Whenever I teach my undergraduate course on human rights, I inevitably have one student who argues that state sovereignty trumps all and that states should act in their “national interest” in regards to issues where human rights and sovereignty clash. They usually continue the argument by stipulating that “human rights” are not defensible unless they are universally accepted, meaning contained in a universally ratified document (and they use the term “universal” literally), because all authority resides in the state. Thus, it is always an interesting discussion when we turn to the issue of migration, and more specifically, refugees.

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