Colloquium on Challenges in International Refugee Law and the Michigan Guidelines
The Program in Refugee and Asylum Law gives Michigan students the opportunity to play a direct part in reshaping the substance and structures of international refugee law. Every other year, the Program hosts the Colloquium on Challenges in International Refugee Law
, which brings leading academic experts and practitioners from around the world to Ann Arbor to identify a strategy for confronting a cutting-edge problem in refugee protection. The purpose of the Colloquium is to tackle one difficult issue via preparatory study and a three-day debate and policy formulation meeting, thus producing the Michigan Guidelines on that particular issue. Students are actively involved in the drafting of background research for the Colloquium through their enrollment in specialized seminars, and participate as colleagues with the invited experts, many of whom become lifelong friends and mentors.
The Colloquium has met seven times since 1999; the Seventh Colloquium on Challenges in International Refugee Law convened March 27-29, 2015, and looked at the meaning of risk of being persecuted for reasons of "political opinion." Participants included Catherine Dauvergne (University of British Columbia); Chris Dolan (Makerere University); Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen (Danish Institute for Human Rights); Mark Gibney (University of North Carolina); Susan Kneebone (Monash University); David Kosar (Masaryk University); Helene Lambert (University of Westminster); Hugo Storey (Judge, UK Upper Tribunal); and Kees Wouters (UNHCR, Geneva). View an image gallery of the 2015 Colloquium. The Eighth Colloquium on Challenges in International Refugee Law is slated for spring 2017 and will focus on the right of refugees to freedom of movement.
The Colloquium has produced seven sets of unanimously agreed Michigan Guidelines on cutting-edge concerns related to asylum and refugee law. The Guidelines are frequently cited by courts around the world and help shape the way judges, lawyers, and other decision-makers look at a refugee issue.
| Addressed the proper interpretation of "political opinion" in a manner that ensures both fidelity to international law and the continuing vitality of the Refugee Convention.
Analyzed the circumstances in which persons who have committed crimes against humanity and other international offenses are to be excluded from refugee protection.
Addressed the right to work for refugees, including those seeking asylum, in the country of arrival.
Took up the question of the lawfulness of rules and procedures that purport to assign the responsibility to protect refugees to some country other than that in which the refugee has sought, or intends to seek, protection (e.g. "country of first arrival," "safe third country," and extraterritorial processing rules and practices.)
Addressed why the focus of this aspect of the refugee definition is fundamentally objective, even as it requires that account be taken of the particular circumstances of each applicant for refugee status.
Defined the meaning and application of the "for reasons of" clause in the Convention refugee definition.
Determined under what circumstances state parties to the Convention and Protocol may lawfully compel a refugee claimant to seek or accept protection in a state not of his or her own choosing.