UBC Theses and Dissertations
A right to leave : refugees, states, and international society Orchard, Philip
This dissertation investigates regime-based efforts by states to cooperate in providing assistance and protection to refugees since 1648. It argues from a constructivist perspective that state interests and identities are shaped both by other actors in the international system - including norm entrepreneurs, non-governmental organizations, and international organizations - and by the broader normative environment. Refugees are a by-product of this environment. Fundamental institutions - including territoriality, popular sovereignty, and international law - formed a system in which exit was one of the few mechanisms of survival for those who were religiously and politically persecuted. This led states to recognize that people who were so persecuted were different from ordinary migrants and had a right to flee their own state and seek accommodation elsewhere. States recognized this right to leave, but did not recognize a requirement that any given state had a responsibility to accept these refugees. This contradiction creates a dilemma in international relations, one which states have sought to solve through international cooperation. The dissertation explores policy change within the United States and Great Britain at the international and domestic levels in order to understand the tensions within current refugee protection efforts. Three regimes, based in different normative understandings, have framed state cooperation. In the first, during the 19th century, refugees were granted protections under domestic and then bilateral law through extradition treaties. The second, in the interwar period, saw states taught by norm entrepreneurs that multilateral organizations could successfully assist refugees, though states remained unwilling to provide blanket assistance and be bound by international law. These issues led to the failure of states to accommodate Jewish refugees fleeing from Germany in the 1930s. The third, since the Second World War, had a greater consistency among its norms, especially recognition by states of the need for international law. Once again, this process was shaped by other actors, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This regime has been challenged by increased refugee numbers and restrictions on the part of states, but its central purpose remains robust due to the actions of actors such as the UNHCR.
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