Seyla Benhabib (Yale University)
THE 1951 REFUGEE CONVENTION AND ITS 1967 PROTOCOL are the main legal documents governing the movement of refugee and asylum seekers across international borders. As the number of displaced persons seeking refuge has reached unprecedented numbers, states have resorted to measures to circumvent their obligations under the Convention. These range from bilateral agreements condemning refugees to their vessels at sea to the excision of certain territories from national jurisdiction. While socio-economic developments and the rise of the worldwide web have led to deterritorialization of vast domains of the economy and the media which enable them to escape from state control, territorial presence, whether on terra firma or on vessels at sea which are functional surrogates for territorial sovereignty, continues to be the basis for the entitlement to human and citizens’ rights. We are facing a dual movement of deterritorialization and territorialization at once, both of which threaten the end of the 1951 Convention. SEYLA BENHABIB presents an exercise in non-ideal theory which, nonetheless, has implications for a seminal question in ideal democratic theory as to how to define and justify the boundaries of the demos. If the demos refers to the constitutional subject of a self-determining entity in whose name sovereignty is exercised, regimes of sovereignty, including those which govern themovement of peoples across borders, define the prerogatives as well as obligations of such sovereign entities under international law. The period ushered in by the 1951 Convention was such a sovereignty regime which today may be nearing its end.