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Protecting human rights, refugees and displaced persons in international law


This core module provides you – regardless of whether you have a legal background or not - with a firm understanding of the fundamentals of international law in relation to the protection of refugees and human rights.

Topics covered

  • Key concepts, standards and mechanisms in public international law, international human rights law and international refugee law
  • Military interventions and the use of force between States
  • Who is a refugee?
  • Refugee rights and the impact of large-scale refugee flows
  • Complementary protection under human rights law
  • Implementation and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
  • Refugee status procedures

Learning outcomes

This module seeks to impart a critical understanding of the key concepts, standards and mechanisms of international law as applied to the protection of refugees and displaced persons. You will learn to build, deploy and defend legal arguments concerning the fundamentals of refugee and human rights protection, and apply these legal frameworks to practical scenarios based on contemporary factual situations.


Each core module is assessed via a final item of coursework, which comprises 70% of the overall grade, and five online assessments (E-tivities), which make up 30% of the overall grade.

Module team

Elizabeth Mavropoulou - RPFMS tutor

Dr Elizabeth Mavropoulou - Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies

Elizabeth studied law in Athens (LLB) where she qualified as an attorney at law (non-practising). She completed her postgraduate degree in Public International Law at the University of Westminster (LLM, Distinction).

In 2021, Elizabeth completed her PhD degree defending her Thesis ‘Responsibility Sharing in International Refugee Law; Towards Differentiated Legal Obligations’. She currently lectures part-time on public international law and international human rights law modules at the University of Westminster.

For the past eight years, Elizabeth has been with the UK-based charity Human Rights at Sea where she is the Programme Manager running and overseeing its programmes and projects. The charity acts as a global catalyst for human rights in the maritime environment and through research, advocacy, investigation and lobbying has contributed to legal and policy developments in countries around the world.

Rodolfo Ribeiro Coutinho Marques

Rodolfo Ribeiro Coutinho Marques

Rodolfo is a PhD Researcher in International Law and Teaching Assistant (Interdisciplinary Programmes) at the Graduate Institute, Geneva. Before starting his doctoral studies, he worked with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), both in Geneva and in Brazil. His research interests range from legal theory, international refugee law, international human rights law, and laws of war to forced migration studies more broadly. Rodolfo holds a master’s degree in International Law from the Graduate Institute and an LLB (Dean's list) from the Federal University of Paraiba (Brazil). His research focuses on the meaning(s) of nationality as an international legal concept.

Gillian Kane

Gillian Kane

Gillian is a Postdoctoral Researcher based at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, School of Law, NUI Galway. She is currently working on an Irish Research Council COALESCE project exploring human trafficking, forced migration and gender equality in Uganda. Prior to joining NUI Galway, Gillian completed her PhD research - on the role of international law in preventing and tackling human trafficking among refugees and asylum seekers - in the School of Law at Queen’s University Belfast. She is also co-chair of the Human Trafficking Research Network (based at QUB Human Rights Centre), a Research Affiliate at the Refugee Law Initiative, and a trustee at Chab Dai UK.

Linda Kirk

Linda Kirk

Linda Kirk is a Doctor of Juridical Science and holds a Master of Laws degree from the University of Cambridge, a Bachelor of Laws degree with First Class Honours and a Bachelor of Economics degree from the University of Adelaide. She is a Senior Member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales Faculty of Law and Justice, and an Honorary Associate Professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University. Dr Kirk teaches and researches in the fields of administrative law, migration and citizenship law and international refugee law.

From July 2018 to December 2020 Dr Kirk was a part-time Associate Professor at the UNSW Faculty of Law. Prior to joining UNSW, she was a legal academic in the Migration Law Program at the ANU College of Law from 2014-2018 and served as Sub-Dean and Deputy Director from 2015-16. From 2009-2014 she was a Senior Member of the Migration Review Tribunal and the Refugee Review Tribunal. From 2002-2008 Dr Kirk was a Senator for South Australia and served as a member of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee and as the Deputy Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Migration. She was the Chair of the Australasian Chapter of the International Association of Migration and Refugee Judges (IARMJ) from October 2011 to July 2016 and a member of the Council of the Australasian Chapter until May 2020. She is currently a member of the Committee of the Australian Association of Women Judges.

Sara Palacios-Arapiles

Sara Palacios-Arapiles

Sara Palacios-Arapiles is an ESRC Doctoral Researcher at the University of Nottingham, and a Spanish qualified lawyer. Her research focuses on international refugee law, human rights, and public law, and more specifically on the international protection needs of slavery survivors. She has published on these topics in the Journal of African Law, the International Community Law Review, Laws and in (forthcoming) edited volumes. Her research has been cited in policy documents and asylum jurisprudence of various European jurisdictions, including the UK, Sweden, Germany, and The Netherlands.

Sara is also an Adjunct Professor of Human Rights at Comillas Pontifical University (Madrid); and Convener of the ESIL Interest Group on Migration and Refugee Law. Previously, Sara worked as a Research Associate at the University of Nottingham's Rights Lab (the world's largest group of modern slavery researchers), as a Protection Consultant for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in London, and at the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) as a legal trainee of the Americas Office in Brussels.