The 1951 Refugee Convention was a major advance for the protection of people under persecution, defining the concept of refugees and the legal obligation of States to provide them with protection. However, the current system has been put under great stress by the scale and complexity of recent developments, which was the motivation for organizing the UN High-Level Plenary on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants in September 2016. Having an understanding of the relevant legal frameworks for the protection of refugees is, in this context, critical for those working in the humanitarian sector. This learning session will provide an introduction to refugee law and other legal frameworks grating protection to refugees. Participants will be provided with a presentation on the fundamental concepts in these legal frameworks and their legal and operational limitations. Following this, there will be an opportunity for questions and discussion. NOTE: A separate learning session will be organized on the legal protection of internally displaced persons.

Learning objectives

  • Knowledge of key concepts in international refugee law.
  • Awareness of other legal frameworks relating to the protection of refugees, including international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
  • Knowledge of States’ legal obligations towards refugees and limitations of those obligations.
  • Familiarity with the applicability of existing legal frameworks to the current “migration/refugee crisis” and challenges in applying the frameworks in practice.

Target audience and event access

The Online Learning Series on Humanitarian Law and Policy targets humanitarian practitioners needing a basic to intermediate level of understanding of key legal and policy areas related to humanitarian action. In order to join the event, please register in advance

Recommended resources

Further reading

  • Goodwin-Gill & McAdam, The Refugee in International Law, Oxford University Press, 3rd Edition, 2007.
  • Durieux & Hurwitz, “How Many Is Too Many? African and European Legal Responses to Mass Influxes of Refugees,” German Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 47, No. 105, 2004.


Jean-François Durieux is a graduate of Facultés Universitaires St-Louis in Brussels, Belgium, and obtained a Law Degree from the Catholic University of Louvain. He has taught international law at the Refugee Studies Centre (Oxford) 2007-2009, and again 2011-2012. In 2011, Mr Durieux completed a 30-year career with UNHCR, during which he served in Africa, Asia, North America and Latin America, as well as at UNHCR Headquarters in Geneva, notably in the Division of International Protection and in the Regional Bureau for Europe. His last position in the organization was that of Director in the Division of Programme Support and Management. Mr Durieux’s research interest has focused on legal responses to mass influxes of refugees, including a comparison of African and European regimes and a reflection on the legal implications of refugee emergencies and protracted refugee situations. He has organized seminars and short courses on statelessness and on the cross-fertilization of refugee law, human rights law, and international humanitarian law. He has recently co-edited, with Dr David Cantor, a major book on the interface between IHL and international refugee law. From September 2014 to September 2016, he was the director of the International Refugee Law and Migration Law programme of the International Institute of Humanitarian Law, based in Sanremo (Italy). He is currently contributing, both as a module convenor and as a tutor, to the distance-taught MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies of the University of London, under the auspices of the Refugee Law Initiative.

Event host

Angharad Laing Executive Director, International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP)

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