Towards a more just refuge regime: quotas, markets and a fair share


The international refugee regime is beset by two problems: Responsibility for refuge falls disproportionately on a few states and many owed refuge do not get it. In this work, I explore remedies to these problems. One is a quota distribution wherein states are distributed responsibilities via allotment. Another is a marketized quota system wherein states are free to buy and sell their allotments with others. I explore these in three parts. In Part 1, I develop the prime principles upon which a just regime is built and with which alternatives can be adjudicated. The first and most important principle – ‘Justice for Refugees’ – stipulates that a just regime provides refuge for all who have a basic interest in it. The second principle – ‘Justice for States’ – stipulates that a just distribution of refuge responsibilities among states is one that is capacity considerate. In Part 2, I take up several vexing questions regarding the distribution of refuge responsibilities among states in a collective effort. First, what is a state’s ‘fair share’? The answer requires the determination of some logic – some metric – with which a distribution is determined. I argue that one popular method in the political theory literature – a GDP-based distribution – is normatively unsatisfactory. In its place, I posit several alternative metrics that are more attuned with the principles of justice but absent in the political theory literature: GDP adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity and the Human Development Index. I offer an exploration of both these. Second, are states required to ‘take up the slack’ left by defaulting peers? Here, I argue that duties of help remain intact in cases of partial compliance among states in the refuge regime, but that political concerns may require that such duties be applied with caution. I submit that a market instrument offers one practical solution to this problem, as well as other advantages. In Part 3, I take aim at marketization and grapple with its many pitfalls: That marketization is commodifying, that it is corrupting, and that it offers little advantage in providing quality protection for refugees. In addition to these, I apply a framework of moral markets developed by Debra Satz. I argue that a refuge market may satisfy Justice Among States, but that it is violative of the refugees’ welfare interest in remaining free of degrading and discriminatory treatment

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