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The liberal paradox has been instrumental in shaping the exclusionary provisions of municipal asylum law and policy. It refers to the theoretical contradictions between state sovereignty and human rights commitments, which become expressed in the paradoxical asylum procedures of liberal democracies. This paper attempts to weaken the paradox on several grounds. I will argue that there is no necessary tension between democracy and liberalism in the context of asylum; that the state’s sovereign right to control entry is quite compatible with its obligation to protect aliens within its territory; and that British asylum policy is quite consistent and does not manifest the existence of the liberal paradox. The implications of undermining this paradox could be that governments might consider revising their restrictive schemes to accommodate the needs of forced migrants.

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Working paper


Refugee Studies Centre

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