Refugee Law Reader

The Refugee Law Reader

Resource Person/Editor:  Dr Maryellen Fullerton
Email: maryellen [dot] fullerton [at] brooklaw [dot] edu (maryellen.fullerton[at]


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The Refugee Law Reader: Cases, Documents and Materials (6th edn.) is a comprehensive on-line model curriculum for the study of the complex and rapidly evolving field of international refugee law. We are proud to continue with the expanded and universal edition of The Reader, which provides sections on international and regional frameworks of refugee law, covering Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. Adapted language versions with specific regional focus are available in French, Russian and Spanish.


The Reader is aimed for the use of professors, lawyers, advocates, and students across a wide range of national jurisdictions. It provides a flexible course structure that can be easily adapted to meet a range of training and resource needs. The Reader also offers access to the complete texts of up-to-date core legal materials, instruments, and academic commentary. In its entirety, The Refugee Law Reader is designed to provide a full curriculum for a 48-hour course in International Refugee Law and contains over 700 documents and materials.


The Refugee Law Reader was initiated and is supported by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and funded by the European Refugee Fund and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). We also wish to thank the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) for its support.



Structure and Content


The Reader is divided into six sections: Introduction to International Refugee Law, The International Framework for Refugee Protection, The African Framework for Refugee Protection, The Asian Framework for Refugee Protection, The European Framework for Refugee Protection and The Latin American Framework for Refugee Protection. Each section contains the relevant hard and soft law, the most important cases decided by national or international courts and tribunals, and a carefully selected set of academic commentaries.


To facilitate teaching and stimulate critical discussion, the Editors highlight the main legal and policy debates that address each topic, as well as the main points that should be drawn from the assigned reading. In many sections of the syllabus, readers may also access Editor’s Notes, which contain more detailed commentary and suggestions for teaching in a given subject area.


Because of the depth, scope, and flexibility of the Reader, it is now being accessed in several continents by over 20,000 users. In this edition, The Reader has ‘universalized’ by introducing new regional legal sections focusing on Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Alongside the English language publication, adapted language editions will be launched in French, Russian, and Spanish. The Editorial Board hopes that with these new developments, The Reader can move towards an effective regional approach to refugee legal education that will overcome language and geographical barriers and can effectively serve a larger community of asylum experts worldwide.


The Reader first deals with the international refugee law regime and its foundations: the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the expanding mandate of UNHCR and regional developments which have a bearing on the universal perception of the rights and duties of forced migrants. The concepts and the processes are analysed in light of the formative hard and soft law documents and discussed in an up-to-date, high standard and detailed academic commentary. Issues underlying the global dilemmas of refugee law are tackled, taking into account developments in related areas of human rights and humanitarian law, as well as research advances in the field of migration.


In addition to the examination of the classic problematique of international refugee law, The Reader also presents the major regional frameworks for refugee protection. The new African section includes the core legal instruments for refugee protection in Africa and focuses on the central legal and policy challenges in their implementation. East Africa is presented in the first of sub-regional case studies. Additional studies of refugee protection in Northern, Western and Southern African will be forthcoming in the 6th edition of The Reader. The Asian section presents the framework of protection on a continent where most States are not signatories to the 1951 Convention. It offers an overview of selected national refugee laws and policies on the continent and explores some of the broader protection challenges in the region. The European section presents the detailed pan-European asylum system that is under construction and that is creating regional norms and standards in the area of asylum that have been, and will continue to be, looked to by policy makers around the world. This section contains an excellent collection of the central instruments that are shaping regional law and policy. They are current up until October 2008. The final section considers the distinctive framework of refugee protection that has emerged in Latin America, presenting the regional instruments and jurisprudence alongside a thematic examination of internal displacement in Latin America that is explored in the context of a case study of Colombia.


While we have attempted to design The Reader so that users across jurisdictions, and with varying objectives, can select their own focus for the material, it is important that central themes of The Reader should not be discarded in this à la carte approach to refugee law.


Prior to the launch of the adapted language editions of The Reader, translated syllabi of the English edition will be made available on-line. The Reader syllabus has been translated into Spanish (downloadable in a PDF format), and French and Russian translations will be following soon.




Accessing Source Material


Most of the core documents and materials contained in The Reader are accessible in their full text format to all users. Core readings can be downloaded from The Reader website. As there are a large number of core readings that are accessible in The Reader, we recommend that the readings should only be selectively printed. Professors may wish to assign their students segments of the assigned readings, and many of the documents, and particularly lengthy legal instruments, can be effectively reviewed on-line. In addition, the Editors have included citations to extended readings, which are not downloadable, for those who wish to study certain topics in more depth. In general, the extended readings are less central to an understanding of the topic, but on occasion copyright restrictions have required the Editors to categorize an important (new) reading as “extended”.


One of the significant advantages of an on-line Reader is that it is able to provide access to instruments, documents and cases in their entirety, offering a rich source of material for academic writing. It should be noted that for purposes of citation, however, the process of downloading articles in PDF format does not always translate the page numbers of the original publication. Hence, please consult the full citation that appears in the syllabus to ensure accuracy.


The Reader uses James C. Hathaway, The Law of Refugee Status (Toronto: Butterworths, 1991) and G. Goodwin-Gill and J. McAdam, The Refugee in International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) as core texts. The Reader is able to provide open and full access to the assigned pages of The Law of Refugee Status. While it is likely that many university professors and students will have access to the Goodwin-Gill and McAdams 2007 third revised edition of The Refugee in International Law in their libraries or university bookshops, the Editors are aware that many of our users may not. These users, however, will still benefit from full access to the text of the assigned reading from the second edition of Goodwin-Gill’s The Refugee in International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996). Hence, the Editors have included parallel citations for the 3rd and 2nd editions of The Refugee in International Law throughout The Reader to ensure that all can follow the core readings in the syllabus regardless of resources.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee can be contacted with regard to The Refugee Law Reader at reader [at] larc [dot] info (reader[at]