Refugees - Research Guide International Law

The United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol defines a refugee as someone who, ‘owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country’. The definition of a refugee was expanded by regional conventions in Africa and Latin America to include persons who had fled war or other violence in their home country. It is important to note that article 33 of the Convention provides for the principle of non-refoulement which means that no contracting state shall expel or return (refouler) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to territories where his or her life or freedom would be threatened. Those who seek refugee status are referred to as “asylum seekers”; the conditions under which a person is granted refugee status is left to the discretion of States. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner (UNHCR) for Refugees is the principal UN organ that protects and supports refugees. Over time, UNHCR’s mandate has been expanded to cover other persons of concern, including some internally displaced persons.  The UNHCR assists refugees in their resettlement or return and finds other solutions to their plight. On an international level, debates continue regarding the nature of the protection that refugees should be granted, the obligations of receiving countries and the role of the international community towards refugees.

This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research on Refugees. It provides the basic legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. See the Librarians Choice for the latest important publications on refugees and internally displaced persons. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library’s classification index code (systematic code) 160c. Other Administrative, Social and Humanitarian Questions (Refugees, etc.) and subject headings (keywords) Refugees or Displaced Persons are instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Other systematic codes which may be helpful are 53a6a. (European Union immigration issues),  100 (Emigration and immigration in general), 101. (Emigration and immigration in the various states), 103. (Expulsion) and 253. (Asylum). Other keywords which may be helpful: Emigration and Immigration, Asylum, Right of Asylum, Convention relating to the Status of RefugeesUNHCR, and Non-Refoulement. Special attention in the Research Guide is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.


Reference works

 Recent books/papers

Leading articles


Periodicals, serial publications




New titles

1. Atlas of migration in Europe
Atlas of migration in Europe : a critical geography of immigration policy / co-ordinated by Olivier Clochard for Migreurop with the collaboration of Emmanuel Blanchard, Violaine Carrère, Alain Morice, Pierre-Aarnaud Perrouty and Claire Rodier ; Barbara Harrell-Bond editing. - Oxford : New Internationalist, 2012. - 149 pages. : illustrations, maps. ; 30 cm ISBN paperback - 2012
Keywords: Europe, Migration, Atlas,

Librarian's choice

These publications are selected for you by .

  • Refugee Protection and the Role of Law: Conflicting Identities

    S. Kneebone, D. Stevens and L. Baldassar (eds.) Refugee Protection and the role of law

    Sixty years on from the signing of the Refugee Convention, forced migration and refugee movements continue to raise global concerns for hosting states and regions, for countries of origin, for humanitarian organisations on the ground, and, of course, for the refugee. This edited volume is framed around two themes which go to the core of contemporary ‘refugeehood’: protection and identity. It analyses how the issue of refugee identity is shaped by and responds to the legal regime of refugee protection in contemporary times.

    The book investigates the premise that there is a narrowing of protection space in many countries and many highly visible incidents of refoulement. It argues that ‘Protection’, which is a core focus of the Refugee Convention, appears to be under threat, as there are many gaps and inconsistencies in practice.

    Contributors to the volume, who include Erika Feller, Elspeth Guild, Hélène Lambert and Roger Zetter, look at the relevant issues from the perspective of a number of different disciplines including law, politics, sociology, and anthropology. The chapters examine the link between identity and protection as a basis for understanding how the Refugee Convention has been and is being applied in policy and practice. The situation in a number of jurisdictions and regions in Europe, North America, South East Asia, Africa and the Middle East is explored in order to ask the question does jurisprudence under the Refugee Convention need better coordination and how successful is oversight of the Convention?

    View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
  • European Asylum Law and the Rights of the Child

    European Asylum Law and the Rights of the Child

    The child asylum seeker poses unique challenges for reception and refugee status determination systems, not least because the child is entitled to have his or her rights as a child respected as a matter of international and regional human rights law. In the last decade the European Union has increasingly engaged with children’s rights, with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in December 2009, and a new Article 3(3) of the Treaty on European Union that commits the Union to promoting the ‘protection of the rights of the child.’ This book addresses the question of whether the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) complies with the rights of the child. It contrasts the normative standards of international child rights law with the treatment of child asylum seekers and refugees in the CEAS. Ciara Smyth identifies the attributes of the rights of the child that are most relevant to the asylum context and systematically examines whether and to what extent those attributes are reflected in the CEAS legislation. The book goes on to assess whether the CEAS instruments direct Member States to comply with the rights of the child, offering a comprehensive examination of the place of the child within European asylum law and policy. The book will be of great use and interest to scholars and students of international law, immigration and children’s rights studies.

    View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
  • O'Nions, H., Asylum - A Right Denied, Farnham, Ashgate, 2014


    In recent decades, asylum has emerged as a highly politicized European issue. The term ‘asylum seeker’ has suffered a negative perception and has been associated with notions of illegality and criminality in mainstream media. These misconceptions have been supported by politicians as a distraction from economic and political uncertainties with the result that asylum seekers have been deprived of significant rights. This book examines the effect of recent attempts of harmonization on the identification and protection of refugees. It considers the extent of obligations on the state to admit and protect refugees and examines the 1951 Refugee Convention. The motivations of European legislators and legislation concerning asylum procedures and reception conditions are also analysed. Proposals and initiatives for refugee movements and determinations are examined and assessed. The author makes suggestions for better protection of refugees while responding to the security concerns of States, and questions whether European law and policy is doing enough to uphold the fundamental right to seek and enjoy asylum as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    This book takes a bold look at a controversial issue and generates discussion for those involved in the fields of human rights, migrational and transnational studies, law and society and international law.

    View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
  • A. Hammerstad, The Rise and Decline of a Global Security Actor: UNHCR, Refugee Protection, and Security, New York, Oxford University Press, 2014.

    A. Hammerstad, The Rise and Decline of a Global Security Actor: UNHCR, Refugee Protection, and Security, New York, Oxford University Press, 2014.

    This book investigates the rise of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as a global security actor, following the refugee agency through some of the past two decades’ major conflict-induced humanitarian crises and complex emergencies, including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, Kosovo and eastern Zaire/Congo. It analyses UNHCR’s momentous transformation from a small, timid legal protection agency to the world’s foremost humanitarian actor playing a central role in the international response to the many wars of the tumultuous last decade of the twentieth century. Then, as the twenty-first century set in, the agency’s political prominence waned. It remains a major humanitarian actor, but the polarized post-9/11 period and a worsening protection climate for refugees and asylum seekers spurred UNHCR to abandon its claim to be a global security actor and return to a more modest, quietly diplomatic role. The rise of UNHCR as a global security actor is placed within the context of the dramatic shift in perceptions of national and international security after the end of the Cold War. Prominent among ‘new’ security issues were the perceived threats posed by refugees and asylum seekers to international security, state stability, and societal cohesion. This book investigates UNHCR’s response to this new international environment; adopting, adapting and finally abandoning a security discourse on the refugee problem.

    View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
  • E. Arbel, C. Dauvergne, and J. Millbank (eds.), Gender in Refugee Law : From the Margins to the Centre, London, Routledge,2014.

    Gender_in_refugee law

    Questions of gender have strongly influenced the development of international refugee law over the last few decades. This volume assesses the progress toward appropriate recognition of gender-related persecution in refugee law. It documents the advances made following intense advocacy around the world in the 1990s, and evaluates the extent to which gender has been successfully integrated into refugee law.

    Evaluating the research and advocacy agendas for gender in refugee law ten years beyond the 2002 UNHCR Gender Guidelines, the book investigates the current status of gender in refugee law. It examines gender-related persecution claims of both women and men, including those based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and explores how the development of an anti-refugee agenda in many Western states exponentially increases vulnerability for refugees making gendered claims. The volume includes contributions from scholars and members of the advocacy community that allow the book to examine conceptual and doctrinal themes arising at the intersection of gender and refugee law, and specific case studies across major Western refugee-receiving nations. The book will be of great interest and value to researchers and students of asylum and immigration law, international politics, and gender studies.

    View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
  • Höpfner, F.F., L'évolution de la notion de réfugié, Paris, Pedone, 2014.

    Höpfner, F.F., L'évolution de la notion de réfugié, Paris, Pedone, 2014.

    L’intensification des relations entre peuples, sociétés, nations et Etats entraîne une multiplication des champs de tensions potentiels entre ces mêmes acteurs. Le droit international s’avère être un moyen efficace d’apaisement de ces tensions et la multiplication des cadres régulateurs internationaux est la suite logique de cette intensification des relations internationales.

    La Convention de Genève relative au statut des réfugiés répond spécifiquement aux tensions suscitées par les déplacements transfrontières de populations craignant d’être persécutées en cas de retour dans l’Etat d’origine. Dans sa version issue du Protocole de New York relatif au statut des réfugiés, la Convention constitue le seul cadre normatif à portée universelle traitant de ces déplacements humains forcés, mais des efforts régulateurs apparaissent également à l’échelle régionale. L’application aux cas d’espèce des normes régionales soulève la question de l’articulation entre divers ordres juridiques, lorsque plusieurs cadres normatifs ont vocation à régir une situation donnée.

    La recherche de réponses aux conflits de normes et aux divergences d’interprétations donne accès à un vaste champ de thématiques intéressant l’internationaliste. De plus, si l’on choisit une perspective européenne, la situation du réfugié est régie par une variété d’ordres juridiques, partiellement superposés et dotés de mécanismes de contrôle variés. Cela conduit à s’interroger sur l’interaction très mouvementée entre ordres juridiques nationaux, régionaux et universel, l’harmonisation des normes et finalement la cohérence de l’ensemble.

    Le présent ouvrage poursuit ainsi principalement deux objectifs. Le premier – l’objectif principal – est axé sur le droit des réfugiés en particulier et vise à démontrer l’évolution de la notion de réfugié. Le second s’inscrit dans le cadre de l’étude du droit international général et démontre que le droit des réfugiés constitue un exemple particulièrement intéressant de création normative dans l’ordre international, création, pas toujours initiée par les Etats mais par ailleurs extrêmement efficace.

    View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
  • Rubio-Marín, R. (ed.), Human Rights and Immigration, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2014.

    Rubio-Marín, R. (ed.), Human Rights and Immigration, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2014.

    Economic interaction has enlarged the international trade in goods and services, but the safe and humane flow of persons across international borders remains a challenge in a State-based model of territorial jurisdictions. Once an immigrant enters a new host country the guarantee of respect for their human rights comes into question. Indeed, the legal and political constructions of inclusion or exclusion of migrants from the political community touch at the very heart of the cosmopolitan spirit of universal human rights.

    This book brings together leading experts in the fields of migration and human rights law to examine central problems in the protection of the human rights of migrants. They explain the theoretical background of present issues in the area including, immigrant integration policies in Europe, the social and labour rights of migrants, the conditions and legal frameworks affecting migrant women, asylum seekers and refugees worldwide among many others. It explains in a clear and critical manner the legal and political implications of migration today in the context of an evolving globalized world.

    View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
  • Chetail, V. and C. Bauloz (eds.), Research Handbook on International Law and Migration, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, 2014.

    cheail, v. and c. bauloz (eds.), research handbook on international law and migration, cheltenham, elgar, 2014

    Migration is a complex and multifaceted issue, and the current legal framework suffers from considerable ambiguity and lack of cohesive focus. This Handbook offers a comprehensive take on the intersection of law and migration studies and provides strategies for better understanding the potential of international legal norms in regulating migration. Authoritative analyses by the most renowned and knowledgeable experts in the field focus on important migration issues and challenge the current normative framework with new ways of thinking about the topic.

    The book examines the many facets of migration from an international law perspective. Topics discussed include the relationship between migration and state sovereignty, the human rights of migrants, human trafficking, migrant workers, refugees and internal displacement. The expert contributors hail from a number of diverse international law backgrounds (including refugee law, human rights law, humanitarian law, labour law, WTO law and others), allowing them to synthesize many different perspectives and present a comprehensive, cohesive and timely study of a complicated and fractured topic.

    View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
  • Abass, A. and F. Ippolito (eds.), Regional Approaches to the Protection of Asylum Seekers: An International Legal Perspective, Farnham, Ashgate, 2014.

    9781409442974.PPC_regional approaches

    This book presents a comprehensive assessment of regional responses to the crisis in the asylum/refugee system and critically examines how different regions tackle the problem. The chapters consider the fundamental challenges which undermine an effective asylum process as well as regional difficulties with the various circumstances surrounding asylum seekers. With contributions on Africa, Europe, Latin America, South Asia and the Middle East, and the Pacific, the collection strives to appreciate what informs each region’s approach to the asylum process and asks if there are issues common to every region and if regions can learn from one another. The book seeks an understanding of the existing legal regime for the protection of asylum seekers and how regional institutions such as human rights commissions and regional courts enforce and adjudicate the law.

    View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
  • Janmyr, M., Protecting Civilians in Refugee Camps. Unable and Unwilling States, UNHCR and International Responsibility, Leiden, Martinus Nijhoff, 2014.

    Janmyr, M., Protecting Civilians in Refugee Camps. Unable and Unwilling States, UNHCR, International Responsibility, Leiden, Nijhoff, 2014

    Rather than serving as civilian and humanitarian safe havens, refugee camps are notorious for their insecurity. Due to the host state’s inability or unwillingness to provide protection, camps are often administered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its implementing partners. When a violation occurs in these situations, to which actors shall responsibility be allocated? Through an analysis of the International Law Commission’s work on international responsibility, Maja Janmyr argues that the ‘primary’ responsibility of states does not exclude the responsibilities of other actors. Using the example of Uganda, Janmyr questions the general assumption that ‘unable and unwilling’ is the same as ‘unable or unwilling’, and argues for the necessity of distinguishing between these two scenarios. Doing so leads to different conclusions in terms of responsibility for the state, and therefore for UNHCR and its implementing partners.

    View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
  • Martin, D.A. (ed.), Forced Migration Law and Policy, St. Paul, West, 2013.

    Martin, D.A. (et al.), Forced Migration Law and Policy, St. Paul, West, 2013

    Forced Migration: Law and Policy, 2nd edition, addresses the legal framework and policy issues raised by asylum seekers, refugees, internally displaced persons, and other forced migrants. It includes new materials on detention policies, expedited procedures, firm resettlement, fact-finding in the asylum process, gender-related persecution, maritime interdiction, particular social group, terrorism bars, the Convention Against Torture, and many other topics. The principal focus of this casebook is U.S. law and policy, but it also includes a wealth of comparative materials from many countries and regional organizations.

    View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
  • Belorgey, J.-M., Le Droit d'Asile, Paris, LGDJ-Lextenso, 2013.

    Belorgey, J.-M., Le Droit d'Asile, Paris, LGDJ-Lextenso, 2013.
    La prolifération des règles et la complexité des procédures gouvernant l accès des demandeurs d asile à une protection rendent aujourd hui cette matière difficile à appréhender. La crainte d un afflux massif de demandes, d un contournement aussi par cette voie des efforts de maîtrise des autres mouvements migratoires contribue en outre à obscurcir le débat public. Cet ouvrage retrace l émergence du droit international de l asile, analyse les stratégies de plusieurs pays européens, ainsi que celles de l Union européenne en vue de la mise en oeuvre d un « droit commun de l asile ». Il décrit ensuite le parcours que doit suivre un demandeur d asile, et les droits qui s attachent à la reconnaissance de la qualité de réfugié. Il s attache enfin à analyser les conditions dans lesquelles sont évalués les mérites des demandes d asile, ce qui est, on l omet souvent, une question de qualification juridique des faits, puisqu elle gouverne la reconnaissance d un droit, mais une question à laquelle les dimensions psychologiques, anthropologiques, géopolitiques, linguistiques de l exercice conduit prêtent des contours inédits. C est une des premières tentatives de cet ordre.
    View this title in our link resolver Plinklet


Max Planck Encyclopedia: a comprehensive analytical resource containing articles on the subject of refugees:


  • International Refugee Law blog series I: Exclusion of Refugee Status: The Criminal Refugee

    In the western world it is possible you live next to a war criminal, or your child might be playing with the daughter of a war criminal at school. It is also possible to live there without a real prospect of obtaining a form of legal status and without being held criminally responsible for the alleged crime. Who are these people living in legal limbo? why are they still here? The exclusion of refugee status (1F Refugee Convention) and its consequences will be dealt with in this blog.

    Read more

International organisations


Research and academia

Blogs and commentary on immigration law and immigration issues



See also

More Research guides on Individuals and Groups

PPL keywords

Other suggestions

Comments are closed.