Geografie 2017, 122, 449-475

Legitimising settlement of refugees: unpacking humanitarianism from a comparative perspective

Ahmet Içduygu1, Aysen Ustubici2,3, Izem Aral3, Balacan Ayar3

1Koç University, College of Social Sciences and Humanities, Turkey
2Koç University, Department of International Relations; Turkey
3Koç University, Department of Sociology; Turkey

Received February 2017
Accepted September 2017

Refugee protection and humanitarianism have evolved hand in hand in the post- World War 2 era despite shortcomings. Since the 1980s however, we have witnessed a weakening of the international protection regime and a restrictive and securitised approach to asylum. The current situation of Syrian refugees has revealed that the international protection system falls short of efficiently responding to protracted refugees situations. In the context of selective and declining humanitarianism, our analysis moves from the international context to the national context to demonstrate how government officials legitimise receiving mass numbers of refugee. This article scrutinises the political discourse of refugee reception in Turkey and Germany as two countries receiving a high number of refugees. Through analysis of political statements in both countries between 2011 and 2016, we explore how international humanitarianism has taken different shapes in the discourse of government officials. Our findings reveal the general trend that humanitarianism in the case of refugee reception manifests itself selectively, reflecting not only humanitarian obligations stemming from international law but also political, cultural and economic priorities of governments.


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