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© Courtesy Project SafeCom and Jack H Smith
The Olong before it sank, in the Australian 'Children Overboard' scandal of 2001

This project examines the contentious but highly important issue of the duties of refugees. Refugees and asylum seekers are often criticised in public debates for failing in their moral responsibilities. They have recently been admonished for failing to integrate; for not claiming asylum in the first state they come to; for ‘queue jumping’ or failing to ‘wait their turn’ to be resettled; and for not returning home once they no longer need asylum. However dubious these criticisms may be, there is little doubt that such criticism has played an important part in legitimising recent erosions of the rights of refugees. A key question thus emerges: just what are the duties of refugees as refugees? In this project, the role of refugees as duty holders in relation to a number of different groups will be considered.

The research will draw upon the resources of ethical theory, political science, history and law. First, it will interrogate critically the duties ascribed to refugees in current political debates. Second, it will trace the different ways in which the duties of refugees have been understood historically and the way they relate to changing conceptualisations of the refugee. Third, through interviews, the question of how refugees themselves understand their responsibilities will be explored. Finally, the project will draw upon the results of the above, as well as the resources of contemporary moral and political thinking, to provide a considered and practically relevant account of the moral and political duties of refugees.


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