Refugee Caselaw Site
University of Michigan Law School

Colloquium on Challenges in International Refugee Law

Every other year, the Program in Refugee and Asylum Law hosts a Colloquium on Challenges in International Refugee Law. Leading academic experts are invited to Ann Arbor in order to develop an intellectual framework for resolution of a significant problem facing international refugee law. The purpose of the Colloquium is to tackle a single, cutting-edge concern via preparatory study and a three-day debate and policy formulation meeting. Students are actively involved in the drafting of background research for the meeting, and participate as colleagues with the invited experts.

"Right to Work" Colloquium (2009)

The fifth Colloquium on Challenges in International Refugee Law convened November 13-15, 2009, at the University of Michigan Law School. This colloquium addressed the right to work for refugees and asylum seekers in the country of arrival. Experts in attendance included Kees Wouters (UNHCR), Ryszard Cholewinski (IOM, attending in a personal capacity), Professor Jonathan Klaaren (University of Witwatersrand), Professor Kate Jastram (UC Berkeley), Professor Matthew Craven (Dean, School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London), Ms. Alice Edwards (University of Nottingham), Dr. Bernard Ryan (University of Kent), and Mr. Adam Weiss (The AIRE Centre). These experts, alongside some of our best refugee law students, worked throughout the entire weekend toward the adoption of the Michigan Guidelines on the Right to Work.

"Protection Elsewhere" Colloquium (2006)

The fourth and most recent Colloquium was convened November 10-12, 2006. Moving for the first time away from study of the refugee definition, participants debated the legality of rules and policies which provide that a refugee's protection needs are to be considered or addressed somewhere other than in the territory of the state where the refugee has sought, or intends to seek, protection. Such policies -- including "country of rirst arrival," "safe third country" and extraterritorial processing rules and practices -- were examined from the optic of enhancing the flexibility of the protection regime without compromising the entitlements of refugees. The meeting issued the Michigan Guidelines on Protection Elsewhere to define the minimum international legal requirements for the lawful implementation of protection elsewhere policies as well as desirable procedural standards to ensure respect for such legal obligations. The Colloquium's deliberations were based on a study authored by Rapporteur Michelle Foster, "Protection Elsewhere: The Legal Implications of Requiring Refugees to Seek Protection in Another State."

"Well-Founded Fear" Colloquium (2004)

The third Colloquium was convened March 24-26, 2004. The subject of the colloquium was the meaning of the "well-founded fear" clause of the refugee definition, in particular whether it requires a purely objective test of risk or compels consideration in part of the subjective apprehensions of the refugee claimant. The meeting issued the Michigan Guidelines on Well-Founded Fear, which posit the logic of a purely objective approach to the conceputalization of the well-founded fear test. The Colloquium's deliberations were based on a study co-authored by James Hathaway and student William Hicks, "Is There a Subjective Element in the Refugee Convention's Requirement of 'Well-Founded Fear'"?

"Nexus" Colloquium (2001)

The second Colloquium, convened in 2001, addressed the limitation of refugee status to persons able to show that their fear of persecution is "for reasons of" race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. The result of our deliberations are the Michigan Guidelines on Nexus to a Convention Ground. The background research for the Colloquium is contained in three articles published in the Michigan Journal of International Law: one addressing the dominant approach to nexus issues in the United States, a second canvassing the approach in the United Kingdom, and a third article positing the arguments for a context-specific approach to nexus.

"Internal Protection Alternative" Colloquium (1999)

The first Colloquium, convened in 1999, considered the scope and content of what was agreed should be termed the "internal protection alternative" (commonly referred to as either the "internal flight alternative" or "internal relocation alternative"). The result of our research and deliberations are the Michigan Guidelines on the Internal Protection Alternative. Based on this research, the UNHCR Global Consultations commissioned James Hathaway and Michelle Foster to author the expert background study on this topic, The Internal Protection/Relocation/Flight Alternative as an Aspect of Refugee Status Determination.