Document Type

Article

Publication Date

3-17-2014

DOI

10.3402/egp.v7.22940

Abstract

On what basis, and to what extent, are refugees obligated to obey the laws of their host countries? Consideration of the specific case of asylum-seekers generates, I think, two competing intuitions: (1) the refugee has a prima facie obligation to obey the laws of her host country and (2) none of the popularly canvassed substrates of political obligation—consent, tacit consent, fairness, or social role—is at all apt to explain the presence of this obligation. I contend that the unfashionable gratitude account of political obligation does the best job of accounting for the intuitions. As has been noticed by other commentators, obligations of gratitude are difficult to specify and subject to numerous cancelling conditions. I analyze these conditions in detail and conclude that if one accepts that gratitude is the basis of the political obligation of the refugee, then one must face up to just how frangible the obligation is. In particular, the obligation is conditional on the fair and generous treatment of refugees that is consistent with their dignity as human beings.

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