LAW41310 Asylum and Refugee: Law, Politics and Rights

Academic Year 2022/2023

Over 89 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, meeting legal criteria for differing forms of protection, and formal and informal exclusions from protection, are considered in this module. In addition, the module examines questions surrounding borders, State sovereignty and deportation from States.

The module is assessed in two ways:

(1) Participation in seminars (10%).

(2) Presentation (15%). This presentation will be on a precise reading/case/concept and delivered for 10 minutes during weekly seminars. Each student will complete one presentation. A full schedule will be determined in September 2022. (Should this form of assessment cause issues for any student, please contact me to discuss potential alternatives).

(3) Essay (75%) Completion of a 3,000 word essay assignment on select aspects of this module. Released Week 10 and due mid-December 2022. Precise details will be provided on Brightspace.

Please note, this Master's module is designed for persons who have completed a law degree.

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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.

Individual appointment slots, if needed, will permit deeper evaluation of particular issues on a one to one basis.

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
Presentation: Up to two students per week will provide a presentation (10 minutes) on a key reading/judicial decision. Full details will be provided on timing & format of presentation at the start of the trimester. Varies over the Trimester n/a Graded No


Attendance: Contributions to in-class discussions, debates and knowledge of pre-seminar reading. No part of this grade is awarded for attendance only. Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Essay: Completion of an essay assignment (max. 3,000 words) on aspects of this module. Released in Week 10 and due by mid-December- precise submission date tbc. Coursework (End of Trimester) 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 arranging to meet the lecturer during office hours. Individual feedback, along with provisional grade, will be available to students within a short period after completion of the presentation. Group class feedback will be available on the essay and available to students once release is permitted by UCD School of Law in January 2023. Individual feedback on 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 in January/February 2023.

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):

Cathryn Costello, The Human Rights of Migrants and Refugees in European Law (OUP 2016)- available as an e-book through UCD Library.
James C. Hathaway and Michelle Foster, The Law of Refugee Status (2nd edn, OUP 2014)-- available as an e-book through UCD Library.
Guy S. Goodwin-Gil & Jane McAdam, The Refugee in International Law, (4th edn, OUP 2021) - available as an e-book through UCD Library.
Colin Yeo, Refugee Law (BUP, 2022) - hard copy in UCD Library.

You should develop the practice of consulting the leading academic journals in the asylum and refugee law field. You will be referred to precise 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.