Political Exclusion of Refugees in the Ethics of International Relations

Authored by: Mark F.N. Franke

The Ashgate Research Companion to Ethics and International Relations

Print publication date:  September  2009
Online publication date:  April  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754671015
eBook ISBN: 9781315612935
Adobe ISBN: 9781317043546

10.4324/9781315612935.ch19

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Abstract

Contemporary debates over international ethical and political problems surrounding the plight of refugees still pivot around fundamental challenges identified by Hannah Arendt (1968, 267–302) in the aftermath of World Wars I and II in Europe regarding the relationship between displaced persons and citizenship. Arendt recognizes a crucial point – one that typically remains forgotten or suppressed in discourses of international relations (IR) – that modern sovereign states do not meet refugees and their claims to assistance and asylum as normal social phenomena but, rather, hold political responsibility for their existence. As Nevzat Soguk (1999) outlines in his recent book on the matter, insofar as states achieve the authority to perform their own legal existence, social validity and apparent autonomy through the erection and defence of exclusionary political boundaries, they produce the conditions under which some persons will be compelled to flee homelands to which they are supposedly proper and thus lose social/political standing and effective claim to rights protection. Refugees do not pose issues of international ethics that may or may not be taken up in IR – dilemmas pervading the situation of refugees are structured in the core ethics of IR itself. Yet refugees are formed within IR to describe the outside of political and ethical life of states. Thus appropriate ethical address of refugee issues is never something that can be accomplished within IR, it can come about only in the challenging of IR as a convention in the study and politics in the world.

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