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Over the last twenty years, there has been a radical shift in public perceptions of and political reactions to asylum seekers in democratic states across the world. As numbers of asylum seekers have risen, at times dramatically, governments of all political persuasions have implemented restrictionist policies designed to prevent and deter individuals from seeking asylum. This paper examines the development of this restrictionist trend by exploring the conceptual foundations of New Labour’s asylum policies through an analysis of the contributions made by Tony Blair in the House of Commons between 1992 and 2007. Blair’s attitude towards asylum shifted dramatically as he himself moved from the opposition to the government. I will examine the justifications offered for his increasing restrictionism in order to identify the way in which Blair articulates the tension inherent in all modern liberal democratic states between universal human rights and state sovereignty.

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Working paper


Refugee Studies Centre

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