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International and European Refugee Law and Policy
Course Description

This course explores the legal and policy issues of forced migration. It is practice oriented, enabling the students to meet leading actors of the refugee scene. The course consists of five major blocks: the first sets the historic, conceptual and philosophical framework. The second reviews international refugee law, to be applied at the universal level. The third thoroughly investigates the European asylum acquis  and practice from its inception to the crisis of 2015-2016 and the subsequent paralysis stretching including the  New Pact on Migration and Asylum. It reflects upon the very different reaction to refugees from Ukraine after February 2022. The fourth block is rather empirical and introduces the actors, first and foremost the refugees, their psychological experience during flight and in the asylum country and the major actors alleviating their plight. Personal encounter with  UNHCR officers, NGO case workers, psychologists treating vulnerable cases usually are part of this block. A visit to an Austrian reception center is also envisaged - if authorities approve and students wish to make it. The last unit extends the view: it covers internal displacement and the debates about migration caused by environmental change. Due to time constraints the course concentrates on the global and on the EU regimes but through examples, projects and specific presentations involves the asylum situation of the other continents and regions too.

Learning Outcomes

In terms of cognitive skills the course is designed to develop the students’ readiness to develop logical arguments supporting a predetermined outcome, in other words to represent interests from a toolbox of available and legitimate legal arguments. Seminar discussion helps refine the argumentative and rhetoric skills. The presentation by each student during the course  serves strengthening the research design capabilities, the skill of academic co-operation, and, at the same time the readiness for individual work. The historic and empirical aspects of the course enrich the personal motivation and  enhance emotional identification, thereby openness to plurality. The link of theory with “field experience” will anchor the abstract scholarly knowledge in thick reality thereby preparing students to be effective agents if later they start to work in this field.

The course is holistic in the sense that it treats legal and policy issues as well as other (ethical, psychological) aspects as part of forced migration as a whole and considers their interaction.


The final exam mobilises the analytical and critical skills and the ability to be productive under time pressure. Constant formal and informal  feed-back from the professor during the course creates  an iterative process leading to deeper insight. Finally, the whole spirit of the course (as of refugee law itself)  supports the idea of open society and the value of individual freedom and human rights.


Knowledge of law in general or international law in particular is not a prerequisite of participation in the course. The necessary concepts will be explained

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