Refugees, displacement and territorial stability

What is special about refugees? The author of this paper argues that the two main accounts of who should count as a refugee have major shortcomings. The first, based on protection from persecution, is too narrow, as it excludes many people who have to flee their homes for other reasons than persecution. The second, based on the protection of human rights, overcomes this problem, but at the expense of a narrow view of refugee protection, which only amounts to the protection of fundamental human rights. By developing a territorial account of refugeehood, which builds on the human rights account, the author proposes that what is special about refugees is the harm of displacement. The conceptual implication is a grounding of states’ duties towards refugees in the legitimacy of their territorial rights. The practical implication is a strong critique of temporary forms of protection. To redress the harm of displacement, a territorial account holds, refugee protection must offer territorial stability, ultimately through a pathway to citizenship. The author thus shows how it is possible to marry the human rights account of refugees with a notion of refugee protection as membership in a new state.

Clara Sandelind, Refugees, displacement and territorial stability, Journal of Global Ethics, 2020.