Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Post-Doc Research Fellow James Souter discusses the UK's obligations to Iraqi and Afghan refugees

31 October 2014 |

James Souter argues that a humanitarian approach to asylum on its own is incomplete as it pays no attention to who bears responsibility for causing refugee crises initially.

James' blog entitled "The UK must fully recognise its special obligations towards Iraqi and Afghan refugees", argues that the UK bears an obligation to offer asylum as a form of reparation to refugees, in particular towards Iraqi and Afghan refugees. Often a moral case is highlighted for offering asylum to refugees in the UK based on the moral obligation to protect refugees from the awful situations they have fled. This approach has been long-established and is reflected in international law.

However Souter says that this humanitarian case for asylum, whilst powerful is incomplete. He states that "it pays no attention to the important question of who bears responsibility for causing refugee crises in the first place and, by effectively treating asylum as a response to other people’s problems, it seems to assume that we are not connected to the refugees we may go on to protect. A purely humanitarian approach to asylum also tends to frame asylum as a matter of charity rather than justice."

He recognises that in some cases "the UK is linked in very direct ways to the refugees whom we may or may not go on to offer asylum, and that our obligations towards them go beyond purely humanitarian imperatives." It is highlighted that some refugees have collaborated or served with British forces, or have been caused to flee by interventions and foreign policies in which the UK have been deeply involved. "Iraqi and Afghan refugees are among the refugee populations which are linked to the UK in these kinds of morally important ways."

Read the full article online.

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