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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.