In the political and legal debate surrounding international refugee law, moral considerations play a large and important role. It often turns out, however, that the legal ethical reflection is not rooted deep enough. At first, it is necessary to demonstrate and justify the moral principle, on which the argumentation is based. There are different moral theories, among them the utilitarian, the egalitarian, the eudemonistical, and the deontological approach. These different approaches lead or at least can lead to different results concerning the question of what duties states or their citizens have toward refugees. The article is supposed to show that only the deontological approach is sufficient and appropriate in order to deliver a well-founded refugee ethics on the basis of moral duties and moral rights. The ethics of refugee protection is not an ethics of assistance to needy people, but the ethics of the prohibition of torts, namely, in particular, the violation of human rights. This is only inadequately reflected in international refugee law, because here the damage as such is not in the foreground, from which people flee, but the reasons why they are mistreated by persecutors. The damage-oriented approach clarifies the reasons for the different moral and legal status between persons in need of international protection, who have already reached the territory of the country of refuge and those who have not. The former are qualified as the holder of the subjective right not to be exposed to the dangers they have fled from, while the latter can in principle only appeal to the compassion and humanity of possible helpers. However, the boundary between “inside” and “outside” shifts according to the expansion of the de facto sphere of power of the acting person or state. This may also create a legal position for persons who are rescued by a ship at sea or whose living and travel conditions are essentially determined by the power of a state outside its territory. The damage-oriented approach shows furthermore that the refoulement ban has to be considered not only a mere side-aspect of the right to asylum but its core content. However, the right to asylum, cannot be considered a separate right beside the list of human rights. The refoulement ban is rather an integral part of every (“fundamental”) human right. This shows on the one hand that the separate right to asylum is redundant as long as it is supposed to protect against human rights violations. It is relevant only in the context of protection on reasons of solidarity. Finally, it can be shown that the national and international case law concerning the refoulement ban is insufficient because it is focused only on threatening torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, meanwhile, it neglects the threatening violation of other (“fundamental”) human rights.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited