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Université catholique de Louvain

Asylum and Refugee Law

Université catholique de Louvain via edX


What is asylum?
What is the principle of non-refoulement?
Who should be recognized and protected as a refugee?

These questions are both ancient and contemporary.

Whether you are a decision maker, a judge, a lawyer, a human rights activist, a student, a lawyer in the business law department of a private company that wants to hire or assist refugees, you will have to answer these questions. The answers are complex. They require precise theoretical and practical knowledge of national, regional and international law.

The 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees will enable you to master these questions. This Convention remains the cornerstone of international refugee protection. It is at the heart of this online course. You will analyze in detail the principle of non-refoulement, the definition of a refugee and the causes of persecution such as political opinion, race, nationality, religion or membership of a social group.

This definition will allow you to identify the people who, legally, should be recognized as beneficiaries of refugee status and international protection. Using a conceptual tool, the three-scale theory , you will analyze in a rigorous and structured manner each distinct element of the refugee definition (persecution, risk, proof) as well as, in a comprehensive approach, the definition as a whole.

By confronting theoretical analysis with practical situations, you will see that, if correctly interpreted, the Geneva Convention remains effective and still allows to this day the protection of many fugitives or refugees ( Flüchtling, réfugiés ).

Beyond law, you will understand the value of an interdisciplinary approach, in particular when measuring the credibility of an asylum seeker’s narrative.
You will examine the importance of regional, subsidiary or complementary protection in addressing armed conflict, events seriously disturbing public order or mass influxes of people in need of international protection. Regional protections find their source in European Law, African law or American Law.
Finally, you will look at future challenges, such as the issue of climate refugees.

Numerous sources will be provided throughout the course in order to help you understand the concepts such as relevant case-law, doctrine and guidelines of UNHCR and other international institutions on refugee issues and international human rights law (such as EASO).

In this course, Asylum and Refugee Law, you will learn whether or not migrants can be returned to another country, whether or not they should be included in or excluded from the refugee definition, and whether or not to challenge the decision on someone’s refugee status. You will do all of this by developing a rigorous legal reasoning.


Module 1: Context of asylum law and underlying texts

You will explore both the history and the current state of the right of asylum, illustrating the permanence of the debates related to asylum.

Module 2: Asylum Law and Principle of non-refoulement

You'll learn the concept of asylum, the principle of non-refoulement and the distribution mechanism of asylum seekers in Europe under the Dublin Regulation.

Module 3: Refugee definition

This module is devoted to international protection and, in particular, to the refugee definition under the Geneva Convention (1951 refugee Convention).

Module 4: Regional Protections

This module discusses regional protections that complement international protection and the refugee definition in the 1951 Geneva Convention.

Module 5: Asylum in Practice

You will explore the different components of an asylum procedure through the journey of asylum seekers from their country of origin to the country of destination.

Module 6: Contemporary Issues

You will explore some current challenges to migration, for example finding solutions in law to adapt to new realities, such as climate refugees, or question the future effects of the Global Compact for Migration and the Global Compact in Refugees.

Taught by

Sylvie Sarolea and Jean-Yves Carlier


5.0 rating, based on 1 Class Central review

4 rating at edX based on 6 ratings

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  • Anonymous
    I really enjoyed this course, made me think about obstacles and difficulties people in need of international protection pass throug during his journey; also learn about the protection mechanisms around the world.

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