overview of the Jurisdictional Battles between the ICC and Its Host State, International Journal of Refugee Law, 27 (2015), No. 4, pp. 573-606.
- Campbell, J., "Asylum vs Sovereignty in the 21st Century: How Nation-State's Breach International Law to Block Access to Asylum.' International Journal of Migration and Border Studies, Forthcoming 2016.
- Durieux, J-F., "Temporary Protection: Hovering at the Edges of Refugee Law", Netherlands Yearbook of International Law 2014, 45 (published may 2015), pp. 221-253.
- Fijnhout, C., “The Refugee Crisis: The End of Schengen?” (editorial), European journal of crime, Criminal law and criminal justice, 23 (2015), No. 4, pp. 313-332.
- Liliansa, D. and A. Jayadi, Should Indonesia Accede to The 1951 Refugee Convention and Its 1967 Protocol?, Indonesia law Review, 2015, 5(3), pp. 324-346 (full text)
- McGee, C., "Matter of A-R-C-G- and Domestic Violence Asylum: A Glimmer of Hope Amidst a Continuing Need for Reform", University of Miami Law Review, 70 (2016), pp. 1035-106.
- Sy, M., "UNHCR and Preventing Indirect Refoulement in Europe", International Journal of Refugee Law, 27 (2015), No.3, pp. 457-480.
- Angenendt, S., A. Koch and A. Meier, "2020 – How Germany and the EU Overcame the Great Refugee Crisis", in L. Brozus, Unexpected, Unforeseen, Unplanned, Scenarios of International Foreign and Security Policy, Foresight Contributions 2015, SWP Research Paper 2016/RP 01, pp. 38-43.
- Benedi Lahuerta, S., Wearing the veil at work: Achbita and Bougnaoui - Can a duty to reasonable accommodation be derived from the EU concept of indirect discrimination?, EU Law Analysis, 15-03-2016.
- Berger, M. and F. Heinemann, Why and How There Should Be More Europe in Asylum Policies, Centre for European Economic Research, No. 1, January 2016.Brookings Institution,The global refugee crisis: Moral dimensions and practical solutions, 5-2-2016, video.
- Byman, D. and S. Speakman, "The Syrian Refugee Crisis: Bad and Worse Options", The Washington Quarterly, 39 (2016), No. 2, pp. 45-60.
- Caviedes, A., European Integration and the Governance of Migration, Journal of Contemporary European Research, 12 (2016), No. 1, pp. 552-565.
- Crock, M. and K. Bones, "Australian Exceptionalism: Temporary Protection and the Rights of Refugees", Melbourne Journal of International Law, 16 (2015), no. 2, pp. 1-28.ECRE, Case Law Fact Sheet: Prevention of Dublin Transfers to Hungary, January 2016.
- Curley, A., Welcome to Denmark: How Will You Be Paying for Your Stay? RefLaw, Blog, March 2016.
- European Economic and Social Committee - Opinion - 'A European Agenda on Migration’-24-02-2016
- EPRS, Unaccompanied migrant children in the EU (this keysource brings together a selection of information materials describing the situation of unaccompanied children within the EU), 20-01-2016.
- Esen, S., The Principle of Non-Refoulement as a Constitutional Right of Asylum Seekers in Turkey, Verfassungsblog = On Matters Constitutional, July 2016.
- European Parliament, Study: Fit for Purpose? The Facilitation Directive and the Criminalisation of Humanitarian Assistance to Irregular Migrants, 28-01-2016.García Andrade, P., Who is in charge? The external representation of the EU on dialogues on immigration and asylum with third countries, EU Migration Law Blog, 13-01-2016.
- Ferreira, S., "Migratory Crisis in the Mediterranean: Managing Irregular Flows," Stability: International Journal of Security & Development, 5 (2016), No. 1, pp. 4 e.v.
- Goodwin-Gill, G.S., ‘The Challenges to International Refugee Law in the Current Crisis’, Notes for a Presentation, 3-03-2016.
- Haijer, F. and J. Handmaker, Addressing root causes of Europe’s immigration crisis through extraterritorial measures, The Broker, 4-2-2016.
- Halleskov Storgaard, L., Enhancing and Diluting the Legal Status of Subsidiary Protection Beneficiaries under Union law – the CJEU Judgment in Alo and Osso, EU Law Analysis, 9-3-2016.
- Heijer, M. den, T. Spijkerboer and J.J. Rijpma, Coercion, Prohibition, and Great Expectations: The Continuing Failure of the Common European Asylum System," Common Market Law Review, Forthcoming May/June 2016.
- Janmyr, M., The Legal Status of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon, Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, American University in Beirut, March 2016.
- Kasapi, Z.A., The impact of European Union law on Family Reunification in Greece, 9-3-2016, EDAL.
- Kaur, R., An Assessment of the International Legal Obligations Owed to the Rohingya Refugees, ISAS Working Paper, no. 229 (National University of Singapore, Feb. 2016)
- Kegels, M., Getting the Balance Right: Strengthening Asylum Reception Capacity at National and EU Levels, Migration Policy Institute, February 2016.
- LSE Human Rights Series on Refugee and Migration Rights (four articles), 8-11 february 2016.
- Mierswa, K., Reception Conditions of Asylum Seekers in the European Union: Is the EU Fulfilling its Obligations?, Paper presented at the International Studies Association Human Rights Conference, New York, 13-15 June 2016.
- Nordic Africa Institute, Eritrea's Refugee Crisis and the Role of International Community, March 2016.
- ODI, Global Migration: From Crisis to Opportunity, London, 10 Feb. 2016, video.
- OpenDemocracy debate: The future of refugee protection: What new approaches to meet a growing crisis?
- Peers, S., Detention of asylum-seekers: the first CJEU judgment, EU Law Analysis, 9-3-2016.
- Petcharamesree, S., "ASEAN and its Approach to Forced Migration Issues", International Journal of Human Rights, 20 (2016), no. 2, [free full-text]
- Poon, J., (Re-)inventing the Dublin System: Addressing Uniformity and Harmonization through Non-Refoulement Obligations, Working Paper, Institute of European Law, Working Paper no. 2, 2016.
- Rahman, Z., and A.Taylor, Allocating responsibility for an asylum application through Convention rights: The potential impact of ZAT & Others, EDAL, 3-3-2016.
- Ramji-Nogales, J., Prohibiting Collective Expulsion of Aliens at the European Court of Human Rights, ASIL Insights, 04-01-2016.
- Rita Gil, A., Collective expulsions in times of migratory crisis: Comments on the Khlaifia case of the ECHR, EU Migration Law Blog, 11-02-2016.
- Tétényi, A., The Europeanization of Asylum Policies in Hungary, Paper presented at CEEISA-ISA 2016 Joint International Conference, Ljubljana, 23-25 June 2016.
- Velluti, S., "The Revised Reception Conditions Directive and Adequate and Dignified Material Reception Conditions for Those Seeking International Protection"", International Journal of Migration and Border Studies, 2, (2016), No. 3 [full-text via ResearchGate]
- Weyembergh, A.,(et al), The Paris Terrorist Attacks: Failure of the EU’s Area of Freedom, Security and Justice?, EU Migration Law Blog, 06-01-2016.
- Wijk, Joris, To Return or Not to Return, That's the Question; Rejected Asylum Seekers and Voluntary Return, SSRN, August 16, 2016.
- Yeo, C., Court of Appeal considers EU deportation, public revulsion and “imperative grounds”, Free Movement, 06-01-2016.
Periodicals, serial publications
- European Database of Asylum Law Journal (free access)
- European Journal of Migration and Law
- Forced Migration Review (free access)
- Georgetown Immigration Law Journal
- International Journal of Border and Migration Studies
- International Journal of Refugee Law
- International Review of the Red Cross (free access)
- ISIL Yearbook of International Humanitarian and Refugee Law
- Journal of Immigration Asylum and Nationality Law
- Journal of Refugee Studies
- Middle East Journal of Refugee Studies
- Migration Policy Practice Journal (free access)
- Migration Studies
- Refuge (Canada's Journal on Refugees)
- Refugee Review (ESPMI Network, free access)
- Refugee Studies Centre Working Papers (free access)
- Refugee Survey Quarterly
- Refugee Watch (a South Asian Journal on Forced Migration)
- Refugees and Human Rights
- Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales
- UNHCR Legal and Protection Policy Research Series
- UNHCR Refugees Magazine (no longer published)
- UNHCR Working Papers New Issues in Refugee Research
Readings University of Oslo, Refugee and Asylum Law, Spring 2015
- African Human Rights Case Law Analyser (CLA). Collection of the human rights decisions of African supra-national mechanisms.
- EISIL Database on Refugees, Asylum, Nationality, Displaced & Freedom of Movement. This section of the EISIL database includes sources and materials relating to the rights, treatment, and status of peoples whose identities vis-à-vis the state are indeterminate, resisted, or challenged. It also covers statelessness and rights of aliens.
- European Court of Human Rights (HUDOC). Access to the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (Grand Chamber, Chamber and Committee judgments, decisions, communicated cases, advisory opinions and legal summaries from the Case-Law Information Note), the European Commission of Human Rights (decisions and reports) and the Committee of Ministers (resolutions).
- European Database of Asylum Law. An online database containing case law from (at the moment) 17 EU Member States interpreting refugee and asylum law.
- European Migration Law. Information about the legal and jurisprudential developments taking place at EU level.
- Fullerton, M.(ed.), The Refugee Law Reader: : Cases, Documents and Materials, 6th edition, 2011, online. A comprehensive on-line model curriculum for the study of the complex and rapidly evolving field of international refugee law.
- Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Access to the case-law of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
- OHCHR jurisprudence database. This database provides easy access to jurisprudence emanating from the United Nations Treaty Bodies which receive and consider complaints from individuals: the Human Rights Committee (CCPR), the Committee against Torture (CAT), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED), the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), and the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
- Refworld. A vast collection of reports and information relating to situations in countries of origin, policy documents and positions, and documents relating to international and national legal frameworks with a searchable database of case-law of national and international jurisprudential decisions.
- United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law – Lecture Series, International Migration Law. The Lecture Series contains a permanent collection of lectures of enduring value on virtually every subject of international law given by leading international law scholars and practitioners from different regions, legal systems, cultures and sectors of the legal profession. Lectures on International Migration Law; Forced Migration - The Evolution of International Refugee Law and Organization; Expulsion in Public International Law, The Kampala Convention, The Sources of International Migration Law and The Principle of Non-refoulement in International Law)