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  • Writer's pictureMatt

The Case for Refugee Resettlement as the Center of the Topic

Refugee resettlement, also know as third country resettlement, should be considered the center of the Fall 2019 NSDA China Public Forum topic:

Resolved: On balance, refugee restrictions in developed countries are permissible.

There is considerable confusion in the media and the debate community about what constitutes a refugee. Part of the problem is that 'migrant', 'economic migrant', 'refugee', and 'asylum seeker' or 'asylee' are used interchangeably in the news and some other publications. Another problem is that sometimes a migrant belongs to more than one of these categories. For example, someone may both reasonably fear persecution and wish to improve their families' economic life. A third problem is that 'asylum seeker' and 'refugee' have a lot in common. That being said, we can parse out some clear differences.

'The criterion for being granted status as a refugee or asylee is the exact same, "so the bar for a successful application is the same," Shannan Mattiace, a professor of political science and international studies at Allegheny College... Here's where the exact distinction lies: An asylum seeker is either already inside the United States or is physically present at a legal port of entry. Someone seeking to enter the country as a refugee applies for protection from abroad.'

The Australian Parliament puts a finer point on it: "There is a great deal of confusion about the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee and often the terms are used interchangeably or incorrectly. An asylum seeker is someone who is seeking international protection but whose claim for refugee status has not yet been determined. In contrast, a refugee is someone who has been recognised under the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees to be a refugee."

What does this mean for our understanding of the topic? I think it's fairly clear that this topic is NOT about people who arrive at a border or inside of a developed country and apply for asylum. They are quite clearly 'asylum seekers'. Rather, this topic is about the persecuted peoples, who have already been recognized as refugees by the UNHCR or another state, and who are currently in a non-developed country awaiting resettlement.

What does this kind of topic look like? Generally, the PRO can argue that states have the right to set quotas and rigorous screening processes for refugee resettlement. The CON can argue that developed countries have a moral obligation to accept more refugees.

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