International Human Rights Law in Refugee Status Determination:
Comparative Practice and Theory
London, 13-14 November 2013
International human rights law (IHRL) has assumed an increasingly important
role in refugee status determination (RSD) over the past twenty years. At
the same time, the legal consequences of this interaction remain a source
of considerable contention. Whilst much of the debate has taken place in
abstract and general terms, the conference seeks to shift the focus to a
detailed comparative analysis of how this relationship is configured by
different jurisdictions in practice.
The simple fact that RSD takes place within a wide range of different
jurisdictional contexts requires a new point of departure. Indeed, these
express a vast variance based, inter alia, on the refugee and IHRL
instruments ratified by the country, the ways in which these have been
incorporated into domestic law, the interpretation of these instruments
through the lens of local legal cultures, and the differing nature of RSD
procedures internationally. The conference will provide an important new
perspective on the divergent ways that such factors have moulded the
relationship between IHRL and refugee law at the level of national RSD
As well as generating important new practical understandings of RSD, the
resulting analysis will feed back into wider theoretical debates about the
influence of IHRL in RSD. For instance, the obviously uneven
cross-jurisdictional terrain raises serious questions about the capacity of
IHRL to cohesively shape RSD at the international level. Questions about
transnational processes of borrowing between different jurisdictions also
arise. Whether IHRL should be used to interpret refugee law and, if so, in
which of its components, is also an important issue.
Broad questions to be addressed from both theoretical and comparative
1. Does IHRL influence RSD in practice at the national level? If so, what
are the key factors that determine the degree and nature of such influence?
2. Are there particular areas of refugee law interpretation where the
influence of IHRL is especially pronounced in national practice?
3. Has the IHRL influence on RSD – and refugee law – been broadly positive
4. Does IHRL facilitate the convergence of RSD processes at the
The conference provides the opportunity both for a stock-taking of
transnational developments over the past twenty years and for the
identification of future challenges. Given the scope of the material, it
will be of interest to lawyers, judges, practitioners and scholars in the
areas of refugee, human rights and EU law, as well as humanitarian workers
and academics, government authorities, policy researchers and students.
This 1½ day conference brings together leading experts to reflect
comparatively on the practical and theoretical impact of international
human rights law upon refugee status determination. Three panels will
explore comparative practice from around the world and one will be
addressed to broader cross-cutting thematic issues. Some further details
can be found in the outline below.
For the final thematic panel, we are keen to receive additional
contributions, particularly on the following broad topics and their
implications for our understanding of the scope of refugee definitions:
sexual and gender identity; combatants and military service; permissible
limitations to rights (such as the freedom to manifest one’s religion); and
internal protection/flight alternative.
If you wish to propose a paper to be presented on this panel, please submit
a short abstract of up to 300 words to firstname.lastname@example.org and
email@example.com by Friday **5 July 2013**.
Please note that presenters will be asked to submit a draft paper of 5
000-8 000 words by 1 November 2013 to enable paper-sharing in advance among
the participants. Local accommodation will be offered to selected
presenters, as well as a contribution towards economy travel expenses of up
to £50 (UK), £150 (Europe), £500 (World). After the event, revised papers
will be submitted to Martinus Nijhoff for publication in an edited
The conference is organised by the Refugee Law Initiative, University of
London, jointly with the Centre for Refugee Studies (York, Canada), Harvard
Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (Harvard, USA), International
Refugee and Migration Law Project (UNSW, Australia), International Refugee
Law Research Programme (Melbourne, Australia) and other institutions, and
includes papers by prominent academics and practitioners.
Registration for the conference will be opened shortly. If you are
interested in participating other than as a presenter, please email the
convenors so that we can keep you informed: Bruce Burson, New Zealand Immigration and Protection Tribunal; David James Cantor,
Refugee Law Initiative, School of Advanced Study, University of London