Refugee Caselaw Site
University of Michigan Law School


Courses and Seminars



Detailed course and seminar descriptions

International Refugee Law - Law 724

This course provides an introduction to the international legal regime for the protection of involuntary migrants. The essential premise of the course is that refugee law should be understood as a mode of human rights protection, the viability of which requires striking a balance between the needs of the victims of human rights abuse, and the legitimate aspirations of the countries to which they flee. The primary objective of the course is to enable students to develop a comprehensive understanding of the international legal definition of a refugee - the basis for being granted protection in 147 states, including the United States.

Refugee Rights Workshop - Law 461

This advanced seminar affords students the opportunity for both conceptual analysis and hands-on application of internationally guaranteed refugee rights. The Workshop begins by considering the way in which rights are allocated under the Refugee Convention, and of the interrelationship between refugee-specific rights and more general norms of international human rights law. Against this background, we will take up as a case study the right of refugees to work in asylum countries. The second part of the Workshop is student-directed, with each member of the Workshop taking responsibility to investigate a current situation in which refugee rights are arguably at risk, and to conceive and present an international legal intervention strategy for critique by Workshop members.

Comparative Asylum Law - Law 462

In fall 2011, this seminar takes up the rule that persons suspected of being international criminals – including those who may be “terrorists” – are excluded from refugee status, even if they are genuinely at risk of being persecuted. The text and history of the UN Refugee Convention suggest that the excluded class be defined by reference to relevant norms of international criminal law, which have evolved tremendously in recent years. How should international asylum rules take account of new jurisprudence on such topics as culpability, mitigating circumstances, and procedural safeguards? More generally, how should the balance be struck between protecting persons who face persecution versus ensuring the exclusion of persons whose admission would bring the refugee protection regime into disrepute? This seminar provides an overview of the issues related to criminal exclusion under international refugee law, immerses students in analysis of comparative jurisprudence and practice, and affords each seminar member the opportunity to author an independent analysis of a cutting-edge concern in the field.

Refugee Law Reform - Law 843

In fall 2012, this seminar will engage with the Background Study on exclusion from refugee status of “terrorists” and other persons suspected of international criminality. This Study, drawing on research compiled in the fall 2011 Comparative Asylum Law seminar, will be written by University of Ottawa law professor Jennifer Bond, a Visiting Scholar in the University of Michigan's Program in Refugee and Asylum Law. Professor Bond, an expert in criminal and constitutional law, has served with the United Nations Refugee Agency in Damascus, Syria, and is presently engaged in a major research project exploring the risks of using criminal law frameworks to exclude asylum seekers from refugee protection. Students will have the opportunity to meet and work with Prof. Bond to finalize the Background Study to be circulated to experts in preparation for the winter 2013 Colloquium on Challenges in International Refugee Law.

Colloquium on Challenges in International Refugee Law - Law 848

This advanced seminar provides students with a unique opportunity to work collaboratively with a group of leading experts from around the world to debate a Background Study, and to devise guidelines to resolve a cutting-edge concern in international refugee law. The culmination of the shared research endeavor is the Sixth Colloquium on Challenges in International Refugee Law, provisionally to be convened in Ann Arbor on March 22-24, 2013, in which students meet with the expert collaborators. The substantive focus of the winter 2013 Colloquium is the exclusion of “terrorists” and other persons suspected of international criminality from Convention refugee status. In preparation for the Colloquium, students will carefully analyze the Expert Commentaries on the Background Study received from the experts slated to attend the Colloquium. Students will then assist to define the most fruitful subjects for discussion with our expert collaborators; devise a detailed agenda for the Colloquium; participate in the formal Colloquium discussions; and, based on consensus achieved at the Colloquium, draft proposed "Michigan Guidelines on the Exclusion of International Criminals" for the consideration of our expert collaborators. Once approved by them, the Guidelines will be published and broadly disseminated, with a view to encouraging a more coherent and principled application of relevant international refugee law standards.