Greek Council for Refugees training films

Published: 11 Oct 2016

These seven  superb training films were prepared in 2000 by the Greek Council for Refugees as the lead agency in partnership with the Refugee Legal Center and the British Refugee Council, the Danish Refugee Council, the Dutch Refugee Council with the financial support of the European Commission. They were ‘lost’ for years and have recently been discovered by Professor James Hathaway,  Director of the Program in Refugee and Asylum Law and the University of Michigan Law School. The University of Michigan Law School graciously digitized the training videos from their original format in order to make them available free of charge to all, including,  for publishing on  

In this film series, the tutor, Kostas Vatsos trains the officers to conduct better interviews in order to reach a fair assessment in the asylum cases. At the end of each film, Professor J. Hathaway discusses the cases and explains how the six essential elements of refugee definition are applied in practice.

Anuardi – An ordinary refugee case

Description: Anuardi seeks asylum because of his political membership in the opposition party. The interviewer needs evidence to prove this membership, however as Mr. Vatsos, who is instructing points out, the applicant might be hesitant to talk with any authority if he has been persecuted by the authorities of his country of origin. According to the UNHCR handbook, it is the officer’s duty to gain the confidence of the applicant in order to obtain a clear and fully covered statement.

Ferouse – The burden of proof and the role of evidence

Description: Ferouse, studying outside her country, writes a thesis on a topic her government objects to and puts her on a banned list. We learn, in this case, when someone becomes a refugee because of some changed circumstances while outside their country, she is called a ‘sur place refugee.’ In some of such cases, it might be difficult to determine if the claim was made in good faith. What do you think, Professor Hathaway concludes?

Mahnaz – Persecuted due to gender

Description: Charged with adultery, Mahnaz fled stoning in her country of origin. Mr. Vatsos advises the interviewer on two issues taught in this film: while gender is not distinguished by the 51 Convention, gender has been accepted courts as a ‘social group’. The Tutor, in this film, challenges the interviewer for the manner in which he seems to be attempt to be gathering evidence of Mahnaz’s credibility.

Justina and Farid – Persecution by Non-Governmental Agents

Description: In this film, we watch two different cases of Justina and Ferid to compare and contrast their asylum processes. In both cases, the applicants base their claims on economic interest, however that does not mean an automatic denial of their refugee status. On the one hand someone can be simply an economic migrant, but on the other hand she or he can be a refugee whose economic, social and cultural rights are violated based on civil or political status. In the case of Justina, she is deprived of her rights because of her ethnicity and the government is proved to be not able to protect her. However, Farid’s case is more problematic since his claim is that he cannot continue his hotel business in a profitable basis. Does this cause the rejection of his case?

Fatima – Victim of war and generalized violence

Description: Fatima is a victim of generalized violence during the civil war in her country of origin. However, in the Geneva Convention there is no specific reference to the victims of wars. How, in this case, does Professor Hathaway argue Fatima should be recognized as a refugee?

Halida – Internal Flight Alternative

Description: Halida has suffered serious harm and persecution in her country of origin. However, for the three years before she fled, she stayed in a region of her country, which is run by an informal union and considered as safe. Halida is still granted the refugee status because she could not go back to her hometown. However, Hathaway disagrees with the basis that this was granted:  he argues that she must be granted refugee status on the grounds of the lack of state protection. If it is considered safe for Halide to only live in an area run by an informal group, that is insufficient.

Gernal – Exclusion Clause

Description: Gernal is a member of the political opposition group and convicted for attempted murder. In this case, the applicant is assessed on whether he is worthy of refugee status because of the crime he has committed: does the exclusion clause apply to him?  Hathaway argues that Gernal does not fit into the exclusion clauses – how does he argue this?