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Basics of Refugee Determination


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Full course description

Course Title

Basics of Refugee Determination

Course Description

This is a self-paced learning experience. You will be able to stop and start the module at your convenience.

In this module, students will learn about the formation, mission and role of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees as well as various regional treaties and agreements. We will then turn to the domestic U.S. asylum system, exploring the procedural avenues available to individuals seeking protection as well as trending topics in refugee and asylum law.

Throughout this module, you will learn from working professionals who have contributed through video as well as authored the text. In addition to watching videos and reading text, you will interact with the content, in various ways, through sliders that reveal information as you move, hotspots on an image, a variety of question styles (both graded and ungraded), and more.

Duration to complete module: 4-6 hours approximately. If using a mobile device to review the module, use the browser on your device. Do not access through the Canvas app.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • Understand and apply the definition of refugee from the UN Refugee Convention and Protocol.

  • Explain how the main regional instruments and institutions complement the UN Refugee definition.

  • Summarize the key features of the US asylum system and contrast it with the refugee adjudication system.

  • Evaluate the relevance of the refugee definition to the current refugee crisis.

Please contact for further information. 

Course Contributors 

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Dr. Alejandro Olayo Mendez
Assistant Professor

Dr. Alejandro Olayo-Méndez, SJ is an assistant professor at the Boston College School of Social Work. His research focuses on migrants and refugees’ livelihoods and the role of humanitarian organizations in contexts of migration and forced displacement. Dr. Olayo-Méndez received his DPhil in International Development from the University of Oxford in 2019.  He holds a Master in Migration Studies also from the University of Oxford, a Master of Divinity from Boston College, and a Master of Social Work from Loyola University Chicago. Alejandro is a Jesuit Priest from the West Coast Province in the U.S. Click here for full biography.

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Subject Expert

Jessica Chicco
New Americans Initiative Director, Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA)

Jessica Chicco, JD, is the New Americans Initiative Director at the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) where she oversees the education and training program as well as the citizenship program, and also works on a wide variety of federal policy issues. . She started her legal career as an associate attorney at Human Rights First’s Refugee Protection Program in New York, where she provided legal rights presentations to detained immigrants and co-authored a report on the detention of asylum seekers. She holds a JD from NYU Law School and a BSFS from Georgetown University. Click here for full biography.