‘Refuge’ and history: a critical reading of a polemic

White, B. T. (2019) ‘Refuge’ and history: a critical reading of a polemic. Migration and Society: Advances in Research, 2(1), pp. 107-118. (doi: 10.3167/arms.2019.020111)

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Alexander Betts and Paul Collier’s book Refuge is focused on the problems of the present, and presents ambitious plans for the future. But the claims it makes about the causes of the crisis of European refugee policy in 2015, and the longer-term problems of what the authors call the ‘broken refugee system’, are historical. This essay offers a critical reading of the book from a historian’s perspective. It shows that the authors fundamentally misrepresent the history of the refugee system in order to attack the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, the agency (UNHCR) tasked with implementing the convention, and the entire rights-based approach to refugee protection. Presenting itself as a hard-headed and realistic plan for reform, the book is a tendentious polemic whose main concern is to assert the primacy of states’ interests—especially the interest of rich states in keeping refugees out.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:White, Dr Benjamin Thomas
Authors: White, B. T.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Journal Name:Migration and Society: Advances in Research
ISSN (Online):2574-1314
Published Online:01 June 2019
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 Berghahn Books
First Published:First published in Migration and Society: Advances in Research 2(1):107-118
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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