Refugees and Minority Rights: Acceptable and unacceptable criteria for accepting/rejecting refugees in a non-ideal world

June 14, 2018 - June 15, 2018
Pluralism, Democracy, and Justice Research Group at the Department of Philosophy, University of Tromsø

Hansine Hansens veg 36
Tromsø 9019

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Keynote Speakers: 

David Miller (Oxford)
Sarah Fine (KCL)
Serena Parekh (Northeastern)
Kieran Oberman (Edinburgh)
Lea Ypi (LSE)
Phillip Cole (UWE)

About the Conference

Faced with the worst displacement crisis since the second world war, many states are unlikely to accept as many refugees as they ought, and very few are likely to accept more than they are required. So though some refugees will be admitted, many with sound claims will thus be wrongfully rejected. Are some ways of wrongfully rejecting refugees less objectionable than others? If “yes”, is it then morally justifiable to give priority to refugees who flee from worse forms discrimination or persecution of minority groups than refugees who flee less severe forms of discrimination?  

In the abstract this might seem like a reasonable position. Yet, many have found it objectionable to give priority to Christian refugees from the Middle East – especially without a similar scheme for Muslim refugees from countries where they experience comparable forms of discrimination. Furthermore, giving priority to refugees on the basis of the degree to which they experience discrimination and prosecution in the countries from which they flee might involve drastic divergences from present patterns of asylum admittances. For instance, given the widespread and severe discrimination women and homosexuals face in many parts of the world, should such refugees be given priority, considering fewer men and heterosexuals would then be admitted?

Some might reject the very idea of sorting refugees who all merit asylum into different groups – triage for refugees as it were. And some may instead reject the particular principle of risk of persecution for the distribution of asylum, on the basis of this principle’s implications. If so, which alternative or additional principles should regulate the admission of refugees? 

This conference aims to tackle such issues by addressing the question: What role ought minority protection play, and, more generally, what are the right principles of admitting and rejecting refugees when asylum, whether permanent or temporary, is under-supplied in a non-ideal world? What are the implications for the present situation given the correct answer to the previous questions? And should we at all consider prioritizing among refugees? If not, why not?

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