Talking about refugee law

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12 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines some recent critical debates in refugee law. The purpose is not to advance a single new approach. There are plenty of these around already. The concern of this paper is the more modest one of locating debates in refugee law in general controversies surrounding the nature of law and legality. By standing back from the debate the suggestion here is that the arguments can be placed in context as reflecting commitments which are often not fully worked through in the literature. Reform proposals have sparked a refreshing, and long overdue, critical dialogue which has seen new insights imported into refugee law from other areas of legal study. This is a welcome development which needs to be nurtured. The aim of the paper is to encourage participants engaged in this critical debate to reflect on the normative commitments which underpin their empirical approaches and be more explicit about them in future. In addition, participants must accept the varied nature of law's community in this context and that the perspectives accorded priority often influence the substantive positions advanced. At the core of this debate remains, however, disputes about the foundations, purpose and function of refugee law today. The conceptual underpinning of this has yet to emerge fully in the field of refugee law. Much of this still revolves around old and familiar questions on, for example, the continuing relevance of the 'statist paradigm'. We must ask ourselves which voices dominate refugee law discourse and why. The paper does not avoid substantive commitments and it includes tentative suggestions as to possible ways forward.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-134
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Refugee Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 1999

Bibliographical note

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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