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The Right to Have Rights as a Right to Enter: Addressing a Lacuna in the International Refugee Protection Regime


This paper draws upon Hannah Arendt's idea of the 'right to have rights' to critique the current protection gap faced by refugees today. While refugees are protected from refoulement once they make it to the jurisdiction or territory of a state, they face an ever-increasing array of non-entrée policies designed to stymie access to state territory. Without being able to enter a state capable of securing their claims to safety and dignity, refugees cannot achieve the rights which ought to be afforded to them under international law. Drawing upon both legal theory and political philosophy, this paper argues that refugees today, just as the stateless in Arendt’s time, must be afforded the ‘right to have rights’, understood as a right to enter state territory.

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  1. For example, see the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 2(1): “Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognised in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”



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Correspondence to Asher Lazarus Hirsch.

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Hirsch, A.L., Bell, N. The Right to Have Rights as a Right to Enter: Addressing a Lacuna in the International Refugee Protection Regime. Hum Rights Rev 18, 417–437 (2017).

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  • Refugees
  • Asylum
  • Right to enter
  • International law
  • Hannah Arendt