Contemporary Issues in Refugee Law

Contemporary Issues in Refugee Law

Edited by Satvinder Singh Juss and Colin Harvey

Refugee law is going through momentous times, as dictatorships tumble, revolutions simmer and the ‘Arab Awakening’ gives way to the spread of terror from Syria to the Sahel in Africa. This compilation of topical chapters, by some of the leading scholars in the field, covers major themes of rights, security, the UNHCR, international humanitarianism and state interests and sets out to map new contours.

Chapter 1: Refugee law as perpetual crisis

Catherine Dauvergne

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, public international law


There is no doubt that the refugee law regime is in crisis. There are several dimensions to this crisis. On the political plane, prosperous refugee receiving states are increasingly moving to close their borders to asylum seekers, to assert new mechanisms of control over access to asylum, and to limit the rights associated with asylum. From the perspective of individuals on the move, extra-legal migration is growing in all regions of the globe and this intensifies pressure on the asylum system because it is the only exception to the rule of sovereign control over borders. The need for refugee resettlement is vastly disproportionate to the small amount of resettlement which occurs annually around the world and which is, in any case, beyond the reach of the current legal regime. Advocates persist in calling for changes to the refugee definition, and states are only too pleased to join these calls. The crisis diagnosis has been proclaimed at regular intervals over the past two decades. I have previously argued that the resilience of the refugee regime in the face of both geopolitical pressures and critique from all quarters is a key indicator of the strength of the regime as law and has important implications for the growth of the rule of law in both the international realm and in migration governance.1 That argument is related to the project of this chapter but here I take a different tack. On this occasion, my objective is to take ‘crisis’ as the starting point;