International Migration Law

Course content

International migration remains both an important challenge for the international community and one of the most hotly debated issues in domestic and international politics. Most recently, the Ukraine crisis has prompted a historic number of refugees in Europe and the activation of new legal responses, involving a higher degree of mobility for refugees across borders. Vice versa, the COVID-19 pandemic saw countries all over the world introduce travel restrictions and quarantine measures, with deep-seated implications for cross-border mobility. Political and legal reform processes also continue around migration and refugee issues. In 2018 and 2019, two new UN compacts were adopted – the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Global Compact for Refugees.


This course aims to provide students with a greater understanding and an overview of this complex area of law and policy. The course defines international migration law in broad terms, as composed by a range of different international legal regimes, e.g. human rights law, labour law, security law, EU law and law of the sea. It further examines the interplay between different types of law at the international, regional and national level. Special sessions are allocated to provide a more in-depth understanding of and actively debate key questions and dilemmas related to international migration law, e.g. climate migration, refugee protection, boat migrants, free movement and human smuggling. The course strives to offer an integrated and coherent guidance for the analysis of the multiple but interrelated normative areas of international migration law. It further encourages students to reflect on the different functions and significance of human mobility in an era of globalization.


For the 2023 course, special attention will be paid to the impact of both the Ukraine conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic on global mobility and migration. Many of the measures implemented in response to both of these issues fundamentally challenge long-established principles of international migration and refugee law. Although measures may well be temporary, these events also hold the potential to more profoundly challenge and upend current mobility structures and migration law. Similarly, the risk of future refugee flows or global pandemics may well prompt states to make significant regulatory adjustments.


This course is part of iCourts Excellence Programme (iEP) – International Law and Courts in a Global World, please see 'Remarks' below.

Learning outcome


  • Students can explore questions of international migration law and human mobility from the perspectives of different regimes of international and regional law;
  • Students acquire a good knowledge of rules, principles, and methods pertaining to international migration law;
  • Students familiarize themselves with both international law and policy, and are expected to be able to distinguish between the two modes of analysis;
  • Students will acquire a good knowledge on how different societies respond to the challenges of migration and human mobility.


  • Students will be able to provide solutions to cases presented;
  • They will be able to analyze the policy consequences of selecting among different interpretive alternatives;
  • Students will be able to critically discuss future developments in the area of international migration law, distill facts from fiction, and make their own judgment on upcoming issues.
  • Students will be able to provide a reasoned balancing between the competing interests of protection migrants and free movement, on the one hand, and government prerogatives related to e.g. security, welfare societies and public health, on the other.


  • Students will be able to handle new disputes and situations involving international migration law and policy;
  • As practitioners, e.g. practicing lawyers, NGO professionals, or government legal advisors, they will be able to process new cases, identify the applicable norms and propose appropriate courses of action;
  • Students will be familiar with different methodological approaches towards resolving new problems, and will be able to select the appropriate legal and policy framework for their analysis.

Emphasis is placed on interactive discussion of current and upcoming legal cases and policy events throughout the course. Students may further be asked to work in groups and provide either oral or written presentations. We encourage academically-based discussion with space for differences of opinion and ask all students to respect this.

Due to the interactive dimension of the course, active participation is an important element. All students are expected to read at least the assigned core texts /videos and will be asked to prepare one short 10 minute presentation focusing on their domestic asylum and immigration legal framework at some time during the course.

Course materials will comprise approximately 750 pages. To ensure a diversity of perspectives and the most up-to-date teaching material, we strive to draw assigned readings from multiple authors as opposed to a single text book. All core readings will be readily available either via upload or online links at the course website. Students are not expected to buy any books as part of the course.


Students wishing to acquaint themselves with the field in advance and/or supplement the scheduled readings are encouraged to consult the following text books:

  • Vincent Chetail, International Migration Law (Oxford University Press, 2019)
  • Satvinder Juss, ed., The Ashgate Research Companion to Migration Law, Theory and Policy (Routledge, 2013)
  • Brian Opeskin, Richard Perruchoud and Jillyanne Redpath-Cross, eds., Foundations of International Migration Law (Cambridge University Press 2012)


It is illegal to share digital textbooks with each other without permission from the copyright holder.

Students should have a basic knowledge of public international law equivalent to BA-level. Knowledge of international human rights law and EU law is an advantage but not required. Those who have not taken these courses should be prepared to acquire such knowledge on their own prior to the beginning of the seminars, whereby they will be advised by the teachers on the materials.

Please observe, this course is part of iCourts Excellence Programme (iEP) – International Law and Courts in a Global World. Students who sign up for the iEP become iCourts Student Fellows and will get a unique opportunity to become part of the research environment of iCourts – the only centre of excellence in law in Denmark. The iEP is open to all Danish and foreign BA and MA students at the Faculty. All iCourts courses may be taken as stand-alone courses but only students who complete a total of at least 45 ECTS courses offered by the centre or of 30 ECTS such courses plus write their MA-thesis with an iCourts Supervisor will receive a certificate confirming their participation in the iEP. Read more about the programme here: https:/​/​​icourts/​education/​excellence-programme/​

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
Type of assessment
Home assignment
Type of assessment details
Individual written assignment

Read about the descriptions of the individual exam forms, including formal requirements, scope and deadlines in the exam catalogue

Read about practical exam conditions at KUnet

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Exam period

Hand-in date: TBA


Hand-in date: TBA

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 356,5
  • Seminar
  • 56
  • English
  • 412,5


Course number
Programme level
Full Degree Master
Full Degree Master choice

1 semester

  1. Students enrolled at Faculty of Law or holding a pre-approval: No tuition fee
  2. Professionals: Please visit our website  
Please see timetable for teaching hours
Contracting department
  • Law
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Law
Course Coordinators
  • Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen   (3-8376774f7984813d7a843d737a)
  • William Hamilton Byrne   (22-7d6f72726f6773346e67736f727a757434687f78746b46707b7834717b346a71)
Saved on the 01-05-2024

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