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International refugee law


In this course we will initially look at the historical move towards affording protection to persons who may be deemed to be a refugee. We will examine what is meant by the term refugee, the classical definition, as well as investigating the main international instrument which determines whether or not someone is defined as a refugee. This course also covers the European dimension to refugee law, the rights of refugees and contemporary issues in refugee law and will give you a strong overall understanding of International Refugee Law and its ongoing importance.

Module A: The development of, and responsibility for, international protection of refugees


  • Historical perspective
  • The legal framework: The 1951 Refugee Convention and other instruments
  • Definition of refugee: Beyond the classical definition
  • Assessment in refugee status determination procedures
  • International approaches to refugee protection
  • Legal protection of international displaced persons and stateless persons

Module B: The European dimension of refugee law


  • European immigration practices and policies
  • The evolving European Union Acquis on asylum: The European framework for refugee protection
  • European Union refugee status determination procedures
  • Responsibility and internal protection: European Union Directive on qualification for international protection
  • European Union jurisprudence: Interaction of the European Convention on Human Rights and refugee law

Module C: The rights of refugees


  • Standards of treatment
  • Durable solutions to refugee problems
  • Selected substantive rights of refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention:
  1. Principle of non-discrimination
  2. Right to a fair trial
  3. Family reunification
  4. Employment
  5. Housing
  6. Education
  7. Freedom of movement

    Module D: Contemporary issues in refugee law


    • Refugee issues and armed conflicts: Dynamic of mobility and displacement
    • Women and children refugees
    • Non-Refoulement: A peremptory norm of international law
    • Loss and denial of refugee status: Article 1F of the 1951 Refugee Convention


    Each module will be assessed by a 45-minute unseen written examination.


    It is strongly recommended you complete Module A first.

    How to apply

    You can apply to study a module individually as a standalone unit or as part of a Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma or Master of Laws qualification. (In either scenario, they must be studied in order.)

    These modules also contribute towards the following specialist pathways for Laws:

    • Human Rights Law
    • International Justice
    • Law and Development
    • Public International Law

    Apply via Postgraduate Laws.

    Academic Co-ordinator

    Professor Rebecca Wallace

    Professor Rebecca Wallace

    Professor Rebecca Wallace was appointed Research Professor in International Human Rights and Justice at Robert Gordon University Aberdeen in December 2012. Professor Wallace has also been Visiting Scholar to the School of Advanced International Studies, John Hopkins University, Washington DC and the Ariel Sallows Professor in Human Rights at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. From April 2009 – November 2012 Professor Wallace was Director of the Centre for Rural Childhood, University of the Highlands and Islands, based at Perth College.

    During this time she remained as a Visiting Professor at RGU. Prior to joining RGU in 2003 she was Head of Napier University Law School in Edinburgh and Director of its Masters Programme in International Law. She is a member of Lincoln's Inn as a non-practicing barrister a part-time judge of the First tier Tribunal (asylum and immigration).