Refugee discrimination – The good, the bad, and the pragmatic

Kieran Oberman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article addresses three questions. To what extent does the current refugee regime discriminate among refugees? When is such discrimination wrong? Could discrimination ever be justified pragmatically, for the sake of admitting more refugees given political constraints? In answer to the first question, it finds discrimination is rampant. There is the kind of discrimination that gets noticed: discrimination that states choose to enact within the refugee regime. But there is also a kind of discrimination that is missed: discrimination that is a product of the regime itself. The second question proves tricky. Matters are clear at the extremes. Discrimination based on need is permissible. Discrimination based on race or religion is not. In between, we have a set of hard cases that are more difficult to judge. The article searches for relevant criteria. Finally, on the last question, the article concludes that a political leader could be justified in enacting discrimination as a pragmatic response to political constraints but that, even on such occasions, discrimination remains wrongful.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Philosophy
Early online date21 Jul 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Jul 2020


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