Refugee Protection “Here” or “There”: Reflections on a Non-ideal World

12 October 2022, 6.00pm - 8.00pm
Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, 17 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DR

“The Changing Nature of ‘Solutions’ to Refugee Situations”

Refugee Law Initiative

13th Annual Seminar Series (2022-23)

This annual series of in-person talks and Q&A, followed by drinks and discussion, the seminars (except in March) take place at IALS, Charles Clore House, 17 Russell Sq, London WC1B 5DR.


Wednesday 12th October 2022, 6pm (IALS)

“Refugee Protection “Here” or “There”: Reflections on a Non-ideal World”

Professor David Owen – University of Southampton


Policymakers in states of the Global North are in the privileged position of having a genuine ethical choice concerning whether to devote their resources to providing refugee protection in their territory (for example, by enabling safe passage of refugees to their borders and offering generous resettlement opportunities) or to prioritize resourcing refugee protection in the Global South. For these policymakers the question ‘Should we protect refugees here or there?’ posed in this global context represents a real, and not merely a notional, ethical challenge.

Drawing on a recent paper co-authored with Alex Aleinikoff, this presentation focuses primarily on the ethical challenge confronted by the conscientious policymaker in the Global North concerning where (and how) to support refugee protection. A secondary focus is the ethical challenge faced by conscientious policymakers in the Global South in relation to the global context and the issues confronted both Northern and Southern policymakers in their distinct regional contexts. Against proponents of ‘protection there’, it is argued that a greater mix of strategies for refugee protection is both possible and necessary.

David Owen is Professor of Social and Political Philosophy at the University of Southampton. His work is split between studies of 19th and 20th century French and German philosophy, and work on the ethics of migration. His most recent books are: What do we owe to refugees? (Polity, 2020); and (with Natalia Cintra & Pia Rigirozzi) Displacement, Human Rights, and Sexual and Reproductive Health (BUP, forthcoming 2023).


Refugee Law Initiative
020 7862 8668