The Hidden Solution: Holding Refugees in Spaces of Exception
States increasingly express their concern that the asylum procedure functions as a backdoor route to illegal migration. One way of tackling this problem is to effectively return rejected asylum seekers. However, return is often thwarted by a lack of documentation on the part of the asylum seekers, making it well-nigh impossible to establish their state of origin. Receiving states therefore seek to prevent the entrance of undocumented asylum seekers by resorting to the means of migration control. Refugee protection now translates as migration control and potential refugees are being trapped in illegal migration movements. As a consequence, the right to seek asylum is under pressure. Upholding their faith in the 1951 Refugee Convention, many believe that failures in protection are a matter of observance. It is my hypothesis, however, that the conceptual terms that shape the 1951 Convention impede an adequate understanding of the refugee problem and preclude an appropriate answer. The conceptual framework identifies the refugee problem with de facto statelessness. Since de facto statelessness refers to the administrative relation, albeit currently broken and ineffective, between the state and its national, it is assumed that refugees ought to be there, i.e. in their home country, and not here with us. This presupposition comes to light in the current debate on temporary protection in the region of origin, which amounts to internment of refugees in camps. Indeed, the identification of the refugee problem with de facto statelessness results in the camp. ‘Camp’ qualifies as a space of exception that is inhibited by the life that can no longer be inscribed in any legal order. Encampment is the hidden solution to the refugee problem. In contradistinction with the common view that the 1951 Convention has fettered sovereign power, I will argue that refugee protection forms the hard-core of exclusivist policies.
Keywords: Refugees, De facto Statelessness, Sovereignty, Space of Exception
Phd. Student, Department of Philosophy, Tilburg University