Princeton University Library Catalog

A Crisis of Humanity: Equitable Approaches to Contemporary Refugee Protection

Bari, Wardah [Browse]
Senior thesis
Danspeckgruber, Wolfgang [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year:
124 pages
Summary note:
Based on existing historical precedents and legal frameworks on the subject of refugees, it is astounding to see so much controversy over the topic of refugees. With the influx of refugees arriving in Europe, increasing especially in the past year, many have failed to adequately respond and provide resources for refugees and individuals seeking asylum. Given the historical precedents and failed moral obligations towards refugees over the past century I ask, why has the international community failed to create a coordinated response to the current refugee crisis? In this thesis, I define responsibilities of states towards refugees and how this responsibility should be distributed, arguing that wealthier nations hold a proportionately higher responsibility to support countries hosting the most number of refugees, as well as to take in refugees into their own countries. Based on existing literature, there is convincing evidence we do have a duty to admit and protect refugees who are failed by their own governments; the contemporary case of refugees fleeing from Syrian and other conflicts in the Middle East is especially relevant to this discussion. I put the current refugee crisis in context using ethical considerations based on existing academic literature with regards to the responsibility of states and allocation of the duty to admit refugees. While the international community has attempted to respond effectively, I find there is a profound lack of coordination amongst the governments, organizations, and individuals and groups working on the grassroots level through civil society and personal action. Current European policies are contradictory to the nature and spirit of the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, which sets the minimum threshold of the duty to admit refugees – especially those fleeing from persecution. By looking at the European example of Austria, I examine government policies and compare them to the response by civil society actors and NGOs. I find that many government policies towards refugees are implemented to deter refugees from entering, by not providing adequate housing, education and opportunities while seeking asylum. This lack of resources and mistreatment of many refugees, individuals who have suffered traumatic experiences and many of whom have severe mental health conditions, require urgent attention and must be treated with respect and dignity. I conclude this thesis by exploring equitable approaches to the refugee crisis by the global community. Particularly, I suggest that in order to have an effective response to number of refugees within Europe and other communities, there must be clear coordination amongst governments, international organizations, and civil society. If the problem in Syria and the Middle East is unable to be resolved in the immediate future, we must prepare to respond to find alternative solutions to create easy, safe, and legal routes for asylum seekers to find safety and well-being.