The Global Refugee Regime in International or World Society? An English School Perspective on the Global Management of Refugees

Mikkel Aas Schultz

Student thesis: Master thesis


The thesis analyses and discusses the prevalent norms and values of the space in which states and international organisations meet to solve refugee problems. Throughout the thesis this space is labelled the Global Refugee Regime (GRR). Several scholars have argued that the contemporary GRR is threatened due to the implementation of restrictive measures primarily in Western states. On the other hand the same Western states have contributed to a record-high budget of the UNHCR, which increasingly undertakes a responsibility to protect internally displaced persons (IDP’s) within the borders of primarily developing states. The thesis produces in-depth knowledge about these conflicting tendencies and discusses the current condition of the GRR. Critical Realism constitutes the ontological and epistemological point of departure, whereas the English School (in particular the dispute between pluralists and solidarists) represents the normative, analytical framework. The thesis is based on a historical analysis, a literature review, analysis of key statistical data on refugees and IDP’s and two interviews. First of all the historical analysis illustrates that the current asylum crisis is a result of post-Cold War dynamics, where refugees have been increasingly intermingled with other types of migrants while being viewed increasingly as security threats to national security. The thesis argues that the current balancing of norms favours pluralism. This is illustrated through the restrictive strategies of both Western and developing states and the reluctance to provide refugees with the full amount of rights. It has, however, proved difficult particularly for states neighbouring conflicts to pursue the restrictive strategies, due to them facing a de facto responsibility to protect the prima facie refugees. This has resulted in a vividly bipartite GRR, due to a legal framework and empirical reality favouring Western states while placing undue burdens on developing states and the states neighbouring conflicts. In this reality Western states are increasingly transferring the protection responsibility to the UNHCR. And while this can be argued to be a solidarist move providing protection to individuals, there is also a risk that UNHCR presence in states of origin may reduce the possibility of flight for the individual while supporting the Western strategy of containment.

EducationsGlobal Studies, (Bachelor/Graduate Programme) Graduate
Publication date29 Sep 2014


  • Refugees, International refugee cooperation, UNHCR, English School, Pluralism, Solidarism