rebecca hamlin on refugee status and international law in australia, canada and the united states


Rebecca Hamlin, ‘International Law and Administrative Insulation: A Comparison of Refugee Status Determination Regimes in the United States, Canada, and Australia’, Law & Social Inquiry 37, 4 (2012).

International law provides nations with a common definition of a refugee, yet the processes by which countries determine who should be granted refugee status look strikingly different, even across nations with many institutional, cultural, geographical, and political similarities. This article compares the refugee status determination regimes of three popular asylum seeker destinations—the United States, Canada, and Australia. Despite these nations’ similar border control policies, asylum seekers crossing their borders access three very different systems. These differences have less to do with political debates over admission and border control policy than with the level of insulation the administrative decision-making agency enjoys from political interference and judicial review. Bureaucratic justice is conceptualized and organized differently in different states, and so states vary in how they draw the line between refugee and nonrefugee.

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