Transforming refugee status: definitions and discrimination

3 November 2021, 1.00pm - 3.00pm

“Asylum after COVID-19: the UK ‘New Plan for Immigration’ in global context”

Refugee Law Initiative / Refugee Law Clinic

2021-22 Seminar Series

As uncertainty brought by COVID-19 intersects with shifting underlying political currents in society, some governments are pushing ‘new’ approaches to refugees and asylum. In the United Kingdom, this takes the form of the so-called ‘New Plan for Immigration’, a raft of legal and policy measures aimed principally at restricting protection and assistance for refugees and asylum-seekers.

This seminar series draws on a diverse range of perspectives from practitioners, researchers and affected persons to interrogate the law and politics of the New Plan in the global refugee context. The series aims to facilitate debate within both specialist and public circles in the UK and beyond about the legality and feasibility of approaches to asylum of the kind proposed by the New Plan. The RLI seminar series this year is run jointly with the University of London Refugee Law Clinic.


Transforming refugee status: Definitions and discrimination

Some countries have adopted statutory interpretations of the refugee definition in Article 1A(2) of the Refugee Convention. But the ‘New Plan for Immigration’ is the first attempt to do so in UK law. By contrast, whereas many countries grant ‘temporary protection’ to asylum-seekers who do not fulfil the refugee definition but need international protection, the UK is one of only a few countries to try and make a two-tier system of rights for those entitled to refugee status, based on how the refugee entered the country. 

This seminar examines the legal implications of these proposals:


·       What statutory interpretation of whether an asylum-seeker has a ‘well-founded fear of persecution’ will the UK adopt, and what comparative models might it follow?

·       Can the UK legally justify creating a two-tier system that discriminates between refugees based purely on the mode of entry to the country?

·       If adopted, what effects will the proposed changes to the substance of refugee status have on the protection of refugees in the UK and beyond?


Led by Ram Sabaratnam (Refugee Law Clinic), discussants include:


·       Dr Hugo Storey, International Association of Refugee and Migration Judges

·       Prof. Elspeth Guild, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London / Radboud University

·       Colin Yeo, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers / Free Movement

·       Dr Maria O’Sullivan, Law Faculty, Monash University


Refugee Law Initiative
020 7862 8668