LAW41310 Asylum and Refugee: Law, Politics and Rights

Academic Year 2021/2022

Over 82 million people are currently displaced in the world due to conflict, persecution and violations of human rights. Asylum and refugee law considers the particular legal frameworks relating to persons seeking protection from persecution and serious harm outside of their country of origin. This module examines how legal systems engage with persons seeking protection from persecution or serious harm. Political realities often give way to acknowledging legal rights of individuals fleeing. Questions on ‘rights’ to enter a State in order to claim protection, the concept of ‘burden’ sharing, meeting legal criteria for protection, and formal and informal exclusions from protection, are considered in this module.

The module is assessed in two ways:

(1) A mid- trimester response to a legal scenario that requires application of aspects of asylum and refugee law. Released end of Week 6 and due end of Week 7 (max. 1000 words, 35%)

(2) Completion of an essay assignment ( max 2,500 words, 65%) on select aspects of this module. Released Week 11 and due at the end of the coursework submission period.

For those from a non-law academic background, please note that this module engages with a significant amount of legislation, case-law (court decisions) and legal analysis. Please bear this in mind if choosing this module.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

Upon successful completion of this module, students who have engaged fully with this module will be able to:

LO1: Compare approaches of diffuse legal systems impacting on an individual’s asylum/refugee/protection status;
LO2: Appraise the utility and limits of law pertaining to recognition as a refugee and/or a person in need of protection;
LO3: Analyse the politics of asylum and refugee law within international, European and domestic settings;
LO4: Evaluate the effectiveness of human rights legal protections for asylum seekers, refugees and those with complementary protection statuses;
LO5: Reflect on the functions and purposes of asylum and refugee law in the modern era.

Indicative Module Content:

Three core themes will be examined in this module.

(i) The Law of Protection: International and European regional refugee and protection law only offers limited protection to certain types of migrant fleeing persecution and serious harm. This topic explores sources of asylum and refugee law. A detailed evaluation of the development and implementation of a 'law of protection’ focusing on refugee protection and subsidiary protection. Detailed case-studies will be engaged with, asking key legal questions such as: (1) Who is entitled to refugee or subsidiary protection? (2) Why did these legal definitions of protection develop in the manner that they did; and (3) Are these definitions overly legalistic?

(ii) Exclusions & Decision Making: We examine the legal impact of exclusions from protection set out under law and other barriers that exist such as: internal protection alternatives and the concept of 'safe' countries . We consider status determination processes and reflect on how protection claims determined.

(iii) Politics and rights in asylum and refugee law: Towards the end of the module, we take our legal knowledge and understanding and think of broader questions, such as (1) do persons seeking protection have a ‘right’ of entry to a State to make a protection claim; (2) how has the concept of ‘burden sharing’ within protection claims distributions in Europe; and (3) what are the rights of persons seeking asylum while awaiting determination of their protection claim? What are the rights of persons who have been granted protection?

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module is seminar based, with engagement, interaction, discussion and reflection required throughout all seminars, and within independent learning.

Students will be directed to relevant reading in seminar reading lists. Seminar reading lists, will in part be completed prior to the seminar, accompanied by key discussion/focus points of our seminar to enable student discussion in class. PowerPoints will be available to students on each topic, as a starting basis for student engagement with key issues of focus.

Discussion boards on Brightspace, and individual appointment slots, if needed, will permit deeper evaluation of particular issues.

Approaches to teaching and learning will include: Problem based learning, reflective learning, case-law based learning and critical thinking approaches to asylum and refugee law.

Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Essay: Completion of an essay assignment (max. 2,500 words) on aspects of this module. Released Week 11 and due at the end of the coursework submission period. Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Assignment: A response to a scenario which requires application of aspects of asylum and refugee law. Released end of Week 5 and due end of Week 7 (max. 1000 words). Week 7 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Self-assessment activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Students requiring feedback on their learning for this module are encouraged to self-assess their learning, and seek clarification by utilising Q&A discussion boards on Brightspace or arranging to meet the lecturer during office hours. Group class feedback, along with provisional grades, will be available to students within twenty working days after the submission of the scenario response. Group class feedback will be available on the essay and available to students once release is permitted by UCD School of Law. Individual feedback on the scenario and/or the essay will be available once grades are confirmed, and students follow UCD School of Law requirements for requesting viewing of their assessments. Information on this process will be provided on Brightspace.

International, European and Domestic law: Engagement with international conventions pertaining to refugee/protection; European Union Regulations and Directives; along, where appropriate, with Ireland's International Protection Act 2015 (as amended). All these resources can be accessed online or through UCD Library.

Judicial Decisions: Case Law along with legal interpretation of international/European/domestic legal instruments will be a significant part of the learning resources for this module. You will be directed to precise materials in your topic by topic reading lists. All these decisions can be accessed online or through UCD Library databases.

Secondary Legal Materials: You will be referred to relevant secondary legal materials including: books, book chapters, journal articles, blogs, reports etc., as appropriate in the week-by-week reading lists. I will only be recommending materials that you can have ready access to either through UCD Library (online or in hardcopy).

Please note that there is no required text for this course. The texts indicated below are the type of materials we may engage with (note- not all materials may be engaged with in any one year of the course offering):

Vincent Chetail, Philippe De Bruycker, and Francesco Maiani, Reforming the Common European Asylum System : The New European Refugee Law (Brill 2016)
Cathryn Costello, The Human Rights of Migrants and Refugees in European Law (OUP 2016).
James C. Hathaway and Michelle Foster, The Law of Refugee Status (2nd edn, OUP 2014).
John Stanley, Immigration and Citizenship Law (Roundhall 2017).

You should develop the practice of consulting the leading academic journals in the asylum and refugee law field. You will be referred to articles within the reading list, but you should seek to augment these through your own research. This will keep you up to date with current developments. These journals can be accessed through UCD Library, and may include:

Journal of Refugee Studies
Journal of Migration and Refugee Issues
International Journal of Refugee Law
European Law Review
European Public Law
International and Comparative Law Quarterly.

Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 Wed 16:00 - 17:50