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Today, permanent resettlement is evaporating as a solution to refugee crises. For millions of refugees, return is no longer an option but an imperative (Hathaway 1997: 553). Drawing on international law and social contract theory, this paper argues that the state of origin has a fundamental responsibility to provide restitution to repatriating refugees with a view to creating just conditions of return. Rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to the challenges of return, restitution is a negotiated process involving modalities such as property restoration, financial compensation and trials, and aims to recast the fragmented relationship between refugees and their states of origin into a rights-based framework (Ellis and Hutton 2002: 334). Albeit an invariably imperfect process, this paper contends that it is through restitution that the state re-establishes its legitimacy by acknowledging and attempting to make good on the moral and legal responsibilities it abrogated by forcing its citizens into exile.

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Working paper


Refugee Studies Centre

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