Since the 1980s, Western states have denied refugee status for asylum seekers who can receive protection in a part of their country of nationality other than that of their habitual residence based on the principle of the internal protection alternative (IPA). Since then, this principle has been applied very inconsistently. While some jurisdictions require a high level of human rights protection in the IPA area, others return asylum seekers to such an area despite a history of significant human rights violations. The question that this thesis aims to answer is: What is the required level of human rights protection in the IPA area under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees? This thesis explores the current approaches to assessing the required level of human rights protection. This thesis then argues for a new approach, which is more in line with the Refugee Convention. Using a contextual approach of the legal basis of the IPA inquiry, it is argued that the new approach must assess whether basic civil and political rights are respected in the IPA zone, as “national protection” under the Refugee Convention entails at least the protection of these rights. Furthermore, states must assess whether the conditions in the IPA zone may compel someone to return to the area of persecution, as returning someone an area with such conditions violates the prohibition of refoulement under Article 33(1) of the Refugee Convention. This thesis explores how a lack of respect for the rights to work, education and health may result in someone returning to the area of persecution. This is because in cases where people do not receive enough remuneration or unemployment assistance to sustain themselves and their families or cannot afford to access education or health services, they typically rely on support from their family and community. If they cannot access such support in the IPA area, but they believe they can in the area of persecution, they may therefore be compelled to return. Therefore, a high level of human rights protection is required in the IPA area.


Law Department

Degree Name

MA in International Human Rights Law

Graduation Date

Fall 7-26-2020

Submission Date

July 2020

First Advisor

Beckett, Jason

Second Advisor


Third Advisor


Committee Member 1

Awad, Ibrahim

Committee Member 2

Skouteris, Thomas

Committee Member 3



59 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1

International Human Rights Law


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First, I want to express how blessed I feel to be part of a family that has been so supportive of me through the years! My parents supported me in my decision to apply for a master’s degree at the AUC and their encouraging words have helped me get through these years of living far away from home. I also want to thank my siblings, uncles and aunts who have supported me every step along the way! I feel very privileged to have attended this Master of Arts program at the law department of the AUC. I want to thank Professor Jason Beckett for his support and guidance throughout the thesis writing process. I also want to thank him for his excellent course on human rights law, which opened my eyes to how law in many ways serves to perpetuate and exacerbate inequality. I want to thank the second readers of my thesis, Professor Ibrahim Awad and Professor Thomas Skouteris. I am grateful that Professor Awad gave me the opportunity to be his teaching assistant and I am proud to have taken two of his courses. One of the ways in which the law department impressed me was their involvement in international moot courts and the experience of participating in the ICC moot court with a team headed by Professor Skouteris is something I will never forget. I am forever grateful to Professor Tarek Badawy for inspiring me to specialize in refugee law and for giving me feedback on my drafts while I wrote my thesis. Furthermore, I want to thank Professors Hani Sayed, Mai Taha and Khaled Mansour for teaching some of the most interesting courses I have ever attended and Diana van Bogaert for giving me valuable advice throughout my time at the AUC and for her encouragement and support. I am especially grateful for the fact that she suggested me to work for Saint Andrew’s Refugee Services, which has been a very valuable experience for me! I want to thank the AUC at-large for having given me the opportunity to study at their university through the International Graduate Fellowship. Without this fellowship, it would not have been possible.