On past as prologue [5]

Leon Gordenker, Refugees in International Politics (1987) —

The misery of refugees thus dulls the glitter of unilateral, short-term campaigning by governments. The homeless, persecuted, hungry, confused people who turn up at border posts and distant airports signify the costs of conflict within and among societies and states. They are living monuments to war, disorder, long-term social collapse, government failure, prejudice and sheer malice. They pay directly for the militaristic swaggering of their leaders, for the intolerance of political and religious orthodoxy and for the short-term successes of mindless power-seekers (p. 6).

Even more fundamental limitations were inherent in the new regime as a result of both national policies and the nature of international politics. No government has ever shown itself eager to surrender authority over immigration. Some governments, such as those of the United States and the United Kingdom, have had to deal with immigration policies as leading issues in national political life. The experience with refugees and displaced persons after the Second World War demonstrated the expediency of resettlement as a means of coping with accumulations of refugees. But resettlement means that refugees become immigrants. Granting general rights to refugees or allowing a large number of people to formally become refugees could thus diminish national control over immigration policies. Therefore, governments approached refugee matters with some tentativeness and showed a clear resistance to handing over even minor decisions to an international agency [UNHCR]. As s a result the [Refugee] Convention enables a person outside his own country to enter a claim to a government for asylum but gives him no right to it. The rights of refugees are based in the first instance on protection from being sent into danger or persecution, either in their original homes or in a third country. Thus, the doctrine of non-refoulement to protect refugees may promote the granting of long-term asylum but does not ensure it. Governments acceding to the Convention maintain their authority over immigration and nationality (p. 30; emphasis added).

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