Women in Refugee Law (WiRL) Network

The Women in Refugee Law (WiRL) Network was set up in 2021 to bring together asylum seeking and refugee women, senior and early career scholars, practitioners, policymakers and activists working in this field around the globe. The purpose of the network is to re-centre the study of refugee women within refugee law, policy and practice. In particular, the initiative challenges the assumption that legal and policy changes in the last 30 years have displaced the need for continued research and advocacy efforts. It aims to safeguard advances and identify contemporary obstacles to the protection of women in refugee law, policy and practice. 

The broad objectives of this network are:

  • refocusing attention on the needs and experiences of refugee women
  • reviewing the state of protection in domestic jurisdictions and internationally
  • identifying any unrecognised setbacks to adequate protection
  • exploring new challenges and opportunities for collaborative work
  • building an open and inclusive global network to take forward all of the above objectives.

On 4 May 2021, a Roundtable was organised to launch the network. Twenty-one participants from European countries, Australia and the USA attended, including academics, asylum-seeking and refugee women, activists, advocates, and representatives of UNHCR, NGOs and the legal profession. Participants brainstormed and identified research questions and areas of contemporary significance for the protection of refugee women, before proposing steps for taking the initiative forward. The Roundtable was informed by a Concept Note (PDF)

View the Summary Note of the Roundtable (PDF)


Dr Christel Querton

Dr Christel Querton is a Wallscourt Fellow in Law at UWE Bristol and has worked for over ten years in the field of refugee, immigration and human rights law. Her research explores international refugee law, armed conflicts and gender. Christel previously practised as an asylum, immigration and human rights barrister and worked with the Women’s Project at Asylum Aid as Legal Policy Officer (2010-2012) and then as Advisory Committee member (2012-2019).

Dr Moira Dustin

Dr Moira Dustin is module convenor and tutor on gender, sexual identity and age in the refugee context, part of the MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. She is Lecturer in the School of Law, Politics and Sociology at the University of Sussex, where from 2016 to 2020, she was the UK lead on the European Research Council project, SOGICA - Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Claims of Asylum: A European human rights challenge. Moira was also an Advisory Committee member of the Women’s Project at Asylum Aid from 2009 to 2019 and previously worked at the Refugee Council in the UK.


Dr Younous Aarbaoui

Dr Younous Arbaoui is Assistant Professor of Migration Law at the Amsterdam Center for Migration and Refugee Law, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. His research focuses on family-related claims in migration law. His PhD dissertation (2019) presents a critical frame analysis of the Dutch debate on the dilemma of doing justice, through refugee law, to individual freedoms without jeopardizing family life, and vice versa. His current research project examines the impact of the Global Compacts on Migrants and Refugees on human rights of migrants and refugees in African countries. Dr Younous Arbaoui previously worked as team leader within the Dutch Refugee Council and he is the founder and volunteer president of the Hijra Legal Clinic providing legal aid to asylum seekers in Morocco.

Adrienne Anderson

Adrienne Anderson is a solicitor at Refugee Legal and PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne. She was previously a Research Associate at the Kaldor Centre for International Law and, prior to commencing graduate study, a resettlement decision-maker for HIAS Refugee Trust of Kenya and UNHCR in Uganda, Policy Officer and Solicitor at the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, and Legal Associate at the former New Zealand Refugee Status Appeals Authority. She has an LLM from the University of Michigan, where she was a Grotius Fellow, and a BA and LLB (Hons) from the University of Auckland.

Professor Deborah Anker

Deborah Anker is Clinical Professor of Law and Founder of the Harvard Law School Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC). She has taught law students at Harvard for over 30 years. Author of a leading treatise, Law of Asylum in the United States, Professor Anker has co-drafted ground-breaking gender asylum guidelines and amicus curiae briefs. Professor Anker is one of the most widely known asylum scholars and practitioners in the United States; she is cited frequently by international and domestic courts and tribunals, including the United States Supreme Court. Professor Deborah Anker is a pioneer in the development of clinical legal education in the immigration field, training students in direct representation of refugees and creating a foundation for clinics at law schools around the country.

Gabriella Bettiga

Gabriella Bettiga is a solicitor in the UK, accredited as an Advanced Caseworker with the Law Society and as Level 3 OISC. She is the Director of MGBe Legal, a firm dealing with personal and business migration, and a member of the Tribunal Procedure Committee. Gabriella has been Chair of the Independent Cost and Funding Adjudicators at the Legal Aid Agency for many years. She is a trustee of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA) and case note co-editor of the ILPA Journal. She regularly delivers training and writes articles on immigration for national and international publications.

Dr Catherine Briddick

Catherine Briddick is the Refugee Studies Centre’s Departmental Lecturer in Gender and International Human Rights and Refugee Law, and Course Director for the MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies.

Catherine is Principal Investigator of the Undoing Discriminatory Borders project. Her research has been published in leading, peer-reviewed academic journals, including Social & Legal Studies and International & Comparative Law Quarterly. Catherine’s co-authored chapter on trafficking (with Dr Vladislava Stoyanova) has been published in the prestigious Oxford Handbook of International Refugee Law (C. Costello, M. Foster and J. McAdam (eds), OUP 2021). Catherine is an Academic Affiliate of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights and an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Catherine has over ten years’ experience researching, providing legal advice and engaging in legal advocacy on issues relating to gender, forced migration and human rights in the UK. She has practiced as a barrister, representing individuals before Courts and tribunals in addition to having managed and delivered legal advice and information services in the not-for-profit sector.

Professor Sharon Cowan

Sharon Cowan is the professor of feminist and queer legal studies at the University of Edinburgh School of Law. Her research interests include: Gender, Sexuality and the Law; Criminal Law; Criminal Justice; Asylum studies; Critical Pedagogy; Law, Art and Popular Culture.

Previous projects include: with Helen Baillot and Professor Vanessa Munro, a UK-wide empirical project on the asylum system’s treatment of women asylum claimants whose applications are based on a claim of rape; and with Dr Chloe Kennedy and Professor Munro (Warwick), the Scottish Feminist Judgments Project (Twitter: @ScottishFemJP).

Sharon is presently working on a comparative socio-legal project looking at the impact of law on transgender people; and a Scottish Government funded project examining the operation of ‘rape shield’ legislation in Scottish sexual offences trials.

Professor Heaven Crawley FAcSS

Professor Heaven Crawley joined Coventry University in September 2014 from where she leads the MIDEQ Hub, which explores relationships between migration, inequality and development in the Global South. Educated at the Universities of Sussex (1989-1994) and Oxford (1995-1999), Heaven has more than 30 years' experience of migration research in a wide range of institutional settings (government, voluntary sector, national and international organisations, academia). Heaven’s work is underpinned by concerns about the inequalities with which international migration is often associated:

  • global, local and social inequalities that limit human potential and shape decisions to migrate
  • inequalities in opportunities to move safely, often linked to gender, ethnicity or age
  • inequalities in access to protection, work and rights
  • inequalities in the representation of concerns and interests around migration which often decontextualise migration from broader processes of social, political and economic change
  • inequalities in the construction of knowledge around migration processes and outcomes including the marginalisation of migrants and scholars in the Global South.

Heaven has published extensively on a wide range of asylum and migration issues including gender issues in asylum processes and was a founding member of the Refugee Women’s Legal Group (1996-2002). Her book, Refugees and Gender: Law and Process (2001), remains a seminal work in this area.

Dr Sara Dehm

Dr Sara Dehm is a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney. She is also an Associate of the Institute for International Law and the Humanities, Melbourne Law School, and a member of the Kaldor Centre of International Refugee Law’s Emerging Scholars Network at the University of New South Wales. 
Her research expertise is in the history and theory of international migration and refugee law, with a focus on practices of border control, knowledge production and migrant resistance. She is currently involved in a range of collaborations exploring how the provision or denial of healthcare to refugees in Australia’s offshore detention regime constitute new forms of border control and state responsibility externalisation towards refugees and asylum seekers, including a focus on the gendered harms of immigration detention. Her first book, Administering Migration: International Law and the Global Ordering of People, is under contract with Cambridge University Press (forthcoming 2022). 

Brian Gorlick

Brian Gorlick is an international jurist who worked with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and UN Secretariat in a number of senior positions for over twenty-five years. With UNHCR, he served in Turkey, India, the regional office for the Nordics and Baltics, New York, the Caribbean, Bangladesh, Malaysia and the Department of International Protection at Headquarters in Geneva. He has been on UN mission to some forty countries around the globe.

Prior to joining the United Nations, Brian worked as legal counsel in the areas of immigration, refugee and administrative law in Toronto. He holds degrees from the University of Winnipeg (BA), York University, Toronto (MA), Osgoode Hall Law School (JD), the London School of Economics and Political Science (LLM, with distinction), and was called to the Ontario Bar. For several years Brian was Policy Developments Editor of the International Journal of Refugee Law (Oxford University Press). He has published on international refugee and human rights law, gender rights, immigration and national security, and global administrative law, and has lectured and taught at university and training institutions in Asia, Europe and North America. He currently teaches on the MA course in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration and is engaged in consultancy work on public international law.

Dr Jessica Hambly

Dr Jessica Hambly is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Australian National University College of Law. Her research interests include: gender and migration; access to justice for people seeking asylum; socio-legal approaches to asylum law and refugee status determination procedures; and refugee lawyering and advocacy. Jess previously worked with Professor Devyani Prabhat on the ESRC-funded ‘Citizenship and Law Project’ at the University of Bristol, and later with Professor Nick Gill at the University of Exeter on ASYFAIR, a large-scale comparative study of asylum appeal procedures around Europe (funded by the ERC). In the latter role, she was based at the French National Asylum Court. Jess has also volunteered in grassroots asylum advocacy organisations in the UK and on the Greek hotspot islands of Lesvos and Samos.

Dr Nora Honkala

Nora Honkala is a Lecturer in Law at the School of Law, University of Reading. She has also previously worked as a Lecturer in Law at City, University of London, and as a Visiting Lecturer at the Henley Business School. She has published on gender-based persecution claims, particularly involving forced marriage, as well the rights of asylum seeker women and refugees more generally.

Nora's research interests lie primarily in the field of gender and law, particularly feminist and socio-legal approaches to international refugee law, human rights law and public international law.

Stephanie Huber

Asylum Research Centre (ARC) Foundation was set up to raise standards in the production and use of Country of Origin Information (COI) and thus contribute to an improved refugee status determination process. To this end, ARC Foundation undertakes research, advocacy and training. Director and co-Founder, Stephanie Huber, is a Country of Origin (COI) specialist with over 13 years’ experience.

She has also provided administrative support to the Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA) and research, policy and training support to Freedom from Torture, the Hungarian Helsinki Foundation, the Independent Advisory Group on Country Information (IAGCI), the Still Human Still Here Coalition, the Solicitors Regulatory Authority/Legal Ombudsman/Unbound Philanthropy and UNHCR.

Dr Rose Jaji

Dr Rose Jaji is senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Zimbabwe. Her research areas of interest are migration/refugees and conflict and peacebuilding. She has published peer-reviewed articles on migrant/refugee masculinities and femininities, refugees and social technology, identity and refugee hosting, asylum seekers and border crossing, return migration as well as gender and peace building. She is the author of Deviant Destinations: Zimbabwe and North to South Migration (Lexington Books, 2020). 

Loraine Masiya Mponela

Loraine is a community organiser and migrants rights campaigner based in Coventry, England. She is the current chairperson for Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group (CARAG). CARAG is a peer support group which is for and run by people seeking asylum, refugees, migrants and anyone subjected to the UK Immigration and Asylum system. Loraine sits on the Board for Women for Refugee Women and on the Management Committee for Asylum Support Appeals Project (ASAP) among others. Because of community work with CARAG, Loraine has been recognised as ‘Everyday Hero’ by Coventry city of culture 2021. Loraine is originally from Malawi and is a person seeking asylum. Loraine has a lovely son.

Professor Vanessa Munro

Vanessa Munro is Professor of Law at University of Warwick. She has published extensively on law and policy responses to gender-based and sexual violence. Much of that work has focussed on the criminal justice process, but she was also involved – with S. Cowan and H. Baillot –in a substantial, Nuffield Foundation funded project which explored the grounds, dynamics and processes of asylum decision-making in cases where female applicants disclosed experiences of sexual violence as part of their claim. The findings of that study have been used since to inform judicial training amongst tribunal judges, and have been cited widely in campaigns designed to improve responses within the UK asylum process.

Professor Karen Musalo

Professor Karen Musalo is the founding director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at UC Hastings. She is lead co-author of Refugee Law and Policy: An International and Comparative Approach (fifth edition), as well as numerous reports, book chapters and articles. Professor Musalo has litigated major cases in gender asylum, serving as lead attorney in Matter of Kasinga, counsel in Matter of R-A-, amicus in Matter of A-R-C-G-, and co-counsel in Matter of A-B-. She has received numerous awards for her pioneering legal work, including an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Lehman College in 2012. Her current research focuses on gender based violence in the northern triangle countries. 

Dr Helen O'Nions

Dr Helen O’Nions is an Associate Professor of Law at Nottingham Law School, Nottingham Trent University. She has researched in the fields of international human rights and the Roma and European asylum policy for over twenty years. Helen is the author of Asylum: A Right Denied [Routledge 2014] which explores the future of the Common European Asylum System and its compliance with the right to seek and enjoy asylum under international law. 

More recently, Helen has undertaken empirical work exploring the impact of cuts to legal advice on persons with insecure status in Nottingham and is founder of the Nottingham Immigration Network (that brings organisations together to promote best practice in advice provision). Helen continues to coordinate the Nottingham response to the Nationality and Borders Bill 2021 and has been a trustee of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum since 2019.  

Professor Noëlle Quénivet

Dr Noëlle Quénivet is Professor in International Law at the Bristol Law School, UWE Bristol (UK). Her research lays mainly in the fields of International Humanitarian Law, International Criminal Law, and Human Rights Law. Her work focuses on gender-based violence and children in armed conflict and she has extensively published in these areas. She has taught refugee/IDP law in Germany and worked as an intern at UNHCR (London).

Saba Vasefi

Saba Vasefi is an award-winning immigration and human rights journalist, academic, documentary filmmaker and poet. Her Doctor of Philosophy thesis in exilic feminist cinema and documentary filmmaking at Macquarie University has been ranked in the top five percent, and she holds a postgraduate degree in Directing Documentary from the Australian Film Television and Radio School.

Saba Vasefi writes for The Guardian on the rhetoric of displacement and the narratives of refugees incarcerated in the Australian detention regime, and her current research focuses on the gendered harms of immigration detention. She is an honorary member of the Independent Scholars Association of Australia National Council and has received a number of awards for her work on refugee and feminist issues, including for reporting on the gendered impacts of seeking asylum. These include the NSW Premier's Multicultural Medals in Art and Culture, an Edna Ryan Award, a Humanitarian Media Award, an Honorary Brave Rising Star Award, and The National Council of Women Award. She was a finalist for Human Rights Commission Award and Women's Agenda Leadership Award. Vasefi is also an honorary adviser at Indigo Foundation and a Refugee Week Ambassador for the Refugee Council of Australia. She is an editor of Writing in Resistance and Chief Editor of Borderless, An Anthology of Transnational Feminist Poetry. Her documentaries on refugee children and child execution in Iran have been screened internationally.  


Dr Janna Wessels

Dr Janna Wessels is Assistant Professor of Migration Law at the Amsterdam Center for Migration and Refugee Law, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Her research investigates the link between human rights and migration law from the perspective of feminist/queer theory as well as critical legal theory approaches. Her monograph, The Concealment Controversy – Sexual Orientation, Discretion Reasoning and the Scope of Refugee Protection (CUP 2021), interrogates the refugee definition from a queer perspective.   

Dr Wessels’ current research projects include the Mercator Foundation funded project ‘Human Rights challenges to European Migration Policy (REMAP)’ and the Horizon 2020 project, PROTECT – The Right to International Protection, exploring the legal implications of the UN Global Compacts on Refugees and Migrants. She previously worked as Research Associate for an Australian Research Council-funded international comparative project on gender-related harms in refugee law, based at University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Australia and University of British Columbia, Canada. 

Professor Olajumoke Yacob-Haliso

Olajumoke Yacob-Haliso is Professor of Political Science at Babcock University in Nigeria. She has spent over 15 years conducting field research on protection issues affecting African refugee women on the continent at various stages of their displacement, from exile to return. Olajumoke was Global South Scholar-in-Residence at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland; African Studies Association Presidential Fellow; and Visiting Professor at the Rapoport Centre for Human Rights and Justice at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, amongst others. Her refugee research has been supported by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the International Development Research Centre, the American Council of Learned Societies, and so on. Dr Yacob-Haliso’s most recent publication on African refugee women is a chapter in the ground-breaking Palgrave Handbook of African Women’s Studies, while other articles are published in African Affairs, the Journal of Peacebuilding and Development, and others. 

Natasha Yacoub

Natasha Yacoub is a refugee law practitioner and scholar. She has worked for the UN Refugee Agency for 19 years - including postings in Sudan, Egypt, Myanmar, UNHQ New York, Australia and the Pacific - and was a decision maker on the Refugee Review Tribunal of Australia. She is a PhD scholar at the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at the University of New South Wales, undertaking a feminist legal theory analysis of the law governing refugee return. She teaches on the MA programme in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies at the University of London.


The list of members is regularly updated. If you have any queries about WiRL or about joining, please contact either Dr Christel Querton (Christel.Querton@uwe.ac.uk) or Dr Moira Dustin (M.Dustin@sussex.ac.uk).