Law: International Migration and Refugee Law

People moving across national borders

International migration is currently one of the most pressing social issues. The matter is not only urgent, but also highly complex for it can be analyzed from a multitude of angles and disciplines. The urgency and complexity are reflected in contemporary international migration and refugee law. Refugees fleeing warfare, such as the Syrian refugees, are not only confronted with the inter-relations between humanitarian and human rights law, but also with the interaction between international and domestic legal systems.

In this master track we will address international migration from the perspective of international and European law, and focus on how they function in domestic legal orders. The interplay between international, European and domestic law is a specific focus of the track and enables one to understand and analyze the complexity of the key issues of contemporary migration and refugee law.

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International Migration and Refugee Law is one of the full time, one year specializations within the VU Master of Laws Master's programme, consisting of 60 EC in total. You will follow:

  • an in-depth course on Migration and Refugee Law, as well as a course on Legal Remedies for Migrants.
  • a range of elective courses, covering topics as diverse as irregular migration, human rights, European Union law and Dutch Migration Law (Migratierecht) so that you can tailor your Master's programme to your particular interests
  • a special elective course is the Migration law Clinic
  • you will write a graduation thesis on a topic related to Migration and Refugee Law

Whatever your fields of particular interest, our aim is to stimulate depth of knowledge, breadth of vision, and intellectual curiosity.

Important courses include:
The in-depth courses on Migration and Refugee Law, and on Legal Remedies are given by prominent specialists in the field. They will address topical issues, which relate closely to the research carried out at the VU Amsterdam.

The selective course on Irregular Migration will reflect the research being carried out at VU Amsterdam on the human rights aspects of irregular migration in the Mediterranean. The Integration Course Philosophy of International Migration and Refugee Law will analyse topical issues of migration and refugee law from a conceptual, philosophical level. This course will enable students to critically engage with the fundamental presumptions that constitute migration law.

The students of the Migration Law Clinic write custom-tailored legal advice in the context of real cases pending before the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union under supervision of the researchers of the migration law section.

Consult the academic calendar of this programme on the faculty website.

The Master's programme Law, specialization International Migration and 

Refugee Law has a study load of 60 credits, 1 academic year.

The academic programme consists of:

• 4 compulsory courses:
Refugee and Family Migration Law (12 EC)
Migration and Legal Remedies (6 ec)
Legal Methodology (Methoden van Rechtswetenschap) (6 EC)
Thesis (Scriptie) (12 EC)

• 1 integration course (6 EC):

Philosophy of Migration and Refugee Law or

Human Rights Protection in Europe

• 1 elective course of the specialization (6 EC), choose from 

Irregular Migration

EU Internal Market law

• 2 elective courses (Irregular Migration or EU Internal Market Law), or not specifically
related to this specialization (total of 12 EC), or 1 elective course (6
EC) + an internship (min. 6 EC).

For more details, consult the academic calendar of the programme.


Mr. Bahija Aarrass
Battjes, HemmeProf. Hemme Battjes
Brouwer, EvelienDr. Evelien Brouwer
Galina CornelisseDr. Galina Cornelisse
Reneman, MarcelleDr. Marcelle Reneman
Slingenberg, LienekeDr. Lieneke Slingenberg
Spijkerboer, ThomasProf. Thomas Spijkerboer
Stronks, Martijn
Drs. Martijn Stronks

International Migration and Refugee Law courses in the study guide

After completing this specialization, students can seek work in the numerous international (non-governmental) organizations involved in migration (e.g. UNHCR, IOM, European institutions such as the Commission, EASO and Frontex). As international and national law on migration are profoundly intertwined, solid knowledge of international migration and refugee law is also most valuable for national institutions and organizations dealing with migration law, such as migration law firms, the judiciary, national and local governments or NGO’s. And as migration law is particularly complex and intertwined with other areas of international law, students who completed the master are also perfectly well suited for careers outside migration law that require profound insight in most basic principles and the working of international and European law.


Internship and volunteer experience can be exceptionally valuable to your career. Therefore, using our wide network of contacts in the Netherlands and abroad, we have compiled a list of internship and volunteer opportunities to get you started. If there is an internship you want to pursue or if you are already aware of an appealing internship, you are advised to get in touch with the internship coordinator, Marcelle Reneman (

International Organizations/ Internationale Organisaties

Asylum Access - Asylum Access is an innovative international nonprofit dedicated to making refugee rights a reality. Asylum Access empowers refugees in Africa, Asia and Latin America to live safely, work, send children to school and rebuild their lives.

Defence for Children - Het kantoor van Defence for Children is gevestigd in het Kinderrechtenhuis in Leiden. Defence for Children werkt vanuit het VN-Kinderrechtenverdrag aan het bevorderen van de rechten van het kind door rechtshulp, onderzoek, lobby en actie. Defence for Children werkt op de volgende thema's aan de versterking van kinderrechten: migratie- en vreemdelingenrecht, jeugdstrafrecht, jeugdzorg en kinderbescherming, seksuele exploitatie en kinderhandel.

Human Rights Watch - Human Rights Watch offers internship opportunities in many of their global offices. Internship descriptions vary but may include desk research, drafting documents, assisting with event planning, helping researchers prepare for missions, monitoring human rights developments in various countries, data analysis, liaising with current and prospective donors, and engaging in advocacy efforts aimed at curtailing human rights violations. HRW internships often offer direct exposure to the workings of an international human rights organization, close supervision by the HRW staff, interaction with other international organizations and foreign and domestic government officials, and opportunities to attend lectures, trainings, and special events relating to human rights.

International Labour Organization - The aim of the internship programme is to give you exposure to the daily work of the ILO. You will be given the opportunity to support and learn from our people and be part of a team. You will be accompanying outstanding and inspiring career professionals and senior management within the Organization. Moreover, you will be exposed to high-profile conferences, participate in meetings, and contribute to analytical work as well as support to work on our fundamental principles, exciting programmes and groundbreaking strategies. Initially you will take on the amount of responsibility you can shoulder; the potential for growth, however, is yours to develop.

International Organization for Migration ( Montevideo, Uruguay)  - The IOM Internship Programme provides students with the opportunity to learn about IOM's activities, to gain initial work experience, and/or to prepare for a degree dissertation. IOM provides on the job training to interns so that both they and the organization can benefit. In addition to this, IOM evaluates interns who may eventually be included on the roster for future external vacancies. Furthermore, internships build links with their institutions and universities.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees - Het kantoor van UNHCR in Den Haag biedt het gehele jaar door stageplekken aan. De stageduur is ongeveer 6 maanden. De beschikbaarheid van stageplekken is afhankelijk van de hoeveelheid werk en de capaciteit van het kantoor. Het kantoor is altijd op zoek naar studenten die ondersteuning kunnen bieden op het gebied van bescherming van vluchtelingen (protection, juridisch).

Non-profit organizations / non-profit organisaties

African Refugee Development Center (Tel Aviv, Israel) - The African Refugee Development Center  is a grassroots, community-based, non-profit organization that was founded in 2004 by African asylum seekers and Israeli citizens, in order to assist, protect and empower African refugees and asylum seekers in Israel. There are countless volunteering opportunities.

Het Amsterdams Solidariteits Komitee Vluchtelingen - Het ASKV / Steunpunt Vluchtelingen ondersteunt (met name) uitgeprocedeerde asielzoekers in Nederland op sociaal, materieel en juridisch gebied. Naast hulpverlening en huisvesting werkt ASKV aan een structurele verbetering van hun positie door campagnes, onderzoek, lobby en acties.

Refugee Rights Clinic (Tel Aviv, Israel) - The Refugee Rights Clinic provides refugees and asylum seekers with legal representation regarding procedural and substantive rights; strives to achieve implementation of the UN 1951 Convention relating to status of Refugees within the Israeli legal system, with an emphasis on the recognition of victims of gender-based persecution as refugees.

The Migration Policy Institute (Washington, DC, USA) -  Based in Washington, DC, MPI works closely with policymakers, researchers, and practitioners to analyze, develop, and evaluate migration and refugee policies at the local, state, national, and international level. MPI’s internship program has trained more than 140 future global migration scholars and policy analysts. Publication opportunities are available to interns, and over half of MPI’s interns are now published authors in the field of migration. MPI offers Research and Editorial/Communications internships.

The Rights in Exile Programme (Oxford, United Kingdom) - IRRI's Rights in Exile Programme is seeking volunteers to assist with the development Volunteering opportunities at IRRI are designed to provide interns with direct engagement in work related to refugee legal assistance.  Individual projects within this work could include a focus on LGBTI issues, family reunion, deportation or even fundraising. Dr. Harrell-Bond, who supervises interns, is frequently involved as an expert witness for the court in cases where a refugee is seeking asylum; interns have the opportunity to be involved in such cases and to attend court with her.

Verblijfblog - Op Verblijfblog voorzien leden van de sectie actuele migratierechtelijke thema’s van toelichting. Verblijfblog beoogt de kwaliteit van berichtgeving in verschillende media over migratierechtelijke thema’s te verhogen door actualiteiten te voorzien van juridische feiten en achtergronden. De sectie migratierecht van de Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam wordt ondersteund door een getalenteerde student die als redactiesecretaris stage loopt bij

The government / de overheid

De Adviescommissie voor Vreemdelingenzaken - De ACVZ is een onafhankelijk adviesorgaan dat de regering en het parlement over migratie adviseert over voorgenomen wijzigingen van de vreemdelingenwet- en lagere regelgeving en meer algemene beleidsadviezen. Stagiaires draaien bij de ACVZ zo volledig mogelijk mee in de lopende projecten en kunnen die ervaring ook inzetten voor het schrijven van hun masterscriptie. Veel voorkomende taken zijn het uitvoeren van literatuur- en jurisprudentie-onderzoek, het voorbereiden, bijwonen en uitwerken van interviews en werkbezoeken en het schrijven van (delen van) concept adviezen.

Het cluster mensenrechten van de Directie Wetgeving en Juridische Zaken - De sector Juridische Zaken houdt zich onder andere bezig met (mensenrechtelijke) advisering, het voeren van juridische (mensenrechtelijke) procedures, het adviseren van de leden van de departementsleiding op juridisch-bestuurlijk gecompliceerde of gevoelige onderwerpen, het ontwikkelen, beheren en bewaken van de juridische kwaliteit, de inschakeling van de Landsadvocaat, et cetera.  Bij deze sector bestaat de mogelijkheid om stage te lopen bij het cluster mensenrechten voor een periode van 3 maanden voor 4 of 5 dagen per week.

The judiciary / de rechterlijke macht

SummerCourt - De rechterlijke macht opent jaarlijks de deuren voor wo rechtenstudenten in het laatste jaar van hun bachelor of in de masterfase, die nieuwsgierig zijn naar deze unieke beroepen. Studenten houden een requisitoir, schrijven een vonnis, draaien een piketdienst, regisseren een zitting en hebben een rol in andere onderdelen.

Law firms / advocatenkantoren

Evereart Advocaten - Evereart Advocaten deals only with ordinary immigration cases (i.e. not asylum cases). Therefore, you are expected to be interested in this subject and to have at least taken administrative law as a subject in your degree course.

Luscuere De Jong Wassenaar Dingenouts Advocaten - een centraal gelegen Rotterdams advocatenkantoor, gespecialiseerd in regulier migratierecht en sociaal recht biedt een op maat en naar wensen ingerichte stage: van zeer pragmatisch, concrete zaken doen tot aan het bieden van een inspiratievolle omgeving voor theoretisch onderzoek.

Prakken D’Oliviera - in beginsel neemt Prakken d'Oliveira alleen Nederlandssprekende studentstagiaires aan met kennis van het Nederlands (proces)recht. Een belangrijk deel van onze praktijkvoering vereist deze kennis.

  • This track is unique as it is taught by leading academics in the field, and is embedded in one of the largest specialised research groups in migration law worldwide.
  • The Faculty of Law of VU Amsterdam is distinctive in having legal, empirical and philosophical approaches to migration and refugee law all in one joint research programme. This approach allows a broad, and at the same time in depth, analysis of transnational legal issues.
  • Students can design their own programme in line with their personal preferences: practical, academic, international law, European law, domestic law, human rights, labour and social rights, theoretical and empirical.
  • It is possible to combine the master track International Migration and Refugee Law with another master track within the master ‘Rechtsgeleerdheid/Law’ such as ‘Transnational Legal Studies’ or ‘Dutch Constitutional and Administrative Law (Staats- en Bestuursrecht)'. 
  • The Netherlands has a large and active community of professionals working in the field of migration and refugee law including academics, lawyers, judges, officers working for the Immigration Service and Ministry of Security and Justice and persons working for NGO’s. As a result there are many opportunities to take part in meetings and seminars on migration law topics outside the regular study programme, or to do an internship.
  • The citizens of Amsterdam have 177 nationalities. This makes Amsterdam one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Therefore, Amsterdam is a most appropriate place to study international migration and refugee law.
  • Life in Amsterdam is affordable in comparison with some other large European cities.
  • There is an easy and fast procedure for obtaining a study visa for the Netherlands (see for more information under Visa and Insurance).
  • After you have completed your master, you can apply for a residence permit in the Netherlands for the purpose of searching a job (for a maximum of one year).

One of the largest specialised research groups in migration law worldwide

groepsfoto 2015

The migration law research programme aims at tracking the multiplicity of complex developments in migration law that take place at the international, European and national levels. 

Research is conducted in areas including asylum and refugee law, the role of the judiciary in refugee and migration law, the intersection between the family and migration law, the relation between migration and refugee law and the welfare state, and the critical analysis of central presumptions of migration law. Lastly research is also conducted on a number of human rights related and procedural aspects of migration and refugee law, such as The Human Costs of Border Control. Approaches are varied, focusing both on foundational issues as well as doctrinal and are interdisciplinary and practice oriented. The migration law section has cooperated in various projects with national and international as well as public and non-state organisations. Researchers participate in the activities organised by the Migration and Diversity Centre. Our diverse research activities benefit students who choose to follow the master track International Migration and Refugee Law, the minor Human Rights and Migration Law and the master courses Migration Law Clinic and Dutch Migration Law (in Dutch). 

Examples of publications of the Migration Law research group are
  • A research monograph on social rights of asylum seekers;
  • A research monograph on effective remedies in asylum law;
  • A research monograph on the role of Dutch courts in migration law;
  • A research report on credibility assessment in asylum cases;
  • A report on the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights
  • A research project on sexual orientation and gender identity in asylum cases, which led both to a research report and to an edited volume.

Below you find answers to frequently asked questions from international and national students.  

HBO (university of Applied Sciences) students 

Q: Can I apply for this programme with an HBO diploma? 
A: No, only students with a Bachelor degree from a research university can be considered. 

English proficiency (please note, this information is only for non-Dutch students, Dutch students do not need to hand in language test results) 

Q: I have not yet done an English proficiency test. Can I apply without the test result? 
A: Yes you can. You will have to hand in a test result that meets the minimum before the 1st of September. 

Q: My Bachelor's/Master's programme was taught in English / I have obtained an IB-certificate (International Baccalaureate) – do I still have to hand in an English test result? 
A: No, not if your Bachelor's or Master's programme was taught in the EU or an English speaking country outside the EU or of you have obtained an English IB-certificate.  

Q: I have completed part of my Bachelor studies in English (e.g. I’ve been on an exchange programme that was taught in English). Do I still have to hand in an English proficiency test result? 
A: Yes, unless your entire Bachelor's/Master's programme was taught in English, you still have to include an English proficiency test result. Also, applicants who have obtained an English IB-certificate (International Baccalaureate) do not have to hand in the results of an English proficiency test. Please note that this explanation is not applicable to international students who have obtained one of their degrees (Master's / Bachelor's / IB-certificate) in English, in a non-EU, non-English speaking country. If this is your case, please contact your International Student Advisor.    

Tuition Fees 

Q: I have a question about tuition fees, where can I find the answer? 
A: Please check this website. If you cannot find the answer here, please contact the Central Student Desk

If did not find the answer to your question here, please feel free to contact us. 

Master's track International Migration and Refugee Law

Overview Law: International Migration and Refugee Law




1 year (fulltime)



1 April for students from outside the EU. 1 June for EU students with a non-Dutch degree. 15 July for all other students.


September 1st or February 1st




Economics, Business and Law

Marco Notabartolo die Sciara



"IMRL focusses not only on the legal aspects, but on the social aspects of the area of migration law as well."

Student experiences


"International Migration and Refugee Law (IMRL) focusses mainly on a thorough analysis of the legal aspects of migration, with a particular attention on the interconnection of European and International legislations on the topic. At the same time, however, it allows students to approach the subject from several angles and perspectives, thanks to a broad choice of elective courses and to the variety of nationalities represented in the classes. IMRL’s student, indeed, come from all over the world and attribute knowledge about their national legislation and earlier law education. You are given the opportunity to look further than your own perspective. IMRL provides a diverse study program with high skilled VU-based professors teaching small groups of motivated students, as well as numerous guest lectures and seminars. All this elements, together with the fact the VU one of the biggest research group on the subject of migration law, were reasons for me to apply this master’s track. I experience IMRL as an intensive, challenging and stimulating master."

Esther Umelue

"Starting the master specialization International Migration and Refugee Law (IMRL) was an eye opener for me, the challenging courses motivate me to put in my best effort. The professors are very cooperative and encouraging as well, having only a small group of students there’s a lot of interaction and opportunity to discuss or ask questions. With the VU Amsterdam having one of the biggest research groups on Migration Law there is a lot of exposure to new knowledge which makes me long for more information. What I like the most about the courses is that I’m learning the many aspects of current issues and with this gained knowledge I will be of help in society, whether that’s in an European country or in Nigeria, where I completed my earlier education. IMRL makes you aware of the present issues in everyday life and how the legislation does not cover these issues sufficiently enough."

Fiona Skevi

"With my master’s track I wanted to learn in depth about Migration and Refugee law in Europe. International Migration and Refugee Law (IMRL) is one of the few LLM master tracks that offers this specialization and gives you the opportunity to compose your own schedule by picking the courses you are most interested in. IMRL is a very demanding and intensive master’s track, but in a motivating way. The well-known professors challenge you to not only attend the high quality courses but also embark in extracurricular activities. For example, I applied and got selected for the Migration Law Clinic, in which I have the opportunity to gain but also apply knowledge in the field of migration and refugee law by doing research and writing expert legal advices on real cases. IMRL has a very informal surrounding, the teachers are very accessible and encourage you to pursue your initiatives." 

Melissa Gerber"I am a law graduate from Cape Town, South Africa. I am enrolled at the VU Amsterdam, studying an LLM programme, International Migration and Refugee law. I first came to the VU during my final semester of my bachelor degree as an exchange student, and knew instantly that I had to return to complete my masters here. The VU is multicultural, diverse and a friendly place to learn and grow as an individual. The town of Amsterdam is one of the prettiest towns on the face of this planet, and Dutch life is second to none. 

If you are looking to expand your academic knowledge, grow and learn in a multicultural society and explore the beauty of Amsterdam, the VU is the place for you!

International Migration and Refugee law is a very specialized master programme. The VU Amsterdam IMRL department offers one of the biggest and most diverse research facilities in the world. The programme delves deep into the intricate legal instruments involved in migration law and considers fundamental human rights against the backdrop of migration and refugee law."

Admission & Contact

Admission is based on a selection procedure. The Faculty’s Admission Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application. 

In order to gain admission to this specialization, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited research university including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 EC or equivalent.

Specific admission requirements for the Master of Laws for Specialisation in International Migration and Refugee Law: 

The admission requirements are as follows:

  • Applicants should have at least a Bachelor's degree in Law. 
  • Applicants who do not have a Bachelor in Law but in another subject are still encouraged to apply, provided that they have completed at least 60 EC credits worth (one year) of law subjects, including some international and European Law. This may be relevant for people with e.g. political science or liberal arts degrees and ‘Law and (..)’ degrees. 
  • Applicants who do not meet the abovementioned requirement can exceptionally be admitted as well, provided that they have a sound academic background and considerable experience in the field of law. 
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam requires non-Dutch applicants to take an English test. You can already apply online without having the test results. In case you haven’t taken a test yet we advise you to plan a test date as soon as possible. Please refer to the language requirement page for the minimum requirements regarding the English language test and in which cases exceptions can be made to this rule and the deadline for handing in the test results. Also check the FAQ to see which exceptions can be made. Students can email their language test results to:
If you have read the admission criteria and feel you are eligible for admission, please take the following steps to submit your application. Note that the initial application procedure is fully online and that scans of your relevant documents are required.

Step 1: Meet admission criteria  

Step 2: Prepare documents and apply online

For Dutch Degree Holders 
For the online application, Dutch degree holders can follow the online application procedure for Dutch students. The deadlines as stated in the overview above apply.
For questions see our contact details under Contact & Information days below.

For International Degree Holders 
For the online application, international degree holders can follow the online application procedure for international students.
The deadlines as stated in the overview above apply. 
For questions see our contact details under Contact & Information days below.
Please note: in case international students would like to apply for university housing, we cannot guarantee this housing if the application is made after 1 April.
N.B. In the national application system Studielink, please select the Master's programme ‘Rechtsgeleerdheid’ (Master’s of Law). You can select the specialisation International Migration and Refugee Law at a later stage in our Vunet student portal.

In case of non-Dutch degrees we need to evaluate the level of your Bachelor degree. Therefore we ask international students to provide the following documents via VUnet. All documents should be provided in English or Dutch. 
  • Copy of your valid passport or ID (no translation needed) 
  • Transcript of records 
  • If available, a copy of your diploma
Note: In the national application system Studielink, please select the Master’s programme ‘Rechtsgeleerdheid’ (Master’s of Law). You can select the specialization International Migration and Refugee Law at a later stage in our Vunet student portal.

Step 3: Await decision on admission  
The admission board will review your application as soon as it is complete. Normally this takes about four weeks, but it might take longer in busy periods so be sure to apply as soon as possible. If you gain admission, you will receive a letter of conditional admission by email. You can start planning your move to Amsterdam.

Step 4: Finalize your registration and move to Amsterdam!  
Make sure to finalize your registration as a student before the start of the programme. 

• Extra information for Dutch students
• Extra information for International Degree holders.

When all conditions are met you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam.

Additional information for International Students

Further information about;  
Application fee  
Tuition fees

Contact for International Degree Students  
For detailed questions about the Master’s programmes or the application procedure contact your International Student Advisor at the International Office:

Laura Smit 
T: + 31 (0)20 598 6205 



VU Amsterdam offers various scholarships to international Master's students. 

Other scholarships

  • Students in China can contact their local NESO offices (Netherlands Education Support Office) in either Beijing: NESO Office Beijing.
  • Indonesian students can contact their NESO Office Jakarta for more detailed information.
  • All other students may contact Nuffic, the Netherlands Organization for International Cooperation in Higher Education, or visit Grantfinder, about studying in the Netherlands and financial aid, or their local Royal Netherlands Embassy.
Visa/Residence permit

Students from non-EU/EEA and Visa required countries who will stay for a period longer than 3 months, are required to obtain a permit for temporary stay (MVV- Machtiging tot Voorlopig Verblijf) in order to enter the Netherlands. The university applies for this visa by a so-called ‘accelerated visa procedure’. Students can not apply for a MVV themselves. 
More information on the application for your residence permit 


Before you come to the Netherlands, you should inquire whether your current health insurance will suffice in the Netherlands or if you need a supplementary cover. If you are insured with your own company for your stay in the Netherlands, take a proof with you that you are. 
More information on insurances

Contact a student ambassador

Some international students are happy to tell you about their experiences with living and studying in Amsterdam. These Student Ambassadors come from all over the world and have attended various bachelor's and master's programmes.

Our student ambassadors are listed on the webpage below. Reach out to them and get their stories about being a student at VU Amsterdam!

Information for international students > International degree holders > Contact our student ambassadors 

Naganathar, VeeniIf you have questions regarding the programme, please contact Veeni Naganathar, e-mail:

Questions on admission and application
If you have a Dutch degree and you have any questions on admission or application, please contact

If you have an international degree, please contact our Admission Officer, ms. Laura Smit:

General questions
If you have any general questions after reading the website, please contact our Communications department: