Philosophical Foundations for Complementary Protection
Matthew J. Lister (Deakin University, University of Pennsylvania)

August 24, 2018, 10:30am - 12:00pm
Philosophy & Bioethics Departments, Monash University

E561, Menzies Buiding
Monash University
Clayton 3800


A significant percentage of the people outside of their country of citizenship or residence who are unable to meet their basic needs on their own, and so in need of international protection, do not fall under the definition set out in the UN Refugee Convention.  This has led many – both academic commentators and activists – to call for a new, expanded refugee definition, preferably backed up by a new, binding, international convention.  In earlier work, I have resisted this call, arguing that there is good reason to pick out a sub-set of those in need of international aid – a set that largely, if not completely, corresponds to those picked out by the Refugee Convention – for special benefit and protection.  However, even if refugees, as picked out by the Refugee Convention, are in some ways special, we are left with the question of what, if anything, is owed to those in need of aid who are not Convention Refugees.  In this paper, I set out philosophical foundations for so-called “complementary protection”. 

Following Jane McAdam, I take “complementary protection” to be protection “to persons falling outside the formal legal definition of ‘refugee’”, where this protection is seen as “complementary to those assumed under the 1951 Refugee Convention (as supplemented by its 1967 Protocol)”.[1]  I will argue that while states which are able to provide such protection at reasonable cost have an obligation to do so, this protection may be of a different sort, and a different degree, than that provided to convention refugees, at least in many cases.  I will explain why and how complementary protection may differ from refugee protection,[2] and the situations when the protection offered must converge.

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