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)

Conveners

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.

Members

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

Contact

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).