Spring 2022 - 59125 - PA 383C - Policy Development

Refugee, Asylum and Human Security Policies


Participants will understand challenges faced by policymakers responding to the millions of people displaced from their country by military upheaval, political violence, persecution, and other pressures that make them afraid to return home. Participants will be thoroughly familiar with the circumstances that cause refugee flows as well as the defining criteria the displaced person must meet to obtain legal status as an asylee or refugee.  Successful participants also will analyze these controversial issues objectively, develop viable policies to handle these crises, and offer options for potential reform of the laws and international agreements.

Brief Description

Today the United States as well as Australia, Canada, and European Union (EU) countries are faced with displaced persons arriving at their borders in almost unprecedented numbers.  The United States has the particularly challenging issue of unaccompanied minor children arriving from Central America to seek asylum.  The EU countries are grappling with a surge in refugees from northern Africa that reached crisis proportions. In addition to the urgency of asylum seekers, developed countries and international organizations are struggling to establish and maintain an orderly process for humanitarian relief and refugee resettlement in third countries. The course will open with a view of asylum, refugee and human security policies from 20,000 feet, presenting the magnitude of the crisis worldwide and introducing the laws and conventions that govern.

In 1967, United Nations Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (hereafter referred to as the U.N. Refugee Protocol) embraced the principle of nonrefoulement, which means that a foreign national will not be returned to a country where his or her life or freedom would be threatened. The United States became party to the UN Refugee Protocol in 1968, and it is embodied in several provisions of U.S. immigration law. Under current law, the foreign national must demonstrate a well-founded fear that if returned home, they will be persecuted based upon one of five characteristics: race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The U.N. Refugee Protocol does not require that a signatory accept refugees, but it does ensure that signatory nations afford certain rights and protections to foreign nationals who meet the definition of refugee.

The United Nations promotes human security as bringing together the "human elements" of security, rights and development. It is based on a multi-sectoral understanding of insecurities. Therefore, human security entails a broadened understanding of threats and includes causes of insecurity relating for instance to economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political security. The international Commission on Human Security defined the purpose of human security policy broadly "as to protect the vital core of all human lives in ways that enhance human freedoms and human fulfillment."

None of the dilemmas brought on by these refugee crises are new. The course will study selected refugee crisis from the past: the displaced persons of World War I and the Armenian genocide; the displaced persons of World War II and the Jewish Holocaust; the Hungarian Uprising in 1957; the Cuban refugees of 1960s and Mariel Boatpeople of 1980; the Southeast Asian refugees of the 1970s and 1980s; the Ethiopian refugee crisis of 1977-1979; the Central American asylum seekers during the civil wars of the 1980s; the Haitian influx after the 1991 coup; and the refugee crisis after Yugoslavia broke up. In the process, the course will analyze how these disparate crises shaped the enactment of refugee law and the interpretation of asylum policies over the 20th Century.

The course will then address the policy challenges of today, acknowledging that those advocating change have divergent perspectives. Some express concern that potential terrorists could use asylum as an avenue for entry into the host country, especially aliens from trouble spots in the Mideast, northern Africa and south Asia. Others argue that — given the religious, ethnic, and political violence in various countries around the world — it is becoming more difficult to differentiate the persecuted from the persecutors. The course will explore the national security protocols of human security.

Some have long asserted that asylum is an alternative pathway for immigration rather than humanitarian protection provided in extraordinary cases.  Others maintain that current laws do not offer adequate protections for people fleeing human rights violations, environmental disasters, or gender-based abuses that occur around the world, as many of these factors are not part of the refugee definition that grew out of the Geneva Convention of 1951.  At the crux is the extent a refugee policy forged during the Cold War adapts to the 21st Century.

Occasional guest lectures and experiential opportunities will augment the course material.  

Course Requirements

Participants will prepare for each session by reading the materials assigned for the topic. Class participation will be graded because oral communication and group discernment are essential skills in the public sector. 

Participants will draft three policy memoranda, choosing topics that represent three different types: analysis of international factors, conditions and challenges; analysis of a historical case study with an assessment of what worked and what failed; and a synthesis of the legal framework with an eye on potential reforms.

There will be a simulation project in which they work in groups to respond to a global refugee crisis.

Participants will make a final presentation on a current refugee crisis that builds on their memoranda and the course readings and that demonstrates an understanding of additional research on the specific topic.  (Topic chosen by the student and approved by the professor). 

Core Courses
Instruction Mode