Volume 13, Issue 10 e12521

The ethics of refugees

Matthew J. Gibney

Corresponding Author

Matthew J. Gibney

University of Oxford


Matthew J. Gibney, Professor of Politics and Forced Migration, Refugee Studies Centre, ODID, University of Oxford, 3 Mansfield Rd, Oxford, OX1 3LA, UK.

Email: [email protected]

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First published: 10 August 2018
Citations: 8


In the face of the desperate plight of refugees, virtually all moral and political philosophers, regardless of their general position on immigration controls, argue that states have a duty to grant asylum: people must not be turned back to countries where they would face persecution or severe human rights violations. Yet this consensus obscures a number of thorny ethical issues raised by the plight of the displaced. In this piece, I want to draw from recent writing in political and ethical theory to bring some of these issues into view. I start by considering what a refugee is, before turning to the question how the obligations of political communities to the displaced are grounded. I then move to consider what societies owe to refugees and the question of international justice in the allocation of asylum. I conclude with a discussion of the moral responsibilities of refugees themselves.