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Refugee & Asylum Seeker Law

Refugee Cases in International Courts

The following databases can be searched or browsed to find:

  • refugee jurisprudence in UN Committees and international courts such as the International Court of Justice and its predecessor, the Permanent Court of International Justice, and
  • international refugee law in domestic courts.

The databases can be searched to find individual decisions, cases in a particular court or on a particular topic.

Open Access databases

Refworld (cases selected for inclusion in this database are by definition cases on refugee law.)

To search Refworld's caselaw collection, choose 'caselaw' from the 'Jurisprudence' tab in the top menu on the Refworld home page. From here you can browse to relevant cases by continually narrowing by court, topic etc.

Alternatively, you can perform an advanced search. Use the 'search tips' page for help in searching. 


In WorldCourts,  keyword searches can be used to search a single court or several courts simultaneously. Note that WorldCourts:

  • ​can only be used to search international and regional courts, not domestic courts.
  • has not been updated since 2014.

Subscription databases (UniMelb staff & students)

Oxford International Law Reports (ORIL)

To find refugee cases in international and domestic courts on ORIL, you can perform an advanced search or browse to refugee cases by selecting 'Subject' from the top blue menu bar, then 'Human Rights' and browsing to the topic using the + signs in the menu on the left, and narrowing the search further by eg: court and keywords.  

For more information on finding cases in international courts and tribunals, see our International Law Research Guide - cases page.

Free refugee resources from OUP

Free access to refugee law resources

In response to the refugee crisis in Europe, Oxford University Press has made more than 30 book chapters, journal articles, and pieces of content from online resources freely accessible to assist those working with refugees on the ground, as well as anyone who would like to know more about the framework of rights and obligations concerning refugees. The materials are structured around four key questions:

  • who is a refugee? 
  • what rights do they have?
  • what are transit states’ obligations? 
  • what are the duties of the state where a refugee applies for asylum?

There is also a list of useful refugee law links.

International Agencies & Associations

International Refugee Law Research Tools

UNHCR - the United Nations Refugee Agency. 

Refworld - the UNHCR's Refworld legal collection is a tool for disseminating and promoting the international law relating to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons and other 'persons of concern' to UNHCR.Included in the collection is:

  • international, regional and domestic caselaw;
  • international instruments relating to refugees and human rights;
  • international and national legislation; and
  • special agreements, such as memoranda of understanding, host-country agreements and voluntary repatriation agreements.

EISIL - created by the American law Society of International Law, this is an open database of authenticated international law materials, and a good place to start your research on refugees, asylum, nationality, displaced persons and freedom of movement.


The principal international agreement on the protection of refugees is the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (189 UNTS 137) and its 1967 Protocol (606 UNTS 267). This UNHRC webpage links to the text of the Convention and the Protocol, lists of state parties to both, and the most up to date reservations and declarations. An rss feed can alert you to new reservations and declarations.

The UN's Audiovisual Library of International Law - Refugees and Stateless Persons  - is an archive of the history of the refugee conventions. It provides authoritative introductory notes by Guy Goodwin-Gill, procedural history, preparatory documents, status, audio and video files, and photos of:

  • The 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol 
  • The 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons;
  • The 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness; and
  • The 1967 Declaration on Territorial Asylum

Other refugee treaties (bilateral and multilateral) can be found on RefWorld. Either:

  • Select 'Laws' from the top blue menu bar to navigate quickly to the major refugee treaties, or
  • Browse by 'Document Type' type and select eg: bilateral or multilateral treaties from the alphabetical list. The search can then be narrowed by country, keyword etc.


International Guidelines on Detention of Asylum Seekers

Latest UN Refugee News

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Other Guides to Researching Refugee Law