Asylum, Migration & Trafficking - LAW00008M

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  • Department: The York Law School
  • Module co-ordinator: Mr. Martin Jones
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module summary

The universalism of much of human rights law and policy is belied by the frequent use of terms such as “citizen” and the inattention to situations in which non-citizens find themselves. As a result, the vulnerabilities of migrants to state and non-state actors often remain unaddressed. This module will examine the phenomenon of human movement, including both forced and voluntary migration, and the legal frameworks that govern the rights of various categories of migrants. The module will focus on the specific policies which states put in place to advance (and to hinder) the enjoyment by migrants of their rights.

The module will explore the general category of “migrant” and its various sub-categories (as defined by location of movement and by degree of volition), including the internally displaced, labour migrants, refugees and victims of human trafficking. The module will examine the legal tools available to human rights defenders seeking to assist these groups. It will also examine the extent to which human rights law and policy have managed to challenge two of the remaining bastions of state sovereignty: the related powers of a state to control entrance and egress and its power to control its membership. Although the obligations of states to migrants will be the primary focus of the course, the policies and practices of international organizations and supranational bodies with respect to migration will also be discussed.

The module will begin by examining the conceptions of citizenship (and their impact upon rights discourse) and the phenomenon of migration (including both its causes and effects). The module will examine the ability of migrants to enjoy even putatively universal rights, such as the right to equal protection of the law. The module will then explore distinctions made in law and policy between forced and voluntary migration and between intra- and inter- national displacement. The use of smuggling to move internationally will also be discussed, along with the related phenomenon of human trafficking. Refugee protection, both in countries like the UK and in the Global South, will be reviewed, including the criteria for qualification and the processes of determination of status. The ability of human rights defenders at risk to gain asylum will be examined. With respect to more voluntary forms of migration, the rights of migrant workers and long-term residents will also be discussed.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2019-20

Module aims

This module gives students a contextualized understanding of how intra- and inter- national migration is regulated and the way in which such regulations affect the rights of migrants.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Understand the situations which lead to migration as well as the experience of migration;
  • Understand the international legal instruments and legal frameworks which govern the rights of migrants;
  • Apply international law to argue for the rights of migrants, including the sub-categories of labour migrants, refugees, and victims of human trafficking;
  • Advise migrants and organisations working with migrants of migrants' rights;
  • Critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of the legal frameworks in place with respect to migrants and migration; and
  • Evaluate domestic policies governing migration.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Formative assessment

Outline and bibliography of summative assessment.

  • assessment = Weeks 3-9 of Spring Term (students will select one of these weeks to do the critical commentary)
  • return of marked assessment = Weeks 4-10 of Spring Term (i.e. one week after hand-in of assessment)
  • reassessment = not applicable because this is formative assessment

Summative assessments

Essay on a topic (self-selected or selected from a list) on migration.

  • assessment = Monday, 1 pm, Week 1 of Summer Term
  • return of marked assessment = by Monday, Week 5 of Summer Term
  • reassessment = Monday, Week 9 of Summer Term
  • return of marked reassessment = by Monday, Week 1 of Summer Vacation

Indicative reading

Essential Reading

Fiona B. Adamson, "Crossing Borders: International Migration and National Security," International Security, Volume 31, Number 1 (Summer 2006), at 165-199

Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mexico v. United States of America) (Judgment), I. C. J. Reports 2004, pp. 12 et seq.

Richard Bellamy, Citizenship: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), chapters 1, 3, 4

Janie Chuang, "Redirecting the Debate Over Trafficking in Women: Definitions, Paradigms, and Contexts," Harvard Human Rights Journal, Vol. 11 (1998), at 65

Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, 189 U.N.T.S. 150, entered into force April 22, 1954

Council Directive 2004/83/EC of 29 April 2004 on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third country nationals or stateless persons as refugees or as persons who otherwise need international protection and the content of the protection granted Official Journal L 304 (30/09/2004), at 0012-0023

Council Directive 2005/85/EC of 1 December 2005 on minimum standards on procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status Official Journal L 326 (13/12/2005), at 0013-0034

A. Demuth, "Some Conceptual Thoughts on Migration Research," in B. Agozino (ed.), Theoretical and Methodological Issues in Migration Research (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2000), at 21-58

H. Entwisle, "Tracing Cascades: The Normative Development of the U.N. Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement," Georgetown Immigration Law Journal, Volume 19 (2004-2005), at 369-390

Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, UN doc. E/CN.4/1998/53/Add.2 (11 February 1998)

Anne Gallagher, "Human Rights and the New UN Protocols on Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling: A Preliminary Analysis," Human Rights Quarterly Vol. 23 (2001)

James C. Hathaway, The Rights of Refugees Under International Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), chapters 1, 3, 4 (Section 1 only), Epilogue

James C. Hathaway, The Law of Refugee Status (Toronto: Butterworths Carswell, 1991), chapters 1, 4, 5

International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, G.A. res. 45/158, annex, 45 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49A) at 262, U.N. Doc. A/45/49 (1990), entered into force 1 July 2003

Walter K¤lin, "Supervising the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees: Art. 35 and Beyond," in E. Feller, V. T¼rk, and F. Nicholson (eds.), Refugee Protection in International Law: UNHCR's Global Consultations on International Protection (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), at 613-666

Dora Kostakopoulou, The Future Governance of Citizenship (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), chapters 1, 2, 6, 7

David Miller, On Nationality (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), chapters 3, 6

R. Skeldon, "International Migration as a Tool in Development Policy: A Passing Phase?" Population and Development Review, Volume 34, Issue 3 (March 2008), at 1-18

UK Home Office UK Action Plan on Tackling Human Trafficking (London: Home Office, March 2007), chapters 1, 3, Annex A

UNHCR Statelessness: An Analytical Framework for Prevention, Reduction and Protection (Geneva: UNHCR, 2008)

Steven Vertovec, "Transnationalism and Identity," Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Volume 27, Issue 4 (2001), at 573-582

Recommended Reading

Michael Alexander, "Refugee status determination conducted by UNHCR," International Journal of Refugee Law, Volume 11 (April 1999), at 251-289

Laura Augustin, "Migrants in the Mistress's House: Other Voices in the 'Trafficking' Debate," Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, Volume 12, Issue 1 (2005), at 96-117

Jacqueline Bhabha, "Arendt's Children: Do Today's Migrant Children Have a Right to Have Rights?" Human Rights Quarterly, Volume 31, Number 2 (May 2009), at 410-451

Barbara Harrell-Bond, "Building the Infrastructure for the Observance of Refugee Rights in the Global South," Refuge, Volume 25, Issue 2 (forthcoming 2009)

Barbara Harrell-Bond and Guglielmo Verdirame, Rights in Exile: Janus-Faced Humanitarianism (London: Berghahn Books, 2005), chapters 2, 4, 5, 7

James C. Hathaway, "The Michigan Guidelines on Nexus to a Convention Ground" (Ann Arbor: Program in Refugee and Asylum Law, University of Michigan, March 2001) (published also in Michigan Journal of International Law (Winter 2002))

Graeme Hugo, "Best Practice in Temporary Labour Migration for Development: A Perspective from Asia and the Pacific," International Migration, Volume 47, Issue 5 (December 2009), at 23-74

Harold Hongju Koh, "Transnational Public Law Litigation" Yale Law Journal, Vol. 100 (1990-1991), at 2347-2402

Gil Loescher (ed.), The UNHCR and World Politics: A Perilous Path (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), chapters 1 - 3, 9, 10

Eric Neumayer, "Asylum destination choice. What makes some West European countries more attractive than others?" European Union Politics, Volume 5, Issue 2 (2004), at 155-180

UNHCR, Refugee Protection and Mixed Migration: A 10-Point Plan of Action (Rev.1) (January 2007)

UNHCR, Guidelines on International Protection No. 2: "Membership of a Particular Social Group" Within the Context of Article 1A(2) of the 1951 Convention and/or its 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, UN Doc. HCR/GIP/02/02 (7 May 2002)

UNHCR, Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, UN Doc. HCR/IP/4/Eng/REV.1, 1979 (Re-edited, January 1992)

Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality (New York: Basic Books, 1983), chapters 2, 11,12

Roger Zetter, An Assessment of the Impact of Asylum Policies in Europe 1990-2000 (London: Home Office, June 2003)

Useful Websites

December 18 (Migrant worker NGO),

ECPAT (An anti-trafficking-in-children NGO),

Forced Migration Current Awareness Blog,

Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women,

Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre,

International Council of Voluntary Agencies,

International Labour Organisation,

International Organisation for Migration,

Migrant Forum in Asia,

Migrant Rights International,

Refugee Council,

Refugee Law Project (RLP),

Southern Refugee Legal Aid Network (SRLAN),

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,

UN High Commissioner for Refugees,

US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI),

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.