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International Refugee Law - LAWS8190
 Law Books

Faculty: Faculty of Law
School:  Faculty of Law
Course Outline: See below
Campus: Kensington Campus
Career: Postgraduate
Units of Credit: 6
EFTSL: 0.12500 (more info)
Indicative Contact Hours per Week: 2
Enrolment Requirements:
Pre-requisite: Academic Program must be 9200 or 9210 or 9230 or 5740 or 9240 or 5760 or 9211 or 5211 or 9281 or 5281 or 9220 or 5750.
Excluded: JURD7387, JURD7490, LAWS3187
CSS Contribution Charge:Band 3 (more info)
Further Information: See Class Timetable


This course provides an overview of international refugee law. It explores the concept of 'international protection' through the lens of the 1951 Refugee Convention, asking who is a refugee?, what status does a refugee get?, who is expressly excluded from protection?, and is this instrument still adequate for refugee movements in the 21st century? It examines the notion of complementary protection (how human rights law has expanded States' protection obligations), the role of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the causes of and possible solutions to refugee flows, and the political and ethical issues concerning refugees and other forced migrants, including people trafficking and smuggling. It also examines strategies that countries like Australia have adopted in an attempt to deter asylum seekers, such as detention, interdiction, deflection, and temporary protection, as well as legal constructs devised to shift responsibility to other States, such as the concepts of 'safe third country', 'internal flight alternative', and extraterritorial processing. The course considers the extent to which Australia has implemented its international obligations in the Migration Act 1958, and how those obligations have been interpreted by the Department of Immigration, the Refugee Review Tribunal, and the Federal and High Courts. It undertakes a comparative analysis of practices in the European Union, Canada and the United States, and in regions such as Africa and Latin America. Contemporary protection concerns, such as mass influx, flight from generalized violence and civil war, internal displacement, and 'climate-change refugees' are also addressed.

This course is also available to students undertaking relevant postgraduate non-law degree programs at UNSW, provided such enrolment is approved by the appropriate non-law Faculty.

LLM Specialisations

Recommended Prior Knowledge

None, but LAWS8180 Principles of International Law or equivalent is a recommended pre- or co-requisite

Course Objectives

This course aims to:
  • Provide you with a basic knowledge and understanding of both the substantive and procedural aspects of international, comparative and Australian refugee law
  • Introduce you to the basic principles and institutions of refugee law, including the major treaties, national and international bodies, and the relationship to other branches of international law
  • Develop your skills in applying, analysing and critiquing the relevant principles
  • Help you to appreciate the dynamic and evolving nature of refugee law

Main Topics

  • The evolution of asylum, refugee protection, non-refoulement, and the ethics and politics of asylum
  • The refugee definition: The inclusion clauses
  • The refugee definition: exclusion and cessation
  • Complementary protection and temporary protection in international and regional law
  • The rights of refugees, asylum seekers and other persons in need of international protection
  • The reception of asylum seekers (detention and treatment)
  • Refugee determination procedures: International and Australian perspectives
  • Interrupting the right to seek asylum: Deflection mechanisms
  • IDPs and mass influx
  • Durable solutions and burden sharing
  • Contemporary challenges


Short Review Essay 20%
General class participation 10%
Short written outline of essay 1,000 words 10%
Research essay 5,000 words 60%

Course Texts


GS Goodwin-Gill and J McAdam, The Refugee in International Law (3rd edn, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007)

Additional reading materials will be advised before the course begins.


These will be advised in the Course Outline.

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© The University of New South Wales (CRICOS Provider No.: 00098G), 2004-2011. The information contained in this Handbook is indicative only. While every effort is made to keep this information up-to-date, the University reserves the right to discontinue or vary arrangements, programs and courses at any time without notice and at its discretion. While the University will try to avoid or minimise any inconvenience, changes may also be made to programs, courses and staff after enrolment. The University may also set limits on the number of students in a course.