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Law's Absence and Law's Failings

Investigate the extent to which international law protects the rights of non-refugee forced migrants.

576 enrolled on this course

Law's Absence and Law's Failings

576 enrolled on this course

  • 4 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

Investigate human rights law and the protections it provides migrants

Securitisation and militarisation of border controls have dire consequences for those desperate to flee persecution, environmental disasters, and civil war.

On this course, you’ll look at the ways the law fails to provide protection for vulnerable migrants. You’ll also examine where the law is completely absent in the areas of internally displaced persons and environmentally displaced persons.

Examine how international law affects internally displaced persons

Many states have gone to great lengths to prevent people fleeing from entering their territories. This means that migrants can easily get stuck; they can neither leave their own country nor go back to their homes. They become internally displaced.

You’ll examine the so-called right to remain, its consequences, and whether the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement are effective in addressing the problems faced by Internally Displaced Persons.

Learn about the role law plays in protecting climate migrants

Climate change and environmental disasters are causing displacement of people all over the world. Where climate migrants do manage to cross borders, they will not be granted refugee status because they don’t fit the Refugee Convention’s definition of a refugee. You’ll consider whether there is a need for a treaty for climate migrants, or whether law is not the answer.

Assess the universality of human rights for undocumented migrants

With so few legal routes to migration available for those fleeing violence, civil war and persecution etc, migrants are forced to cross borders by covert means and they will not be legally present in their host country. You will examine the vulnerability of undocumented migrants and assess the extent to which human rights law is an effective tool to protect them.


  • Week 1

    Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

    • Introduction

      You will be introduced to IDPs as a matter of international concern. You will also find details relating to general feedback on your essay plans, and details concerning a live webinar relating to your essay writing.

    • The “discovery” of IDPs by the international community

      You will examine why IDPs became a matter of international concern in the 1990s, given their existence long before, and ask what consequences this has had for the UNHCR. You will also find out where most IDPs are situated.

    • IDP protection needs

      You will examine the question of whether IDPs should be deemed to be a separate category of concern and consider their protection needs.

    • The international response to IDP protection needs

      You will examine the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and consider their utility.

    • Wrap up

      In the final activity for the week, you will find a repeat poll, a list of additional resources and a summary of the week.

  • Week 2

    Environmental displacement

    • Introduction

      Here we will focus on the alleged impacts of climate change on cross border migration patterns. You will consider whether the claims stand up to scrutiny.

    • Calls for protection for “climate refugees”

      In this activity, you will examine calls for treaties to protect so-called climate refugees and consider alternative responses.

    • Securitising the narratives

      In this activity, we will consider how apocalyptic claims about “climate refugees” led to a securitised response – we will focus on the USA.

    • Wrap up

      In the final activity for this week you will find a repeat poll, a list of additional resources and a summary of the week.

  • Week 3

    Enforcement: Immigration detention

    • Introduction

      You will be introduced to immigration detention, an instrument that states use either as a prelude to removal, or as a means to contain asylum seekers pending the determination of their claims.

    • Immigration detention as “crimmigration" and data from the UK and the USA

      In this activity, you will examine the experience and cost of immigration detention and consider the “work” done by its use.

    • International legal framework relating to detention of asylum seekers

      In this activity, you will consider the protection provided by the Refugee Convention as well as human rights law, and consider their adequacy. This activity also includes the Peer Graded Assignment for this course.

    • Scholarly debates on the use of immigration detention

      You will engage with some of the scholarly literature on the use of immigration detention to ascertain its utility and effectiveness.

    • Wrap up

      In the final activity for this week, you will find a repeat poll, a list of additional resources and a summary of the week.

  • Week 4

    Human rights of undocumented migrants

    • Introduction

      We have seen that undocumented migrants suffer many privations. Here we shall begin to ask questions concerning the alleged universality of human rights.

    • Shortcomings of the ICCPR and the Migrant Workers’ Convention

      In this activity, we analyse one general human rights treaty and one that specifically addresses migrant workers and their families. We will see that claims of universality paper over significant cracks.

    • Scholarly Analysis of Universality Claims and the Person of the Undocumented Migrant

      In this activity, you will be given a taste of critical scholarship and consider Arendt’s claims about rightlessness.

    • Wrap up

      In the final activity for this week, you will find a list of additional resources, a test and a summary of the week.

When would you like to start?

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Learning on this course

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What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Assess Western responses to the problem of internally displaced persons
  • Discuss the impact of narratives about climate change on states' responses to migration
  • Investigate the functions of immigration detention
  • Identify the gaps in international law in relation to the protection of non-refugee migrants

Who is the course for?

This course has been designed for anyone looking to develop a critical understanding of migration laws. It will be of specific interest to people working for national and international governmental and non-governmental organisations involved in the field of migration, and also lawyers wanting to deepen their knowledge base.

If you want to explore this subject further, you may be interested in these courses, from the same provider, that share the same overall learning outcomes:

Who will you learn with?

I am Senior Lecturer in Law at Kent Law School, University of Kent. I specialise in International Human Rights Law and International Migration Law.

Who developed the course?

The University of Kent

The University of Kent, the UK’s European university, is one of the country’s most dynamic universities. Established in 1965, it now has 19,850 students studying at its various campuses.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Subscribe & save

$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$134/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 17 Jul 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

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