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International Legal Protections for Migrants and Refugees: A Response to Father Brennan

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Father Brennan’s Essay, “Human Rights and the National Interest: The Case Study of Asylum, Migration, and National Border Protection,” is a complex legal and ethical analysis of refugee law. This Commentary focuses on one aspect of the international law relevant to the Essay, namely, state obligations to migrants. Father Brennan’s main argument that migrants and refugees may be turned back, so long as the action respects human rights law, is consistent with the human right to life. Justly stopping migrants and refugees requires states to stop them before they enter either international waters or the state’s territorial waters. Further, Father Brennan is right to critique some of the more extensive claims for state duties toward migrants and refugees. Where the advocacy community could direct their efforts more fully is to the causes of forced migration. Addressing these issues is the only way to sufficiently respect refugees and properly preserve national borders.

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