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Law School Research Seminar - Romit Bhandari, Coventry University

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Dr Romit Bhandari, Assistant Professor in Law, Coventry University

RS Romit

Talk Title: 'The Interpretation of Dreams: A Reconsideration of the Law of Refugee Status'

Abstract: "This article states the case for a reconsideration of James Hathaway’s 1991 Law of Refugee Status (LORS). Within orthodox circles, particularly the Anglophone tradition, this classic text provides the foundations for a human rights interpretation of the Refugee Convention. Its approach has become a feted part of the discipline’s regeneration and is emblematic of its rescue from obscurity.

This paper seeks to add further nuance to the narrativisation of this analytical turn by revisiting the very proposal that set this in motion. This fuller contextualisation is achieved by linking the LORS with the same author’s broader body of work. The contention here is that, in spite of its profound importance, the LORS remains undervalued. It does not, as the argument runs, simply describe or update (the interpretation of persecution under) the Convention. What the comparison with Hathaway’s other works helps to tease out is the LORS as a far more serious transformative project, possessing a much grander design.

Section II looks at individual doctrinal changes within the LORS (the sample concepts of alienage, well-founded fear and persecution) and discloses the extent and nature of the reforms. Section III examines these chapters collectively and clarifies their functionality in terms of their surface and structural impact. Section IV matches these central principles to Hathaway’s other works, connecting them to an ambitious vision for the systemic reform of international law, which, notably, was not directed towards improving the individual assessments of asylum seekers. It attempts to forge an entirely new pathway in international law, offering temporary protection for broader categories of forced migrants. These assertations ought to have a direct impact upon the way we think of the LORS, and they carry profound implications for our understanding of the current legal paradigm."


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