Whats is a refugee? (Chatam House, September 2016)
Training films on refugee law and particular issues when representing asylum seekers
List of Films:
1. Well Founded Fear
2. Practicing Asylum – The Epidavros Project
3. Training Films on specific aspects of Refugee Law (developed by James Hathaway and other lawyers at the time Greece was entering the European Union)
- Anuardi – An ordinary refugee case
- Ferouse – The burden of proof and the role of evidence
- Mahnaz – Persecuted due to gender
- Justina and Farid – Persecution by Non-Governmental Agents
- Fatima – Victim of war and generalized violence
- Halida – Internal Flight Alternative
- Gernal – Exclusion Clause
- James Hathaway – Final Interview
4. Training film for Pro Bono Attorneys
5. The Refugee Law Observatory
- Justice Geoffrey Care: The expert in asylum and human rights cases: possibilites for use and abuse
- Debora Singer: Assessing the credibility of women’s asylum claims
- Professor Deborah Anker: Membership of a particular social group
- Hugh Southey: The particular challenges of national security cases
- Patricia van de Peer: The Qualifications Directive: an overview and specific safeguards inserted by the European Parliament in the negotiations
- Professor Justice Paul Tiedemann: The concept of persecution and its interpretation on the basis of human dignity
- Madeline Garlick: Syrian refugees seeking protection in the EU: putting the Common European Asylum System to the test?
- Professer Elspeth Guild: The EU’s Common European Asylum System and the Crisis of Unsafe Arrival of Asylum Seekers
6. Random Acts
1. Well-Founded Fear
Well-Founded Fear and Practicing Asylum Law provide excellent training and we strongly recommend that they be used to train legal aid providers, interpreters, and judges as well as for raising awareness of the plight of asylum seekers. We ask anyone not from an NGO in the South or lacking the funding to do so, should go to their web site http://www.epidavros.org/ss/products and purchase the films. As they put it: ‘Yes, we are still selling all three on our web site, but we’d love to help. Is there some way for you to filter for decidedly first world down loaders? Would hate to see too many American Universities downloading for free – they can afford a little support for filmmakers! By the way, our post Well-Founded Fear project, an endless one, is here: Twelve Stories: How Democracy Works Now | Home.’
2. Practicing Asylum Law – The Epidavros Project
3. Training Films on specific aspects of Refugee Law (developed by James Hathawy at the time Greece was entering the European Union
These seven superb training films were prepared in 2000 as Greece was preparing itself to enter the European Union. They were funded by the European Commission and prepared by James Hathaway, other European lawyers, by the Greek Council for Refugees, Refugee Legal Center British Refugee Council, the Danish Refugee Council, the Dutch Refugee Council. They were ‘lost’ for years and have recently been discovered by Professor James Hathaway, Director of the Program in Refugee and Asylum Law and the University of Michigan Law School. The University of Michigan Law School graciously digitized the training videos from their original format in order to make them available widely.
In this film series, the tutor, Kostas Vatsos trains the officers to conduct better interviews in order to reach a fair assessment in the asylum cases. At the end of each film, Professor J. Hathaway discusses the cases and explains how the six essential elements of refugee definition are applied in practice.
a) Anuardi – An ordinary refugee case
Anuardi seeks asylum because of his political membership in the opposition party. The interviewer needs evidence to prove this membership, however as Mr. Vatsos, who is instructing points out, the applicant might be hesitant to talk with any authority if he has been persecuted by the authorities of his country of origin. According to the UNHCR handbook, it is the officer’s duty to gain the confidence of the applicant in order to obtain a clear and fully covered statement.
b) Ferouse – The burden of proof and the role of evidence
Ferouse, studying outside her country, writes a thesis on a topic her government objects to and puts her on a banned list. We learn, in this case, when someone becomes a refugee because of some changed circumstances while outside their country, she is called a ‘sur place refugee.’ In some of such cases, it might be difficult to determine if the claim was made in good faith. What do you think, Professor Hathaway concludes?
c) Mahnaz – Persecuted due to gender
Charged with adultery, Mahnaz fled stoning in her country of origin. Mr. Vatsos advises the interviewer on two issues taught in this film: while gender is not distinguished by the 51 Convention, gender has been accepted courts as a ‘social group’. The Tutor, in this film, challenges the interviewer for the manner in which he seems to be attempt to be gathering evidence of Mahnaz’s credibility.
d) Justina and Farid – Persecution by Non-Governmental Agents
In this film, we watch two different cases of Justina and Ferid to compare and contrast their asylum processes. In both cases, the applicants base their claims on economic interest, however that does not mean an automatic denial of their refugee status. On the one hand someone can be simply an economic migrant, but on the other hand she or he can be a refugee whose economic, social and cultural rights are violated based on civil or political status. In the case of Justina, she is deprived of her rights because of her ethnicity and the government is proved to be not able to protect her. However, Farid’s case is more problematic since his claim is that he cannot continue his hotel business in a profitable basis. Does this cause the rejection of his case?
e) Fatima – Victim of war and generalized violence
Fatima is a victim of generalized violence during the civil war in her country of origin. However, in the Geneva Convention there is no specific reference to the victims of wars. How, in this case, does Professor Hathaway argue Fatima should be recognized as a refugee?
f) Halida – Internal Flight Alternative
Halida has suffered serious harm and persecution in her country of origin. However, for the three years before she fled, she stayed in a region of her country, which is run by an informal union and considered as safe. Halida is still granted the refugee status because she could not go back to her hometown. However, Hathaway disagrees with the basis that this was granted: he argues that she must be granted refugee status on the grounds of the lack of state protection. If it is considered safe for Halide to only live in an area run by an informal group, that is insufficient.
g) Gernal – Exclusion Clause
Gernal is a member of the political opposition group and convicted for attempted murder. In this case, the applicant is assessed on whether he is worthy of refugee status because of the crime he has committed: does the exclusion clause apply to him? Hathaway argues that Gernal does not fit into the exclusion clauses – how does he argue this?
h) James Hathaway – Final Interview
In the film, Final Overview, Dr Hathaway gives a pertinent comment on each film. He discusses each individual case at:
- Anuardi – An ordinary refugee case – (00:41 – 09:14)
- Hana – Art. 1E – (09:14 – 15:45)
- Ferouse – The burden of proof and the role of evidence – (15:45 – 22:42)
- Mahnaz – Persecuted due to gender – (22:42 – 30:24)
- Justina and Farrid – Persecution by Non-Governmental Agents – (Two cases) (30:24 – 37:54)
- Fatima – Victim of War and Generalized Violence – (37:54 – 47:31)
- Halida – Internal Flight Alternative – (47:31 – 56:00)
- Gernal – Exclusion Clause – ( 56:00 – end)
4. Training film for pro bono lawyers
This four-hour film (split into two parts) provides essential training for lawyers who are willing to undertake representation of refugees.
It is assumed that this representation will be pro bono.
NOTE TO LAWYERS: Because the filmmakers were unfamiliar with West African culture, there is one fundamental error in this film that future lawyers should be aware of – to save what could have been a ‘fatal’ error in this case.
In patrilineal systems in West AFRICA, a marriage involves the passing of bride wealth (money, livestock, etc.) to the family of the bride. This, on the one hand, gives rights over the woman, who is the bride, to the family of the groom. These rights include conjugal and reproductive rights. You will find that in West Africa, bride wealth is usually referred to as dowry. (The British misnamed ’bride wealth’ as ’dowry’ – the common term in West Africa, because their first understanding of exotic legal systems came from India and was imported into West Africa).
When a woman is widowed, she is ‘inherited’ by a male member of her husband’s family who has if she is young conjugal rights as would her husband. Ideally it is a brother of her deceased husband.
In this case on the film, Fatima’s mother was a widow and it appears that the man who took over the position of ‘head of household’ and supporter of Fatima’s mother and siblings was in fact taking the place of her deceased husband. Although Fatima variously describes him as father, uncle, and cousin. You will see in the context of the film that this man came to Conakry with his extant wife and they took up residence with Fatima’s mother.
Whether Fatima was embarrassed to explain these cultural practices with her lawyers or not, we found it very strange that the Country of origin Expert that her lawyer’s consulted did not know enough about West African Family Law to explain this practice to Fatima’s lawyers.
A potential catastrophe and their scratching around for case law that made their extended family apart of this social group could have been avoided. Respectfully submitted, Dr. Barbara E. Harrell-Bond.
Refugee Law Training for Lawyers Part 1
Refugee Law Training for Lawyers Part 1
5. The Refugee Law Observatory
Videos by leading experts on refugee law in practice:
a) Justice Geoffrey Care: The expert in asylum and human rights cases: possibilites for use and abuse
b) Debora Singer: Assessing the credibility of women’s asylum claims
c) Professor Deborah Anker: Membership of a particular social group
d) Hugh Southey: The particular challenges of national security cases
e) Patricia van de Peer: The Qualifications Directive: an overview and specific safeguards inserted by the European Parliament in the negotiations
f) Professor Justice Paul Tiedemann: The concept of persecution and its interpretation on the basis of human dignity
g) Madeline Garlick: Syrian refugees seeking protection in the EU: putting the Common European Asylum System to the test?
h) Professer Elspeth Guild: The EU’s Common European Asylum System and the Crisis of Unsafe Arrival of Asylum Seekers
6. Random Acts
Asylum Aid’s play Random Acts tells the story of one woman asylum seeker, and is based on the stories of many women who have been represented by Asylum Aid. Their refusal letters and appeal determinations have been woven together by Debora Singer, Asylum Aid’s Policy and Research Manager, to illustrate the difficulties that women can face when seeking protection in the UK from human rights abuses abroad. The play uses creative licence by making all the issues faced a woman seeking asylum happen to one woman who is extremely articulate and by making her receive the determination of her case at the tribunal when she would normally receive a letter. The handout related to the play is available from firstname.lastname@example.org and covers the issues of
2. Low level political activity
3. Lack of state protection
4. Need for female interviewer and interpreter
5. Childcare during asylum interviews
7. Late disclosure
8. Country information
9. Internal relocation
The play is being used by Rodger Haines QC and ECRE to train immigration officials in Russia, Korea, Hong Kong and New Zealand. We hope you will use it in your NGO as well.
The play is included in the UNHCR Global Learning Centre’s database for trainers.
Watch author, Debora Singer, discussing the play’s significance .