Boldizsár Nagy

International and European Refugee Law and policy

A practice oriented course, 2023 Winter
International Relations Department, CEU

Brief 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.

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.

In academic respects the course will analyse in detail the cornerstone documents of the present refugee regime. These include the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees with its 1967 Protocol, the legal foundations and policy documents of the Common European Asylum System. The core institutional aspects of the EU (who adopt the rules, what is the role of the CJEU) will also be reviewed enabling the non-EU law trained person a full and deep understanding of the system of refugee protection (or its absence) in the European Union. The increasing body of human rights treaties used for the protection of asylum seekers as well as selected national legal systems and case law will also be introduced and discussed.

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 amount of reading varies widely from class to class aiming at a balance over the whole course.

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 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.