International Migration Law

Course content

Few issues have ignited more public debate and media limelight in recent decades than international migration, which is itself both a reflection and a catalyst of important global changes. The visibility and impact of international migration movements bring to the fore questions associated with the rights and obligations of both States and individuals alike, and the normative approach to migration from these two positions appear to stand in stark contrast to each other. On one hand, the State claims the right to control borders, confer nationality, admit and expel aliens, combat smuggling and trafficking, and protect national security interests which are anchored upon the principle of sovereignty. On the other hand, there are the human rights claims of, and potentially grave consequences for, the individuals concerned who seek to, or resist against, international movement. International migration law draws together norms and legal instruments that are strewn across various branches of international law, leading to the perception that there are gaps in protection.

This course evaluates that claim by exploring topics within international migration law in a broader context. While international law has traditionally placed emphasis upon the protection of forced migrants and refugees, this course pans out to adopt a more holistic view by examining the myriad of factors that underlie contemporary human mobility. As such, this course aims to critically assess the existing legal framework governing international migration.

Learning outcome

The objective of the course is to enable the students to:

• Identify the underlying factors which drive international migration, and account for its acceleration.

• Explain the sources of international migration law and identify its key sources.

• Elaborate upon the tension between State and individual interests in the context of international migration.

• Discuss the challenges presented by the contemporary global context and identify the shortcomings of existing international migration law.

• Identify the gaps in regulation and protection within the existing international migration regime.

• Critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of attempts to resolve any perceived gaps.

• Analyse and critically reflect upon role of the International Organisation for Migration, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and other key organisations.

• Define, develop and defend proposals to improve the international migration regime.

Students should develop the following competencies by participating in this seminar:

• The capacity to discuss legal and social issues at both the transnational and international contexts.

• The ability to apply comparative approaches to complex problems.

• The capability to critically address rapidly changing global realities from a legal perspective.

• The capacity to independently undertake rigorous legal analysis of complex social, ethical and political issues.


Among the topics covered are:

• Nationality and statelessness

• State sovereignty and freedom of movement

• Human rights of migrants and migrant obligations

• Forced Migration

• Statelessness

• Refugees and asylum

• Women, children and other marginalised migrant groups

• Human trafficking and smuggling

• Migration and security

• International labour migration

• International trade law and labour mobility

• Global migration institutions and processes

• Durable Solutions

• Emerging legal issues in international migration

• Climate change and migration

• Changing Demographics and the end of Work

Teaching will be student- and problem-driven, and each class will have compulsory materials (readings, videos, and case-materials) most relevant to the topic to be discussed, and be supplemented by a number of recommended/voluntary activities, including movie screenings.

Course Materials: Course materials will comprise of around 750 pages, drawn from the core texts listed below and from journal articles, book chapters and press and policy pieces to be provided separately.

Ryszard Cholewinski, Richard Perruchoud and Euan MacDonald (eds), International Migration Law: Developing Paradigms and Key Challenges (TMC Asser Press 2007).

Brian Opeskin, Richard Perruchoud and Jillyanne Redpath-Cross (eds), Foundations of International Migration Law (Cambridge University Press 2012)

Marc R Rosenblum and Daniel J Tichenor (eds), Oxford Handbook of the Politics of International Migration (Oxford University Press 2012).

James C Hathaway and Michelle Foster, The Law of Refugee Status (Cambridge University Press 2014).

Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and others (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (Oxford University Press 2014).

'International Migration Law' replaces the 10 ECTS course 'International Protection of Refugees'

Type of assessment
Written assignment
Individual written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Seminar
  • 48
  • Preparation
  • 364,5
  • English
  • 412,5