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Governing Xenophobia

The problem of xenophobia has gained remarkable notoriety of late, and reports from around the world paint a chilling picture of its virulence, especially where refugees and other involuntary migrants are concerned. How should one understand this global picture of xenophobic contestation and its fallout, and specifically, how should one understand international law’s relationship to both?

The first contribution of this Article is to introduce an emerging global framework intended by states and other international actors to improve global cooperation to combat the problem of xenophobia. This global anti-xenophobia framework (the Framework) is rooted in international human rights law and in the global involuntary migration governance regime, which includes international refugee law and will soon include the Global Compacts on Migration and on Refugees. This Article traces the historical development of the Framework, outlines its architecture, and assesses the key debates among states regarding the status of global norms on xenophobia. Doing so illuminates the evolving normative, doctrinal, and institutional commitments of the Framework. The second contribution of this Article is to identify an untenable blind spot in the emerging Framework, which ignores various ways that features of the global governance of involuntary migration make the problem of xenophobia worse. This Article argues that the global involuntary migration governance regime has built-in gaps and incentive structures that increase opposition—including xenophobic opposition— to the admission and inclusion of involuntary migrants. The Article thus lays out how specific features of international law and policy on involuntary migration are themselves seemingly part of the problem of xenophobia.

The final contribution of this Article is to offer concrete recommendations for how the Framework could be supplemented to include attention to the counterproductive effects that governance structures and state activity within them contribute to the problem of xenophobia.


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