Sending Refugees Back Makes the World More Dangerous
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November 27, 2019
Stephanie Schwartz, 2018-19 Postdoctoral Fellow and Assistant Professor of International Relations, University of Southern California | Foreign Policy
Stephanie Schwartz, Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Southern California and a 2018-19 Perry World House Postdoctoral Fellow, has published her winning entry for our Emerging Scholars Global Policy Prize in Foreign Policy.
The oft-repeated refrain that the world is witnessing an unprecedented refugee crisis is both misleading and dangerous. While the number of refugees worldwide has nearly doubled in the past decade, if there is a crisis today, it is one of refugee return. Despite the fact that non-refoulement—the prohibition against sending asylum-seekers back to a country where their life or liberty is endangered—is considered one of the strongest norms in international law, governments across the world are going to great lengths to send refugees back. Some, such as the United States, are blatantly flouting non-refoulement with plans to send Central American asylum-seekers directly back into the violence they are fleeing...
Given how far countries are going to coerce refugees to return, one could easily be mistaken that sending refugees back to their countries of origin is the key to solving the problem of mass displacement. Indeed, voluntary repatriation is one of the United Nations-endorsed “three durable solutions” to refugee situations, and protecting that right to voluntary return is essential. Refugee repatriation today, however, is seldom voluntary or durable.