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Professor Jane McAdam will discuss the notion of ‘imminence’ in refugee and human rights law, arguing that the immediacy or ‘imminence’ of harm feared by an asylum seeker should not be the basis on which protection is granted or denied.

About the event

The immediacy or ‘imminence’ of harm feared by an asylum seeker should not be the basis on which protection is granted or denied. However, ‘time’ does seem to play a role in certain protection cases where the alleged harm is not felt acutely now, but may have deleterious consequences in the future – such as those relating to the (future) impacts of climate change and to deterioration of health. In some jurisdictions, imminence has already operated inappropriately as an additional hurdle for people seeking international protection. Decision-makers may have imported the notion of imminence from other areas of international law, such as the law of self-defence, even though there is little scholarly consensus about what exactly it means. If an already unclear concept is unwittingly transposed into the law on international protection, the result may be poor decision-making, legal error, and, ultimately, negative outcomes for refugees and others in need of protection.

This research stems from a larger project being undertaken by Professor McAdam, with Professors Michelle Foster and Hélène Lambert examining the notion of imminence in the protection of refugees and other forced migrants. It is based on the hypothesis that the notion has been introduced haphazardly, and virtually unnoticed, into refugee and human rights law, with no legal or conceptual foundation.

Discussion and Q&A will be led by Professor Elspeth Guild, Jean Monnet Professor ad personam at Queen Mary, University of London and Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands and Chaired by Professor Cathryn Costello, Andrew W Mellon Associate Professor in International Human Rights and Refugee Law at RSC.

About the speaker

Jane McAdam is Scientia Professor of Law and Director of the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at UNSW Sydney, which she founded in 2013. She is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, a Research Associate at Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Centre, an Associated Senior Fellow at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Norway, and a Senior Research Associate of the Refugee Law Initiative in London, and was previously a non-resident Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy at The Brookings Institution in Washington DC (2012–16). Professor McAdam publishes widely in international refugee law and forced migration, with a particular focus on displacement in the context of climate change and disasters. She is Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Refugee Law, the leading journal in the field, and serves on a number of international committees, including as Co-Rapporteur of the International Law Association’s Committee on International Law and Sea Level Rise, and as a member of the Advisory Committee of the Platform on Disaster Displacement and the Advisory Board of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion. Professor McAdam was honoured as a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum in 2013, and in 2015 won the ‘global’ category of Australia’s 100 Women of Influence awards. In 2017, she was awarded the prestigious international Calouste Gulbenkian Prize for Human Rights for her work on refugees and forced migration, becoming the first Australian recipient of the award. She was also one of four finalists for the NSW Premier’s Award for Woman of the Year.

A sandwich lunch will be provided. All are welcome, no RSVP is needed.

The Refugee and Migration Discussion Group also welcomes offers to present papers or other work-in-progress to the group or to lead discussion. Please do contact one of the convenors if you are interested in talking to the group or if you have an idea for an informal discussion.

The group’s co-convenors are Maayan Ravid (, Teresa Büchsel (, Emilie McDonnell ( and Maeve Moynihan ( Our Senior Member is Professor Cathryn Costello

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We are looking forward to seeing you at the event!

Best wishes,

Maayan, Teresa, Emilie and Maeve

Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture

The Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture is held in Trinity term. It is named after Professor Elizabeth Colson, a renowned anthropologist.

Annual Harrell-Bond Lecture

The Annual Harrell-Bond Lecture is named in honour of Dr Barbara Harrell-Bond, the founding Director of the Refugee Studies Centre. It is held each year in Michaelmas term.

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