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Limits to harmonization: The temporary protection of refugees in the European Union

By Khalid Koser and Richard Black


This article examines the limits to harmonization at the level of the European Union through a case study of policy towards people who fled the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 1990s. Specific attention is paid to the development of the policy of granting 'temporary protection' instead of full refugee status to Bosnian asylum-seekers, which stretched across all fifteen member states. It is argued that 'temporary protection' emerged as a set of specific responses to the outbreak of war in the former Yugoslavia, involving compromises between states' desires to restrict asylum on the one hand, but meet demand from public opinion and international organizations to offer protection to refugees on the other. Subsequent analyses have suggested that these compromises might provide an effective way forward for harmonization of policy at a European level, and even a reformulated international system of refugee protection. However, the authors question this view: they analyse the extent to which 'temporary protection' for Bosnians was coordinated, and whether it actually provided the states and individuals with the benefits that have been suggested

Publisher: International Migration
Year: 1999
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