1st Edition

Refugee Dignity in Protracted Exile Rights, Capabilities and Legal Empowerment

By Anna Lise Purkey Copyright 2020
    220 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    218 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book investigates how effective human rights and the inherent dignity of refugees can be secured in situations of protracted exile and encampment. The book deploys an innovative human rights-based capabilities approach to address fundamental questions relating to law, power, governance, responsibility, and accountability in refugee camps.

    Adopting an original theoretical framework, the author demonstrates that legal empowerment can change the distribution of power in a given refugee situation, facilitating the exercise of individual agency and assisting in the reform of the opportunity structure available to the individual. Thus, by helping to increase the capability of refugees to participate actively in the decisions that most affect their core rights and interests, participatory approaches to legal empowerment can also assist in securing other capabilities, ultimately ensuring that refugees are able to live dignified lives while in protracted exile.

    Ultimately, the book demonstrates that legal empowerment of refugees can bring lasting benefits in establishing trust between refugees, the state, and local communities. It will be of interest to researchers within the fields of refugee studies, international law, development studies, and political science, as well as to policy-makers and practitioners working in the fields of refugee assistance and humanitarian intervention.


    1. The Exclusion of Long-term Refugees from the Law: Creating Situations of Protracted Rights-"less"-ness 

    2. The State-Refugee Fiduciary Relationship: The Legal Obligation to Secure Human Rights-based Capabilities 

    3. A Challenge to Power: Legal Empowerment as an Enabling Central Capability 

    4. The Faces of Legal Empowerment in Protracted Refugee Situations 

    5. Critical Engagement: Adopting a Participatory Approach to Legal Empowerment 



    Anna Lise Purkey is Summer Course Director and Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University, Toronto

    "Perhaps the greatest failing of the modern refugee regime is that roughly half of the world’s refugees languish in protracted refugee situations, with no solution in sight. Anna Purkey’s important book tackles this failing head-on, rightly insisting that the answer is not continued charity but rather participatory empowerment. Her novel contribution is that international law has a critical role to play in enabling this transition — imposing not just ethical responsibility, but rather real accountability on both states and international agencies to release refugees from the purgatory of ongoing indeterminacy."James C. Hathaway, Director, Program in Refugee and Asylum Law, University of Michigan Law School


    "Anna’s book is refreshingly original and unique in re-conceiving approaches to protracted refugee

    situations. It takes refugee and human rights law as a starting point. Through a combination of legal

    and development theories it argues clearly and concisely for an empowerment approach, thus highlighting the imbalance of power dynamics in refugee situations." – Professor Susan Kneebone

    Professional Fellow and Associate, Asian Law Centre, Melbourne Law School


    "Two-thirds of the world’s refugees are in situations of prolonged exile. The average duration of a refugee situation now surpassing 20 years. This book makes a significant contribution to debates on how to respond to these trends by challenging the exclusive emphasis on the economic empowerment of refugees in situations of prolonged exile. By arguing for the importance of legal empowerment as a precondition for solutions, this book lays a significant foundation for new directions for research, policy and practice. It is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand and resolve protracted refugee situations."James Milner, Associate Professor of Political Science, Carleton University