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Frontier Justice

The Global Refugee Crisis and What to Do About It

By Andy Lamey
12-minute read
Audio available
Frontier Justice: The Global Refugee Crisis and What to Do About It by Andy Lamey

Frontier Justice (2011) offers a detailed historical account of the plight of refugees. It also presents viable solutions that could improve the lives of refugees while ensuring a higher degree of safety for their host countries.

  • Anyone with an interest in global politics
  • People interested in the origins and impacts of international refugee crises
  • Anyone concerned about human rights violations and humanitarian efforts

Andy Lamey is a professor of philosophy at University of California, San Diego and a journalist whose work has appeared in the Canadian publications National Post and Maclean’s. In addition, Lamey has produced numerous radio documentaries for the CBC series Ideas.

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Frontier Justice

The Global Refugee Crisis and What to Do About It

By Andy Lamey
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
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Frontier Justice: The Global Refugee Crisis and What to Do About It by Andy Lamey
Synopsis

Frontier Justice (2011) offers a detailed historical account of the plight of refugees. It also presents viable solutions that could improve the lives of refugees while ensuring a higher degree of safety for their host countries.

Key idea 1 of 7

Hannah Arendt’s struggle in war-torn early twentieth-century Europe still typifies the modern refugee experience.

Though the story of German-Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt’s time as a refugee dates back to the 1930s, her story nonetheless continues to resonate today. But which parallels can we draw between her story and that of the modern refugee?

The rise of nationalism following World War I caused millions of people to become displaced. International borders were being redrawn, a revolution was taking place in Russia and Turks were slaughtering Armenians. As a result, there were 9.5 million refugees stranded across Europe by 1926.

Moreover, the nationalization of welfare provisions and national responsibility for economic well-being led to a sharp distinction between what constituted a “national” and a “foreigner.”

The rise of nationalism in Europe that followed led the fascist Nazi party to seize power in Germany. Their anti-Semitic laws and rhetoric caused 25,000 people, including Arendt, to flee the country and become refugees.

Arendt first fled to Czechoslovakia, then France and eventually the United States. During her travels, she experienced firsthand the way many nations see refugees fleeing persecution as “undesirables” and potential threats to their way of life. In this way, Arendt was a quintessentially modern refugee.

Inspired by these experiences, her writings pose questions about the conflict between the rights of citizens versus human rights, something refugees struggle with to this day.

Citizens are granted rights through their belonging to nations. Refugees, however, lose these rights once they cross the border into another country. Arendt proposes that without the benefit of citizenship, refugees can’t expect to receive any rights, which of course inspires the question: does a set of fundamental human rights exist beyond borders?

When people show up at the border of a new country, the most they can hope for is a moral response to their humanity.

These questions were compiled in her landmark book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, which, since its publishing in 1951, still holds up as the definitive account of the injustices that refugees face.

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