By Jenny WhalenOct. 9, 2014
What constitutes protected behavior under the 1951 Refugee Convention? Could a single country's ruling impact the broader context of international refugee law jurisprudence? A new legal blog, developed by the Program in Refugee and Asylum Law and intended for a diverse community of practitioners, scholars, and students, proposes to provide critical analysis on these and other issues in the field of refugee and asylum law.
Managed by an editorial board of Michigan Law students and reviewed by an editorial advisory panel of leading scholars and practitioners in the field, RefLaw.org will feature longer articles analyzing the implications of law and policy as well as shorter notes concerning global current events that could impact refugee law.
It is not the first time Michigan Law has offered an online resource in this field. In 1999, Michigan Law partnered with the International Association of Refugee Law Judges to build a caselaw database at refugeecaselaw.org—a service not available at that time from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). RefLaw.org is the virtual descendent of that original tool.
"Whereas before our main goal was to provide a readily organized caselaw database for researchers, the objective of the new site will be to provide analysis of the most salient and timely issues in the realms of refugee law," said 3L Anne Recinos, who will serve as Notes Editor for the new site.
RefLaw.org does just that with its inaugural article by James C. Hathaway, director of the Program in Refugee and Asylum Law and James E. and Sarah A. Degan Professor of Law. Writing on the Australian case, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection v. SZSCA, Hathaway focuses on the case's discussion of what constitutes protected behavior under the 1951 Refugee Convention.
For Editor in Chief Johnny Pinjuv, 3L, it is only fitting that Hathaway should author the blog's first article as it was the professor, Pinjuv says, who had "the ingenious idea of reframing the website and making it a place for high-level academic commentary on refugee law."
Members of the editorial board say they are confident that as readership of the blog grows, so will the range of article and note submissions from the U.S. and abroad.
"We plan to seek contributions from practitioners, scholars, and students of refugee and asylum law from around the globe, so the diverse population interested in refugee and asylum law issues can engage with and learn from one another," said Associate Editor Adrienne Darrow Boyd, 2L.
Michigan Law students, supervised by Hathaway, will take the lead on editing the published works, with members of the editorial advisory panel offering expertise to the editing process and submitting articles of their own.
For the shorter notes, the board encourages students, both at Michigan and elsewhere, to contribute. "We would like to invite students—LLMs, research scholars, and JDs—to contribute to RefLaw.org by submitting note topics as important cases, legislation, or events unfold that they feel will have a significant impact on refugee law," Recinos said.
Hathaway added that with this launch, the Law School takes a critical step forward in promoting an ongoing series of critical conversations about refugee law jurisprudence.
"This new forum showcases our strong commitment to understanding refugee law through an international and comparative lens, and to ensuring that scholars, decision-makers, and practitioners have a place to debate the most important developments in the field of asylum law—the world's single most important mechanism of human rights protection," he said. "I am especially proud that senior students enrolled in the Program in Refugee and Asylum Law will manage and edit this blog, drawing on their experience in the classroom, in fellowship placements, and as aspiring advocates."
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