Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1998

Abstract

Ironic though it may seem, I believe that the present breakdown in the authority of international refugee law is attributable to its failure explicitly to accommodate the reasonable preoccupations of governments in the countries to which refugees flee. International refugee law is part of a system of state self-regulation. It will therefore be respected only to the extent that receiving states believe that it fairly reconciles humanitarian objectives to their national interests. In contrast, refugee law arbitrarily assigns full legal responsibility for protection to whatever state asylum-seekers are able to reach. It is a peremptory regime. Apart from the right to exclude serious criminals and persons who pose a security risk, the duty to avoid the return of any and all refugees who arrive at a state's frontier takes no account of the potential impact of refugee flows on the receiving state. This apparent disregard for their interests has provided states with a pretext to avoid international legal obligations altogether.


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