Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the right of every person to seek asylum from persecution in other countries. Accordingly, the United Nations adopted the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees in 1951. The Convention, in its first article, sets the definition of the term refugee. It also establishes a criteria that decision makers should follow in order to determine if someone is a refugee. Since the implementation of the Convention, writers and practitioners have regularly been using an approach that maintains a dichotomy between economic migrants and political refugees. This dichotomy is regularly used by decision makers to reject entire classes of applicants on the basis that their claims reflect economic migrant status rather than refugee status. The current situation of global destitution has pushed many people from poor countries to flee to more developed countries where they apply for asylum in order to find protection. These applicants have started to make claims that have begun to challenge the boundaries of the Refugee Convention and question the validity of the traditional dichotomy between economic migrants and political refugees. This paper identifies the conceptual and analytical challenges presented by claims based on economic and social deprivation. It assesses how to overcome these challenges by using a creative interpretation of the Refugee Convention based on recent developments in international human rights law. The central argument of this paper is that in spite of, the traditional dichotomy made between economic migrants and political refugees by legal scholars, the Refugee Convention is capable of accommodating many more claims based on social or economic deprivation. To prove this argument, the paper analyzes each element of the refugee definition and shows how socio-economic-based claims can fulfill the requirements of a refugee claim.


Law Department

Degree Name

LLM in International and Comparative Law

Graduation Date


Submission Date

May 2019

First Advisor

Beckett, Jason

Committee Member 1

Awad, Ibrahim

Committee Member 2

Taha, Mai


70 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis


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Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Not necessary for this item


This paper is one of the main requirements to fulfill my LL.M. degree from the American University in Cairo. Pursuing my master’s degree at the AUC has been a life-changing experience. The wonderful team of professors in the Law Department have deeply inspired me and I feel that here is a chance to express my gratitude to each one of them. Professor Jason Beckett, my thesis supervisor, I was lucky to meet in my first semester in 2017 in the Jurisprudence course. I want to make a confession here, at the beginning of the course, I was shocked by his critical view of law. It was the first time for me to start questioning the validity of law, how law is violent, and how it has been constructed it a way that serves the rich in authority. I will indebted to him for my entire life. I would like also to express my gratefulness to Professor Hani El-Sayed the Chair of the Law Department, professors Thomas Skouteris, Mai Taha, Hedayat Heikal and Tarek Badawy from the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies for all of their efforts to shape the person I am now proud to be. Special thanks to my dearest professor, Diana Van Bogaert, without her presence and guidance I could not have achieved any of this. She has been my mentor during this long journey of my master’s degree. I am wholeheartedly indebted to my family, especially my mother who has given me an example of how independent and strong women can be. She is a true inspiration and a role model. I would like to thank also my father, my brother Khaled and my sister Nourhan for their continuous support which has encouraged me to go forward with my studies. As being considered as part of my family, I would like to thank my dearest friend Kheloud Ali for her guidance and support from the first day of this long journey. I will be forever indebted to her. Lastly, I would like to show my gratitude to my fellow colleagues and friends in the Law Department Mohamed Diaa, Ali Moussa, Moataz Eidarous and Eslam Dakroury whose comments and advice have been very inspiring to me. I would like also to thank my fellow colleagues at the UNHCR who gave me love and support. Working with them has been the main reason behind my passion towards refugee law. I will always be indebted to them. Finally, I would like to express my gratefulness to my direct supervisors Attorney General Ahmed Wagih and Chief Prosecutor Abdelmegeed El-Sherif for their continuous support and motivation.