Global Migration Issues


Researching international or global migration may involve delving into other topics. As one can imagine, these topics are varied: human rights, refugees, public policy, etc. While the materials and sources may vary, there are some common ways to approach researching this area.

When researching an international law topic, the researcher is usually looking for several bodies of law and sources of information:

  • public international law (usually treaties and documents)
  • foreign law (national laws)
  • guidelines or principles (materials from IGOs and NGOs)
  • commentary and explanatory materials

A savvy international legal researcher will consult materials in other related disciplines since useful materials can be found in law-related resources.

General Approach

  • Start with a research guide, if possible.
  • Identify any terms of art or keywords or phrases to be used. A new resource on the use of selected terms and concepts is available from UNICEF, see People on the Move: Handbook of Selected Terms and Concepts (2008).
  • Use secondary sources for an overview or introduction to the subject and for citations to primary law and other sources. Commentary and analysis are contained in a variety of sources (books, reports, working papers, journal articles, and news sources).
  • Locate the relevant law (often times, the researcher is looking for a combination of legal sources as well as a combination of materials):
    • international treaties and agreements
    • international decisions (includes jurisprudence and other dispute resolution decisions)
    • international soft law (principles, guidelines)
    • national legislation
    • national case law
    • supranational law (EU law)
  • Locate relevant IGO and NGO documentation.
  • Consider books and articles from other disciplines as well.

To learn about new web research and information relating to refugees, IDPs and forced migration, consult the Forced Migration Current Awareness Blog. See also, Researching Refugees, a blog to track new research.

If you are new to international law, the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (UCB only) is a good place to get an overview of a topic as well as a list of important document.  Another resource with shorter entries is the Parry & Grant Encyclopedic Dictionary of International Law (UCB only).

Research Guides

To locate relevant research guides and bibliographies, search LawCat using keywords (for example, human rights and legal research) or use relevant subject headings: [topic]--legal research , [topic]--bibliographies, or [topic]--library resources . Often times, research guides and bibliographies will identify sources which contain both international law documents and national law. Many guides and bibliographies relating to specific topics can be located in periodical literature. Use legal periodical indexes to locate these articles since they may not be available full text on either Lexis or Westlaw.

International Instruments and Documents

There are many sources for treaties and agreements. Listed below are a few electronic sources for international instruments. For more information on researching treaties, see the Researching Treaties and International Agreements research guide.

UN Documents and Web Sites

For more guidance on UN documentation, see Researching the United Nations. Be sure to get assistance from our UN Specialist, Wiltrud Harms (in the UN Room).

National Legislation and Country Information

See also Researching International Human Rights Law for more information on researching country conditions. To locate more national law, see Researching Foreign and Comparative Law.

Locating Books

Searching LawCat is very important for determining what books are available on a particular topic. You may want to start by doing some keyword searching in order to determine the correct subject heading. Some of the subject headings will look like this:

emigration and immigration
forced migration
population transfers
refugees--legal status, laws, etc.

Selected Books

The materials listed below provide either an introduction to migration and related topics or a more in-depth analysis of the issues.

Bagshaw, Developing a Normative Framework for the Protection of Internally Displaced Persons (Ardsley, N.Y. : Transnational Publishers, 2005).

Buergenthal, International Human Rights in a Nutshell (4th ed., St. Paul, MN: West Group, 2009).

Buergenthal, Public International Law in a Nutshell (4th ed., St. Paul, MN: West Group, 2007).


Global Migration and Development (New York : Routledge, 2008).

Goodwin-Gill, The Refugee in International Law (3rd ed., Oxford: New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).

Hathaway, The Rights of Refugees under International Law (Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2005).

Human Rights Protection for Refugees, Asylum-seekers, and Internally Displaced Persons: A Guide to International Mechanisms and Procedures ( Joan Fitzpatrick ed., Ardsley, NY: Transnational Publishers, 2002).

International Migration in the New Millennium: Global Movement and Settlement (Danièle Joly ed., Aldershot, Hants, England; Burlington, VT,: Ashgate, 2004).

Migration: Immigration and Emigration in International Perspective (Leonore Loeb Adler & Uwe P. Gielen eds., Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2003).

Migration and International Legal Norms (T. Alexander Aleinikoff, Vincent Chetail eds., The Hague: T.M.C. Asser, 2003).

Morrison, International Migration of Women (Washington, D.C.: World Bank; Basingstoke; New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).

New Perspectives on Gender and Migration: Livelihood, Rights and Entitlements (Nicola Piper ed., New York : Routledge, 2008).

The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol: A Commentary (Andreas Zimmermann ed., New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).

The Refugee Convention at Fifty: A View from Forced Migration Studies (Joanne van Selm et al. eds., Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2003).

The Refugee Law Reader: Cases, Documents, and Materials (Hungarian Helsinki Committee).

Refugee Protection in International Law : UNHCR's Global Consultations on International Protection (Erika Feller et al. eds., Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003). Also available on the UNHCR's web site.

Weissbrodt, Immigration Law and Procedure in a Nutshell (6th ed., [St. Paul, Minn.]: Thomson/West, 2011).

OskiCat and Melvyl

While the Law Library does collect many books on law-related subjects, be sure to search the catalog of the other UCB libraries and the catalog for the UC system. Please note that Melvyl does not have any records for the law library beyond July 2007.  OskiCat, the UCB catalog, does not have any law library records.

Journal Literature

Many periodicals (both legal and non-legal) contain articles on a variety of migration and related issues. Be sure to use indexes listed below and not just full-text sources on LexisNexis and Westlaw. For more information on researching articles, see Locating International & Foreign Law Journal Articles.

The databases listed below may only be accessed by the UC Berkeley Community. Some of these databases are available through remote access. Be sure to set the proxy settings on your computer. Once the proxy settings have been set, you will be prompted for your CalNet user id and passphrase.

Index to Legal Periodicals and Books (ILP). Contains citations from more than 820 legal periodicals from 1981 and an index to law books published since 1993 from the United States, Canada, Ireland, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Updated monthly. The print edition covers 1908 on. Also available in print and on LexisNexis and Westlaw. A retrospective version of ILP is also available, see the Law Library's list of online research databases.

Legal Resource Index (LRI). Indexes approximately 800 legal publications from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia. It also covers law related articles from more than 1,000 additional business and general interest periodicals. Coverage begins in 1980 and is updated monthly. Also available in print as Current Law Index (until 2003) and on LexisNexis and Westlaw. Available from the Law Library's list of online research databases as Legaltrac.

Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (IFLP). A multilingual index to articles and book reviews appearing in approximately 492 legal journals published worldwide. The print edition covers from 1960 on and the electronic version covers 1985 to present. Available from the Law Library's list of databases.

Legal Journals Index (LJI). Indexes approximately 485 journals from the UK & Europe. Coverage is from 1986 on. The print versions of this index (Legal Journals Index and European Legal Journals Index) discontinued in 1999. Legal Journals Index is available on Westlaw.

Public International Law (Berlin; New York: Springer-Verlag, 1975-). See also the Max Planck Institute's web site.

Peace Palace Library's catalog is also a good place to locate relevant articles and books.

HeinOnline, provides legal researchers with collections of the earliest legal periodicals and other legal classics that are out-of-print or hard to obtain in hardcopy (UCB only).

Other indexes that focus on law-related topics can also be of use when doing research on migration topics. These indexes include: PAIS International, African Studies, Hispanic American Periodicals Index, Worldwide Political Science Abstracts, and many more. All of these indexes are available from the UCB List of Article Databases (UCB only).

Selected Journals (electronic access for UCB only)

Listed below are some selected journals that focus on migration and related issues. Some are law journals and some are from other disciplines. This is not a complete list of journals and journal indexes (see above) should be searched to locate articles in other journals.

Working Papers

A rich sources of scholarship and commentary is available in working and research paper collection. Listed below are some good collections and the papers focus on very current topics.

Statistics and Data

The sources listed below contain data and statistical information on migration and related issues.

Migration Web Sites

There are many web sites that contain useful information on migration, internally displaced persons, etc. Here is a sampling of what is available.

Other Databases (UCB Only)

There are many other databases available from the Law Library as well as the main library.  For a list of the databases offered by the main library, see UCB Electronic Resources.

  • CIAO (Columbia International Affairs Online)
    Indexes journals, books, policy briefs, working papers, and conference proceedings from research institutes worldwide related to international affairs analysis and advocacy materials. Also includes links to international affairs Internet sources.
  • Contemporary Women's Issues
    Indexes a wide range of journals, hard-to-find newsletters, reports, pamphlets, fact sheets, and guides covering a broad array of gender-related issues such as violence, economic development, health, the military, education, human rights, and law. Covers sources published by organizations around the world.
  • Encyclopedia of Human Rights
    Comprehensive coverage of all aspects of human rights theory, practice, law and history. 
  • Ethnic NewsWatch
    Indexes over 200 ethnic, minority, and native press publications. Contains news, culture, and history searchable in both English and Spanish.
  • GenderWatch
    Includes magazines, academic journals, newspapers, newsletters, books, pamphlets, conference proceedings, and government reports that focus on the impact of gender across a broad spectrum of subject areas.
  • International Law Reports (ILR)
    Covers significant cases dealing with public international law issues, in English, from international courts and tribunals.
  • Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law
    Comprehensive coverage of public international law topics; search by keyword for migration, refugee, etc.
  • Oxford Reports on International Law (ORIL)
    International law jurisprudence from a variety of international courts and tribunals.
  • PAIS International
    Indexes books, journals, government documents, statistical directories, grey literature, research reports, conference reports, and web sources related to public policy, politics, economics, and social issues worldwide. Includes publications from over 120 countries.
  • PolicyFile
    Index to public policy in the areas of economics, politics, the environment, and social issues, taken from reports from a wide range of thinks tanks, Non-governmental organizations, international governmental organizations, and other institutions worldwide.
  • Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
    Indexes books, journals, and dissertations within the field of political science and related to international relations, law and politics, political economy, public administration, and public policy.


Prepared by Marci Hoffman, International and Foreign Law Librarian, UC Berkeley Law Library. Prepared January 2005, last updated September 2011.

Last edited by Marci Hoffman, 19 September 2011