Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date



Over the past two decades, international human rights law has provided an increasingly useful framework for interpreting key criteria of the definition of a refugee. A human rights-based approach to analyzing refugee status helps to increase consistency and uniformity in decision making by state parties regarding who qualifies for international protection.

Michelle Foster's book, International Refugee Law and Socio-economic Rights: Refuge from Deprivation (Cambridge U. Press 2007), comes at a critical time, not only because of increasing acceptance of the connection between refugee law and human rights law and significant developments in the current understanding of economic and social rights, but also because more asylum applicants are articulating the aspects of their claims involving socioeconomic deprivation. All jurisdictions, including the United States, now recognize that socioeconomic harm can rise to the level of persecution, but inconsistencies and insecurities still obstruct attempts at coherent analysis. Foster's meticulous research, sober reasoning, and original analysis may encourage additional scholarship on these pressing issues and lead to a more sophisticated understanding of both the refugee definition and the substantive content of economic and social rights. The proper adjudication of socioeconomic claims will likely play a vital role in challenging the lingering, dominant orthodoxy of civil and political rights, help coalesce the relationship between human rights and refugee law, and promote the development of refugee law, with some coherency, as a body of law.

Publication Citation

103 Am. J. Int'l L. 784 (2009).