Asylum Offsetting
Mollie Gerver (University of Essex), Mollie Gerver (University of Essex)

October 15, 2021, 9:30am - 11:00am
Ethics and Public Policy Working Group

Chapel Hill
United States


University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

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States have an obligation to assist refugees, but some states assist refugees via means other than granting them asylum. In other words, they offset their failure to grant refugees asylum by helping refugees in other ways, such as by sending them aid in camps in low-income countries. Such Asylum Offsetting can be wrong in virtue of intentions, as when states send aid to refugees abroad to avoid accepting non-white refugees, and it can be wrong in virtue of its effects, as when states send aid less effective than offering asylum. I demonstrate that these wrongs can be avoided if states engage not in Asylum Offsetting, but in Moral Trades. Moral Trades arise when Y morally values φ-ing, X morally values ψ-ing, and X does φ in return for Y doing ψ (Ord 2015). In the context of refugee protection, a state X which values sending aid abroad might agree to grant asylum to many refugees, despite not valuing accepting these refugees, in return for another state which values asylum for refugees giving a large amount of aid abroad, despite this other state not valuing giving aid abroad. Moral trades avoid wrongs common in Asylum Offsetting, so long as no offsetting is involved. Offsetting can be involved in moral trades if one state X commits a wrong and offsets this with φ-ing, because Y values φ-ing, in return for Y offsetting its wrong with ψ-ing, because X values ψ-ing. For example, a state might wrongly use violence to deter refugees from arriving and offsets this by sending aid which Y values, but only if state Y which is wrongly refusing to send aid offsets this by accepting refugees which X values. I argue that policies should shift towards moral trades involving neither wrongs nor offsetting, but that moral trades with wrongs and offsetting are superior to moral trades alongside wrongs and no offsetting.

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October 15, 2021, 9:00am EST

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