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Publication: Shani Bar-Tuvia, "Australian and Israeli Agreements for the Permanent Transfer of Refugees".

Shani Bar-Tuvia

Shani Bar-Tuvia

News from Dec 03, 2018

The article “Australian and Israeli Agreements for the Permanent Transfer of Refugees: Stretching Further the (Il)legality and (Im)morality of Western Externalization Policies” by doctoral fellow Shani Bar-Tuvia has been published in International Journal of Refugee Law, eey042.


This article examines a new and unprecedented policy that has been recently implemented by Australia and Israel against refugees, namely their permanent transfer to less developed and less stable countries in return for some form of payment to these receiving countries. It argues that these policies should be seen as part of an all-Western ‘externalization’ trend, encompassing various policies that were implemented by Western countries over the past two decades with the goal of reducing the number of asylum seekers on a country’s territory. The Australian and Israeli transfers share not only this goal of previous externalization policies, but also some of their methods. Notwithstanding these similarities, the article explores how the Australian and Israeli transfers differ from the externalization precedents, and particularly from ‘Safe Third Country’ transfers. Two main distinctions are discussed. First, these are not transfers for the purpose of Refugee Status Determination, but rather permanent transfers of people with a clear need for international protection. Secondly, the receiving countries are not ‘transit’ countries through which people have crossed. These two differences mean that the Australian and Israeli policies stretch the already questionable legality and morality of previous externalization policies. It is argued that, legally, even if the transfers do not amount to direct refoulement, they constitute ‘constructive’ refoulement, clearly putting Israel in violation of article 32 of the 1951 Refugee Convention (prohibition on expulsion), and both countries in violation of article 3 (prohibition on discrimination), and potentially additional articles. It is further argued that the transfers are unconscionable for several important non-legal reasons: they affect the well-being of vulnerable people, they have no justification (apart from deterrence), they are confidential and extremely expensive, and they constitute a new level of arbitrary burden shifting to poorer and less stable countries. As long as they are seen as a continuation of an established all-Western externalization trend, their unconscionability should prompt scrutiny of the trend as a whole.

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Freie Universität Berlin
The Minerva Center for Human Rights
Menschenrechtszentrum Uni Potsdam
DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Einstein Foundation Berlin
Dahlem Research School