Res Publica

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 103–119 | Cite as

What (If Anything) Is Wrong with Trading Refugee Quotas?

  • Jaakko Kuosmanen


The tradable refugee quota scheme constitutes one proposal for institutionalising the general right to asylum. The scheme allows states to purchase and sell quotas of refugees that are initially assigned to them through a collectivised status-determination process. In this paper I focus on examining the ethical dimensions of one particular component of the tradable refugee quota scheme: the market. I consider three objections against the quota trading practices: ‘the preference objection’, ‘the dignity objection’, and ‘the exploitation objection’. The first objection suggests that the tradable quota scheme is problematic due to the fact that it fails to consider refugees’ desires regarding the final country in which asylum is provided. The second objection claims that the scheme demeans refugees and violates their dignity. The final objection claims that the scheme leads to the exploitation of weak countries. I argue that the objections fail to show that the tradable quota scheme is inherently problematic. I conclude that either the examined objections can be rejected or it is possible to address the concerns through specific institutional arrangements.


Refugees The right to asylum Burden-sharing Institutions Ethics 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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