Access to asylum: Current challenges and future directions

Refugees image
Photo credit: UNHCR Regional Office for Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific


29-30 May 2014


Monash University Prato Centre, Italy

About the conference

The aim of this international conference is to determine how best to safeguard the rights of asylum seekers in balance with the responsibilities of states. It will analyse relevant standards under regional instruments, international human rights law, and the 1951 Refugee Convention. The conference will examine current challenges faced by asylum seekers in gaining access to international refugee protection, the implications of state practices for the rights of refugees, the responsibilities of states and their impact upon refugee status determination procedures (RSD).

It will bring together refugee law scholars, government and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), and decision-makers to discuss the practices of leading asylum-host countries in different regions, including Europe, UK, Australia, the USA and Canada.

In addition, the conference will involve the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and various regional organisations dealing with refugee issues. Thus the conference will be both comparative and international. It will also include both practical and theoretical perspectives.

The conference is being organised by Dr Maria O’Sullivan and Professor Susan Kneebone, Faculty of Law, Monash University with the support of Dr David Cantor, Director, Refugee Law Initiative, University of London and Dr Dallal Stevens, Faculty of Law, Warwick University. The two-day conference will have a range of plenary sessions with the final session to comprise a panel discussion on proposals for allocation of responsibility for burden-sharing.

Confirmed speakers

The keynote address will be delivered by Mr. Volker Turk, , Director of International Protection, UNHCR. Other speakers include:

  • Professor Deborah Anker, Harvard Law School, Harvard University
  • Dr David Cantor, Director, Refugee Law Initiative, University of London
  • Dr Cathryn Costello, Refugee Studies Centre and Faculty of Law, Oxford University
  • Maria Hennessy, Senior Legal Officer, European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE)
  • Julia Ivan, Legal Officer, Hungarian Helsinki Committee
  • Linda Kirk, Senior Member, Refugee Review Tribunal Australia
  • Professor Susan Kneebone, Emeritus Associate, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Faculty of Law, Monash University
  • Dr Maria O’Sullivan, Associate, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Faculty of Law, Monash University
  • Dr Sean Rehaag, Osgoode Hall Law School, Centre for Refugee Studies, York University
  • Hugo Storey,  Senior Judge, Upper Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber, United Kingdom
  • Dr Dallal Stevens, Faculty of Law, Warwick University

Plenary sessions

  • ‘Access to asylum – putting asylum back into Refugee Law’
  • ‘Accessing asylum – where do state responsibilities begin and end?’
  • 'Access to Justice and Refugee Status Determination Procedures – Examples from the USA, Latin America and The Middle East'
  • ‘Best practices in RSD – consistency, transparency and scrutiny’
  • 'The meaning of ‘asylum’:  Interpretation of the Refugee Convention and Human Rights Protection'
  • Access to Asylum – Particular Cohorts\Case Examples
  • Final panel discussion on proposals for allocation of responsibility\burden-sharing

Parallel sessions include topics such as:
• Externalisation and Privatisation of Borders
• Protection Capacity Building
• Protection and Decision-making in the Asia Pacific region
• Access to Asylum and Reception conditions/Social Rights
• Denial of Access to Asylum – Adverse Security Assessments and Exclusion cases

Conference program

We are pleased to provide this programme (PDF, 0.53 MB) as at 13 May 2014. Please note programme is subject to change.

In conjunction with the Access to Asylum conference, an Early Career Researcher (ECR) Symposium will be held on Wednesday 28 May. Due to limitations on space the ECR Symposium will be limited to ECR participants/invitees only.

Registration for conference

Registration for this two-day conference includes daily catering plus conference dinner at a historic local Villa in Prato on 29 May. Registrations have now closed.

For enquiries about the conference please contact


Registration key dates

  • Standard Early Bird ending 23 March 2014 AU$569
  • Standard ending 24 April 2014 AU$657
  • Student ending 24 April 2014 AU$423 (conference dinner must be purchased separately)

Note that registration is in Australian dollars. If purchaser is making an international transaction, local currency and exchange fluctuations may apply.

Participating organisations

  • Refugee Law Initiative, University of London
  • Warwick University
  • European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE)
  • Castan Centre for Human Rights Law

Host city: Prato, Italy

Prato is the second largest city in Tuscany with a population of around 180,000. Located a short distance from Florence, Prato is a hidden gem that offers the tourist many historical and artistic attractions.

In the centre of the town, Prato offers a wealth of architectural heritage including the Emperor’s Castle (built by the Emperor Frederick II), the Cathedral with its revered relic of the Madonna’s sacred belt, Palazzo Pretorio, Datini’s house, the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Carceri, the medieval churches of St Francis, St Dominic and St Augustine as well as a number of patrician palaces.

These building and the city museums hold works of art by great masters of the 14th century and Renaissance.

Prato   Prato

Conference venue

The Monash University Prato Centre is located in the centre of Prato; 20 minutes from central Florence, and 15 minutes from the Florence international airport. The Monash Centre occupies the first floor of the 18th century Palazzo Vaj. The present owners, L’Arte della Lana or ‘Wool Guild’, purchased the building from the Vaj family in the 1920s. Between 1875 and 1999, the parts of the building which now house the Monash Centre were home to a prestigious club for local businessmen.

Conference accommodation

May is a busy time in Tuscany so the organisers have pre-booked rooms in a number of hotels near the Conference venue in Prato to assist registrants. If you wish to avail yourself of the below rates, contact the hotel directly and quote the booking code "access-asylum" before the 1st of April 2014.

Hotel Flora
Single room: Euro 62.00
Double room single use: Euro 72.00
Double or twin room: Euro 86.00
Phone: +39 0574 33521

Hotel San Marco
Single room: Euro 60.00
Double room single use: Euro 65.00
Double or twin room: Euro 80.00
Phone: +39 0574 21321

Hotel Giardino
Single room: Euro 70.00
Double room single use: Euro 80.00
Double or twin room: Euro 90.00
Phone: +39 0574 26189

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