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Fordham International Law Journal

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refugees and asylum seekers, detention policy, 1951 Refugee Convention


Immigration Law | International Humanitarian Law | Law


The reception of refugees and asylum seekers has emerged as one of the most critical contemporary global issues. In 2015, the world experienced the most forced migrants since World War II. This essay compares the treatment of asylum seekers at reception in United States and Germany through each countries’ freedom and restriction of movement laws. This comparative analysis is based on Professor Karla McKanders’ December 2015 exploratory trip to Germany to learn more about the processing refugees in the midst of Germany accepting unprecedented numbers of refugees; and attorney Valeria Gomez’s December 2015 volunteer experience in the South Texas Family Residence Center. The article proceeds in four parts. Part I provides an overview of the 1951 Refugee Convention and its application to the rights of asylum seekers in receiving countries at their reception. Part II critically examines United States’ laws and policies for detaining asylum seekers in connection with Valeria Gomez’s volunteering in the South Texas Family Residence Center. Part III takes a contrasting look at Germany’s reception laws for asylum seekers through with McKanders’ exploratory trip to Germany. Part IV compares the two reception models and takes a critical look at (1) the role political, social and historical context play in determining a country’s detention policies? and (2) what the contrasting systems for restricting asylum seekers freedom of movement in Germany and the United States signify regarding presumptions of illegality that underlie detention policies. Finally, the essay suggests increased dialogue and examination of alternate detention models to facilitate the humane treatment of asylum seekers and refugees at reception.



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