Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2006

Abstract

Governments in all parts of the world are withdrawing in practice from meeting the legal duty to provide refugees with the protection they require. While states continue to proclaim a willingness to assist refugees as a matter of political discretion or humanitarian goodwill, many appear committed to a pattern of defensive strategies designed to avoid international legal responsibility toward involuntary migrants. Some see this shift away from a legal paradigm of refugee protection as a source of enhanced operational flexibility in the face of changed political circumstances. For refugees themselves, however, the increasingly marginal relevance of international refugee law has in practice signaled a shift to inferior or illusory protection. It has also imposed intolerable costs on many of the poorest countries, and has involved states in practices antithetical to their basic political values.


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