International refugee law (IRL)

It is only in 1951 (and then through a broadening of the refugee definition in 1967) that the international community established a regime for the international protection of refugees. The Geneva Convention Related to the Status of Refugees is the main source of legal protections for refugees. IRL provides a specific definition of refugee, safeguards the right to seek asylum, and protects against being forcibly returned to a country where one would face persecution (non-refoulement). The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is mandated by the UN General Assembly to provide international protection to refugees and seek permanent solutions to their plight.

Aerial view of Za’atri refugee camp

Photo: UN Photo

Key actors

As the guardian of the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol, UNHCR’s core mandate is to ensure the international protection of uprooted people worldwide and to produce and disseminate related research.

Academic institution conducting research, training, and dissemination of information in the area of refugee and forced migration studies

Academic center concentrating on international refugee law with the aim of stimulating policy impact and collaboration between academics and non-academics

External blogs

Posts by academics and other guest contributors on current issues related to refugee law

PHAP certifications

Certification badge for International Legal Frameworks for Humanitarian Action (ILFHA)

Knowledge about international refugee law is covered by the International Legal Frameworks for Humanitarian Action (ILFHA) certification (competency domain 4).

Key references

Provides an overview of both legal provisions of refugee law and its practical implementation by States

Learning resources

Introductory briefing on refugee law for humanitarian practitioners

Information tools

Resource database collecting country information, legal information, policy, and reference documents related to refugees and protection

Specialized resources

Compilation of basic resources on UNHCR and international protection, including self-study modules on refugee status determination and refugee protection

Comprehensive on-line model curriculum for the study of the complex and rapidly evolving field of international asylum and refugee law

Comprehensive reference work on the procedures and criteria for determining refugee status

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