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Please note that due to recent developments in the law, the synopsis below has been updated from the original and Professor Lambert's lecture will address these changes.


International law provides powerful yet limited protection for refugees. The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees is a key instrument but following years of restrictive interpretation, it has come to be directly relevant only for refugees who are individually and deliberately targeted, thereby excluding from its ambit most civilians fleeing generalized violence or war. Humanitarian considerations have led states to fill the gaps through national practice, regional instruments and soft-law, whilst NGOs and advocacy groups have resorted to human rights law.

This lecture will examine the development of, and complementary relationship between, international human rights law and refugee law with respect to people fleeing armed conflicts and seeking protection in Europe. It will consider the potential for international refugee law to evolve so as to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

Dr Hélène Lambert

Dr Hélène Lambert (PhD, Exeter; Maitrise de Droit Public, Strasbourg) is Professor of International Law in the Department of Advanced Legal Studies in the School of Law at the University of Westminster.

She was previously a Reader at Westminster (2007-2010), a Senior Lecturer at Brunel University (2006-2007), and a Lecturer at the University of Exeter (1993-2005) and the University of the West of England, Bristol (1991-1993). She worked as a Protection (legal) Officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (1996). She was also a stagiaire ad hoc at the Council of Europe (1997) and a visiting fellow at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford (1999). She has acted as a consultant for the Council of Europe since 1998. In this capacity, she wrote the study that formed the basis of Recommendation 99(23) adopted by the Council of Ministers, and she advised the Governments of Moldova, Ukraine and Serbia-Montenegro on their draft asylum legislation. She also participated in the training of officials on behalf of the Council of Europe and UNHCR in Poland, Slovenia, Moldova, Romania and Serbia-Montenegro. She is a member of the AHRC’s peer review college. She is also a member of the International Law Association (British branch), the International Studies Association, the Migration and Law Network, and was the Convenor for the Migration Section of the Society of Legal Scholars (2004-2007). In 2008, she wrote (with Professor Rebecca Wallace) an Expert submission to the Israeli Supreme Court on the right to family reunification and non-discrimination in UK law (2008), in the case H.C. 830/07, Adalah (Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel) v. The Minister of the Interior and others; case heard by the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on 15 March 2009 (an e-copy is available at:

She is an external examiner at King’s College London (LLM) and a Deputy Chief Examiner for external students (LLM) at the University of London.

She is currently leading a collaborative project on the worldwide spread and effect of EU refugee law and practice with Professor Maryellen Fullerton (Brooklyn Law School, NYC) and Professor Jane McAdam (University of New South Wales, Sydney), involving seven other contributors from around the world. She is also working in the inter-disciplinary area of international law and international relations on a project that looks at the impact of armed conflict on refugee protection in Europe.

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