Training on refugee law is vital across the board: not only must legal staff stay up to date with latest developments, but your entire team – whether finance or administrative or fundraising staff – should be well versed in the basics of refugee law. All staff need to understand who is, and who is not a refugee. The term ‘refugee’ is frequently misused in popular media, generating misconceptions. Your team should be able to distinguish between a refugee and a migrant; understand exclusion clause; identify a causal nexus, and able to tell a client or a decision-maker when the Refugee Convention and its protections should apply. Please refer to the relevant information in the refugee rights law: the building blocks section of this Toolkit for resources on training refugee legal advocates on the 1951 Convention refugee definition.
It will ultimately be up to you and your management staff to determine what to emphasize when training your team. Some countries and decision-makers will have very different concerns regarding the refugee definition, and may even use terminology that differs from UN standards. Whereas a U.S. Immigration Judge may be extremely reluctant to “open the floodgates” to a broadly defined particular social group, an Ecuadorian asylum officer will likely accept “Colombian women” as a ‘particular social group,’ but may refuse to find a justified fear of future persecution when past persecution has not been established. Understanding these regional and local variations on the refugee definition should be a priority for your management staff, and you should tailor your training accordingly.
Developments in jurisprudence are frequent, and more so in refugee law which may draw on authoritative decisions from a variety of jurisdictions – both national and international. Being at the forefront of legal developments enables your organization to provide better services to your clients by enabling innovative argumentation – reasoning which may also be leveraged in policy advocacy campaigns with governments and the UN.
It may be that your organization hires lawyers who do not have experience in refugee rights or public international law, or you may accept volunteer legal advisers and staff who have worked on refugee rights from a non-legal perspective. Getting your whole team up to scratch on the relevant aspects of refugee law should be a priority.
Consult the refugee rights law: the building blocks section of this Toolkit for an outline of the very basics in human rights and refugee rights law, however this is no substitute for effective training and learning conducted in person. A selection of specific trainings on legal issues conducted in the context of Asylum Access Leadership Trainings can be found on the page entitled leadership training.
Your organization should put together a training workshop format for new staff and volunteers regarding the basics in refugee law and entitlements specific to your country and region. This should be interactive to test comprehension.
All-staff trainings should be held on significant new developments that will affect your field of work. This may be highlighting the new principles established in an international court case, or a change in government policy.
Refugee legal updates monitoring global developments which could also be circulated among staff:
- Weekly Legal Update (ECRE)
- Forced Migration Awareness Blog and Newsletter
- Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Monthly Newsletter
- (sign up to tailored weekly email alerts)Refworld database
The following resources should be consulted for refugee and human rights law trainings and courses. Scholarships are available on some programs; others are fee-paying. The resources listed above also contain sections on conferences, workshops and trainings.
- International Summer School in Forced Migration, University of Oxford
- Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford: Short Courses
- International Institute of Humanitarian Law: Refugee Law Courses
- Human Rights Education Associates: Distance learning opportunities
- Refugee Law Initiative Series, Human Rights Consortium, School of Advanced Studies: Events