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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.

More information

Type

Working paper

Publisher

Refugee Studies Centre

Publication Date

03/2005

Volume

21

Total pages

33