Ethical Reflections on the Institution of Asylum

Peter Penz

Abstract


This article explores the rationale for protecting and assisting refugees, from an ethical perspective. It also examines the relationship between a country’s obligation to provide asylum and that country’s affluence. The field of tension between statist and cosmopolitan ethics is analyzed. After showing that the former establishes weak and limited asylum obligations and after offering a brief argument for cosmopolitanism, the article explores cosmopolitan forms of utilitarianism, libertarianism, and egalitarianism. A reasonable synthesis of the last three perspectives is proposed: it includes a strong duty to provide asylum, a broad definition of the kinds of displacement that create entitlements to international protection and assistance, and international burden-sharing based on relative affluence.

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