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Books, peer-reviewed journals and other professional fora

For earlier references (mostly pre-1992) related to UNHCR RSD, see our supplemental bibliography contributed by Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Centre library.

ZACHARY D. KAUFMAN, ED., (2012) Social Entrepreneurship in the Age of Atrocities (Edward Elgar Publishing). Includes a chapter on the emergency of legal aid and refugee rights organizations in countries where UNHCR does RSD.

MICHAEL KAGAN (2012) “The UN ‘Surrogate State’ and the Foundation of Refugee Policy in the Middle East,” UC Davis Journal of International Law and Policy 18:307. Analyzes the politics behind the de facto transfer of responsibility for administering refugee policy from governments to UNHCR.

MICHAEL KAGAN (2011) “Shared Responsibility in a new Egypt: A Strategy for Refugee Protection,” American University in Cairo, Center for Migration and Refugee Studies. Discusses the dynamics of RSD, resettlement, refugee security and economic rights.

VOLKER TURK (2010) “UNHCR’s Role in Supervising International Protection Standards in the Context of its Mandate,” Conference keynote address at York University, Toronto. A commentary from UNHCR’s Director of International Protection Services on UNHCR’s unique role in supervising refugee law, with a brief mention of the legal mandate for UNHCR to recognize refugee status.

VOLKER TURK and ELIZABETH EYSTER (2010) Strengthening UNHCR’s System of Accountability, International Journal of Refugee Law 22. A review and assessment of the ways UNHCR should conceive of accountability, including acknowledgment of the power frontline staff wield over refugees. (Also available at

JAMES C. SIMEON (2010) A Comparative Analysis of the Response of the UNHCR and Industrialized States to Rapidly Fluctuating Refugee Status and Asylum Applications: Lessons and Best Practices for RSD Systems Design and Administration, International Journal of Refugee Law 22:72. Sets out a comparative analysis of the most pertinentconcerns of the RSD systems within Canada, the United States,the United Kingdom and the UNHCR, which reveals critical deficiencieswith respect to the appointment of highly qualified, independentrefugee law decision makers at first instance and to the issueof consistency.

RICHARD STAINSBY (2009) UNHCR and individual refugee status determination, Forced Migration Review 32. Views on mandate status determination from the Chief of UNHCR’s Status Determination and Protection Information Section. Includes information about the staffing and resource challenges facing UNHCR’s RSD operations, and discusses some of UNHCR’s efforts to address the challenges involved.

MICHAEL KAGAN (2009) Refugee credibility assessment and the “religious imposter” problem: A case study of Eritrean Pentecostal claims in Egypt, American University in Cairo Center for Migration and Refugee Studies Working Paper. Provides an inside look at the kind of questions used to assess credibility in religious persecution cases at one UNHCR office.

SARA E. DAVIES (2008) Legitimizing Rejection: International Refugee Law in Southeast Asia (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers).

MICHAEL KAGAN and ANAT BEN-DOR (2008) Nowhere to Run: Gay Palestinian Asylum-Seekers in Israel,Tel Aviv University Public Interest Law Program. Report on violence against LGBT people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and Israel’s refusal to consider asylum requests by Palestinians. Analyzes UNHCR’s role in refusing to consider refugee claims by Palestinian asylum-seekers.

EDWIN ODHIAMBO ABUYA and GEORGE MUKUNDI WACHIRA (2006) Assessing Asylum Claims in Africa: Missing or Meeting Standards? Netherlands International Law Review 53:171. Argues that RSD procedures in Africa, including UNHCR’s procedures, fail to meet due process standards, and proposes steps that could be taken to improve fairness.

MICHAEL KAGAN (2006) Frontier Justice: Legal Aid and UNHCR Refugee Status Determination in Egypt, Journal of Refugee Studies 19:45.Reports statistical evidence from Egypt in 2002 indicating that refugee applicants who received some form of legal aid had a high chance of being protected by UNHCR. Also explores potential innovative forms of legal aid and analyzes how they might work with UNHCR RSD.

MICHAEL KAGAN (2006) The Beleaguered Gatekeeper: Protection Challenges Posed by UNHCR Refugee Status Determination, International Journal of Refugee Law 18:1.Examines how UNHCR can develop a comprehensive strategy for using RSD to promote better refugee protection, and for making its RSD procedures a model of best practice.

MARK PALLIS (2005) The Operation of UNHCR’s Accountability Mechanisms, New York University Institute for International Law and Justice Working Paper 12. Proposes reforms in accountability mechanisms within UNHCR to improve practices on RSD and other topics.

Refugee Status: Implications for American Asylum Policy
, American Bar Association Section of International Law Immigration and Naturalization Committee Newsletter , Vol. VIII, Issue 3. Discusses the impact that defects in UNHCR’s RSD procedures may have on asylum cases in the US and on the American refugee resettlement program.

B.S. CHIMNI (2005) Global Administrative Law: Winners and Losers. New York University Institute for International Law and Justice (draft working paper). Offers a critical analysis of emerging norms in the geopolitical south, with a focus on UNHCR RSD as an example illustrating the need for administrative justice.

GUGLIELMO VERDIRAME and BARBARA HARRELL-BOND (2005) Rights in Exile: Janus-Faced Humanitarianism. Oxford: Berghahn Books. Contains a chapter on UNHCR’s RSD procedures in Uganda and Kenya.

LAURA MAXWELL and AYA EL HILAL (2004) Separated Refugee Children
in Cairo
, Cairo: American University in Cairo Forced Migration and Refugee Studies Working Paper No. 5. Examines the challenges unaccompanied minor children faced in accessing UNHCR’s refugee status determination and other protection procedures.

E ODHIAMBO-ABUYA (2004) “Parlez-vous l’anglais ou le swahili”? The role of interpreters in Refugee Status Determination interviews in Kenya, Forced Migration Review 19. Identifies potential obstacles and proposes recommendations for competent interpretation.

NATALIE BRIANT and ANDREW KENNEDY (2004) An Investigation of the Perceived Needs and Priorities Held by African Refugees in an Urban Setting in a First Country of Asylum, Journal of Refugee Studies 17:437. Reports that in the largest known survey of urban refugees in the geopolitical south, “assistance with UNHCR case preparation” was the refugees’ second highest reported need, exceeded only by medical care.

ELEANOR ACER (2004) Making a Difference: A Legacy of Pro Bono Representation,Journal of Refugee Studies 17:347. Notes the emerging role of legal aid in UNHCR RSD procedures.

MICHAEL KAGAN (2002) Assessment of Refugee Status Determination Procedure at UNHCR’s Cairo Office 2001-2002, Cairo: American University in Cairo Forced Migration and Refugee Studies Working Paper No. 1. Follow up to Alexander’s 1999 study examining procedures used at UNHCR’s largest RSD office.

GUGLIELMO VERDIRAME (1999) “Human Rights and Refugees: The Case of Kenya,” Journal of Refugee Studies 12:54. Assessment of the legal position of UNHCR activities in Kenya, including a brief discussion of UNHCR staff’s attitudes toward RSD.

MICHAEL ALEXANDER (1999) “Refugee Status Determination Conducted by UNHCR,”International Journal of Refugee Law 11:251. The seminal study of UNHCR RSD; focuses on procedures in Southeast Asia and on the gap between UNHCR’s procedures and standards of fairness in administrative and human rights law.

CHRISTINE M. CERVENAK, “Promoting inequality: Gender-based discrimination in the UNRWA’s approach to Palestine refugee status,” Human Rights Quarterly 16:300 (1994).Analysis of the UN’s policy of only allowing men to pass on Palestinian refugee status to children.

DERECK COOPER (1992) Urban Refugees: Ethiopians and Eritreans in Cairo. Cairo
Papers in Social Science 15 (2). This social science research paper documents refugees’ reactions to the UNHCR RSD system; it is perhaps the earliest study dealing the UNHCR RSD issue. No link available.

NGO reports

JESUIT REFUGEE SERVICE and INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE (2005) Nowhere to Turn: A report on conditions of Burmese asylum-seekers in Thailand. Describes the effect of the suspension of UNHCR RSD in Thailand, and calls for UNHCR to resume RSD operations.

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH (2004) Aceh Under Martial Law: Problems Faced by Acehnese Refugees in Malaysia. Summarizes challenges to UNHCR’s conduct of effective RSD in Malaysia.

US COMMITTEE FOR REFUGEES/EUROPEAN COUNCIL FOR REFUGEES AND EXILES (2003) Responding to the Asylum and Access Challenge. Summarizes the important role played by UNHCR RSD in the Middle East, noting many of the procedural limits about the process.

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH (2002) Hidden in Plain View: Refugees Living Without Protection in Nairobi and Kampala. Contains a section discussing UNHCR RSD issues in Uganda and Kenya.

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH (2002) By Invitation Only: Australian Asylum Policy. Discusses problems asylum-seekers face accessing protection in regions where UNHCR carries out RSD, and raises concerns about UNHCR’s RSD procedures.

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH (2001) 50 Years On: What Future for Refugee Protection?Contains a brief discussion on the protection concerns raised by UNHCR RSD.

IRANIAN REFUGEES ALLIANCE (1995) Evading Scrutiny: Does UNHCR’s Refugee Status Determination Procedure Measure Up to International Standards? Critique of UNHCR RSD in Turkey, by a US-based NGO assisting Iranian refugees.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL (1994) Selective protection: Discriminatory treatment of non-European refugees and asylum-seekers, EUR 44/16/94. Notes briefly that Amnesty International was concerned that some asylum-seekers it believed to be in genuine danger were refused protection by UNHCR in Turkey. No link available.

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