On past as prologue [4]

Jean-Pierre Hocke, “Beyond Humanitarianism: The Need for Political Will to Resolve Today’s Refugee Problem,” p. 40-1, in G. Loescher and L. Monahan (eds.), Refugees in International Relations (1989).

I am particularly concerned about the growing negative public opinion in the west vis-a-vis refugees and asylum-seekers from the Third World. Many governments in the West have responded to the recent influxes of refugees by adopting restrictive practices, a reaction that has tended to prove contagious. Humanitarian principles, so carefully nurtured in the West over the past few decades, are under threat. Basic standards of refugee protection are being lowered. Refugees are being used as political tools in domestic party politics. In this process the basic human values which served as the reference point for all humanitarian activities are being devalued. This erosion of values must be checked, and I am sure it can be done, provided states exercise their political judgement and will to do so, bearing in mind the immeasurably serious consequences of acting otherwise.

Given both the size and the complexity of the world refugee problem, it is time that the international community took a fresh look at the legal instruments available, and identified a political means to address the problem more effectively.