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Imagine a system in which you had to break the law and risk your life in order to enjoy its key right, a right to live lawfully in a political and legal community. That is the open secret at the heart of the so-called “Common European Asylum System” (“CEAS”). The EU and its Member States systematically erect barriers for those who would enter to claim asylum, forming part of the system of the containment of refugees in the Global South. Refugee containment is not only a European practice, but many of the policies and practices that are central to refugee containment are of fairly recent European origin. This Article identifies the costs of this refugee containment, not only for refugees and asylum-seekers, but also for Europe itself, its politics, and its adherence to the rule of law in particular. Containment contributed to the events styled as the 2015 refugee crisis in Europe, yet the crisis has generated a more intensified set of containment practices, also likely to backfire.

More information Original publication




Journal article


Cambridge University Press

Publication Date



21 (1)


17 - 22