The World Refugee Regime in Crisis: A Failure to Fulfill The Burden-Sharing And Humanitarian Requirements of the 1951 Refugee Convention

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Proceedings of the ASIL Annual Meeting




Professor Musarat-Akram provided several examples which illustrate the crisis of the international refugee regime. Specifically, they illustrate, first, that the protections offered so generously in the language and purpose of the 1951 Refugee Convention7 are more European and-Western-centered than ever before.

Second, they illustrate some of the restrictionist policies by which Western and industrialized states have succeeded in confining huge refugee flows to the most impoverished and least developed states in the world.

Third, they illustrate that the initial limitations inherent in the 1951 Refugee Convention have now been exacerbated by state practice which interprets the Convention language and purpose to further domestic self-interest (or perceived foreign policy interests) rather than the humanitarian purpose required by the Convention to provide adequate refugee protection worldwide.

Some of the examples reflect some of the new restrictionism of the Western states to deflect and confine refugee flows. In Europe, so-called "harmonization" of asylum policies apparent through such instruments as the Dublin Convention of 19908; the Convention on the Crossing of External Borders9; and the Schengen Agreement initiated in 1985.10

The last two illustrations reflect the serious limitations of the refugee regime itself: the extremely restrictive definition of who qualifies as a refugee under the 1951 Convention; lack of protection for vulnerable persons who do not qualify as Convention-defined refugees; and a complete lack of sanctions against states or entities causing refugee flows or forced displacement. Once again, the effect of these factors is overwhelmingly felt by impoverished non-Western peoples, whether Asian, African, or Middle-Eastern. I would now like to provide some proof for this thesis.

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