Between Sovereigns: A Reexamination of the Refugee’s Status

A refugee leaves the country of his or her national origin because the political community will not or can no longer vouchsafe the refugee’s life, liberty, or peace of mind. In many cases, the sovereign of national origin actively and coercively deprives the refugee of those basic components of human dignity. By taking flight, refugees enter a precarious realm between sovereigns. They may no longer rely upon the solicitude of their native sovereign, yet international law gives them no effective replacement for that power. They gain neither a right to asylum in other countries nor one to the assumption of a new nationality. Yet only the tie of nationality furnishes the full protection of international law, since individuals as such have no rights under that body of law. Covenants on the status of refugees and stateless persons and the organization of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have not changed this aspect of the world order.