Should she be granted asylum? Examining the justifiability of the persecution criterion and nexus clause in asylum law
Keywords:global justice, cosmopolitanism, compatriot partiality, nationalism, democracy
The current international asylum regime recognizes only persecuted persons as rightful asylum applicants. The Geneva Convention and Protocol enumerate specific grounds upon which persecution is recognized. Claimants who cannot demonstrate a real risk of persecution based on one of the recognized grounds are unlikely to be granted asylum. This paper aims to relate real-world practices to normative theories, asking whether the Convention’s restricted preference towards persecuted persons is normatively justified. I intend to show that the justifications of the persecution criterion also apply to grounds currently lacking recognition. My main concern will be persecution on the grounds of gender.
The first section introduces the dominant standpoints in theories of asylum, which give different answers to the question of who should be granted asylum, based on different normative considerations. Humanitarian theories base their claims on the factual neediness of asylum-seekers, holding that whoever is in grave danger of harm or deprivation should be granted asylum. Political theories base their justifications on conceptions of legitimacy and membership, holding that whoever has been denied membership in their original state should be granted asylum. Under political theories, Matthew Price’s theory will be discussed, which provides a normative justification of the currently recognized persecution criterion. The second section provides a descriptive definition of persecution based on Kuosmanen (2014), and evaluates the normative relevance of the different elements of this definition based on the theories presented previously. The third section is devoted to the examination of the normative justifiability of the nexus clause’s exclusive list of the bases (grounds) upon which persons might be persecuted. The section argues that while the clause does not recognize that persecution might be based on gender, in fact many women experience harms based on gender that fulfil all the normatively relevant definitive conditions constituting persecution. The conclusion shows that although the current law’s preferences towards the persecuted are justifiable, the nexus clause’s limiting enumeration of grounds is not. This applies especially to the exclusion of gender as grounds for granting asylum.Article first published online: 21 DEC 2015