Snakes in Ireland: Questioning the Assumption of 'Collective Responsibility' to Protect Refugees

Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2011-12

Amsterdam Center for International Law No. 2011-06

12 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2011 Last revised: 4 Jun 2012

See all articles by Marjoleine Zieck

Marjoleine Zieck

Amsterdam Center for International Law

Date Written: June 30, 2011

Abstract

The recognition of the international scope and nature of the problem of refugees, which induced the establishment of UNHCR and the adoption of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, did not result in shared responsibility for the protection of refugees but rather in a strict apportioning of responsibilities between UNHCR on the one hand, and states on the other. Rather than sharing the apportioned part as a collective responsibility, states become individually responsible for refugees who seek refuge in their respective territories, and hence only for part of the problem of refugees. This individual responsibility is triggered by observing the prohibition of refoulement. Since this prohibition is not coupled to a distributive mechanism, its observance may cause huge disparities in terms of numbers of refugees, and hence in the extent of responsibility individual states incur. Remedying these indiscriminate effects would require taking collective responsibility for the problem of refugees, more in particular, a system that would secure joint and several responsibility whereby individual states have the right of recourse to other states to recover ‘overpayment’, in short: a non-discretionary burden sharing mechanism that involves all states.

Keywords: refugees, international refugee law, collective responsibility, burden sharing, UNHCR

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Zieck, Marjoleine, Snakes in Ireland: Questioning the Assumption of 'Collective Responsibility' to Protect Refugees (June 30, 2011). Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2011-12. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1875502 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1875502

Marjoleine Zieck (Contact Author)

Amsterdam Center for International Law ( email )

P.O. Box 1030
Amsterdam, 1000 BA
Netherlands

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