Document Type


Publication Date



International refugee law is in crisis. Even as armed conflict and human rights abuse continue to force individuals and groups to flee their home countries, many governments are withdrawing from the legal duty to provide refugees with the protection they require. While governments proclaim a willingness to assist refugees as a matter of political discretion or humanitarian goodwill, they 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 for 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 signalled a shift to inferior or illusory protection. It has also imposed intolerable costs on many of the poorest countries, and has involved developed states in practices antithetical to their basic political values.