| International Refugee Law

Course Information

  • 2021-22
  • 5-Year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.), LL.M.
  • III, IV, V
  • Jul 2021
  • Elective Course

How does this course relate to the programme curriculum: Does it develop on a prior course in the programme or is it a foundational or standalone course?

This will be a standalone course with a specialised focus on India’s refugee protection policies and asylum management systems.

India is host to over 200,000 refugees, who were forced to flee their countries on account of conflict and persecution. While India has historically undertaken a generous, albeit ad hoc, approach in providing shelter to those in need of protection, it is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention or other international instruments that deal with safe migration; nor does it have an institutionalised domestic mechanism to manage this population. In the absence of a refugee law framework, government policies on refugee protection are almost always subject to the political compulsions of the day, and often at odds with India’s historical practice and established jurisprudence with respect to refugees. In this challenging environment, upholding the human rights of this population, in line with India’s Constitutional values and international commitments, has become increasingly difficult.

Further, the absence of a formal body of refugee law has also translated to a lack of expertise in the legal community on the subject, as well as low levels of general knowledge about the refugee populace. However, in recent years, the global refugee crisis and various related developments in international as well as domestic law and policy on the subject have led to a marked increase in interest on the issue amongst legal practitioners as well as law students.

Within this context, the course has been designed to offer a unique and unparalleled opportunity for students to understand the core aspects of international refugee law and other complementary bodies of law in protecting the rights of refugees. Further, students will get an insight into the practical challenges faced by refugees and their advocates in enforcing these principles in real life cases on issues surrounding identity, asylum, detention, deportation, and post-conflict recovery and rehabilitation.

Describe how you have approached the course. What have you included/excluded and why?

Designed by refugee law practitioners, with over a decade of experience in engaging with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), State actors, and, legal stakeholders, on issues of asylum management and protection, the course will ensure students not only gain an academic understanding of international refugee law, but are also trained in applying these norms to advocate for the rights of refugees in various contexts. To this end, in addition to

the course will have a strong focus on India’s asylum management practices and the Refugee Status Determination (RSD) process undertaken by the UNHCR. As students progress through the course, they will gather the tools and knowledge of how refugee status is determined as well as the circumstances under which a person ceases to be a refugee. The course will further touch upon gender dimensions as well as other considerations such as the special needs of individuals vis-a-vis access to the asylum procedure and standards of treatment. The course will also provide an insight into the lived experiences of the various refugees communities in India, mainly from Afghanistan, Somalia, Myanmar, Sri Lankan and Tibet.

providing an overview of the historical and contemporary context of international refugee law,

Describe your pedagogical method: lectures, Socratic discussion, seminar style discussion, response papers or group work, field work;

The course will be a combination of in-class lectures, seminar style discussions as well as case studies and simulations. Throughout the course, guest speakers will be invited to discuss various topics to provide students with a practical and in-depth approach to different aspects of refugee law.

In addition, students will be required to engage in debates and discussions on various contemporary issues surrounding refugee protection. The main written exam for the course will be based on a simulation of the RSD process which will require students to apply what they learn during the course and draft a detailed legal assessment. Students are required to participate during classes and same will be graded.