A Reconsideration of the Underlying Premise of Refugee Law

James C. Hathaway, University of Michigan Law School

Work published when author not on Michigan Law faculty


Refugee law is often thought of as a means of institutionalizing societal concern for the well-being of those forced to flee their countries, grounded in the concept of humanitarianism and in basic principles of human rights. In practice, however, international refugee law seems to be of marginal value in meeting the needs of the forcibly displaced and, in fact, increasingly affords a basis for rationalizing the decisions of states to refuse protection. This Article is an inquiry into the underlying premise of international refugee law, with a view toward critically assessing its actual and potential relevance in meeting the needs of refugees in a universal context.