A Systems Approach toward the Refugee Regime

David S. FitzGerald, University of California San Diego

Siloed perspective on refugee law that focus primarily on the 1951 Refugee Convention ignore fundamental legal developments outside of Europe and before the twentieth century. A systems approach provides an alternative perspective by examining how religious beliefs, ideologies, and laws in different domains interact to produce the contemporary legal regime. The treatment of refugees arises from distinct bodies of law and softer norms that regulate emigration, immigration, slave trafficking, extradition, asylum, as well as refugee relief, protection, and resettlement. I examine the many origins and manifestations of refugee-related laws—laws that may not use the term “refugees” but which have influenced the development of contemporary protections. Paying attention to interactions of different bodies of law around the world shows there have been three major developments in legal refugee regimes. The first trend is the secularization of the authority that grants asylum and the grounds for granting it. A second development since World War II is the use of increasingly universalistic criteria for defining refugees, rather than ad hoc designations of particular groups. The third development is the growth of formal, multilateral agreements around refugees. These multilateral agreements have narrow historical precedents, going back at least as far as the 1555 Treaty of Augsburg’s provision granting a qualified right of some persecuted European religious minorities to exit their countries. Multilateral agreements began to create a formal international refugee regime in 1889 in South America with rules about extradition and diplomatic and territorial asylum.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 5. Analyzing Modern Migrations in the Global Context