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Mercy Deborah Samathanam
O. P. Jindal Global University, India

A striking phenomenon of our times is the closing of State borders to people seeking refuge as a result of civil wars, socio-economic stresses, and political violence in their home country. While the prerogative of each State to repatriate illegal immigrants may seem justifiable under certain conditions, however, in case of refugees and asylum seekers, it is a fundamental principle of international law that such people must not be repatriated to territories where their life would be imperiled on the basis of race, religion, nationality, social group or opinion. This principle of non-refoulement is enshrined in Article 33 of the Convention Relating to Status of Refugees, 1951. However, concerns of national security and rise of nationalism have led to increasingly calls for expulsion of migrants and refugees back to their country of origin. So whether it be the expelling of the Central American migrant caravans at the US ports of entry, or re-opening of offshore detention centres by Australia for asylum seekers, or deletion of a million people from the national citizenship list in India –these events indicate shifts in State policies preferring closed borders. Some of the questions to be examined in this paper include whether trumping of human rights of refugees under national immigrationm policies is permissible under international law? To what extent has growing nationalism contributed to closing of sovereign borders? And more importantly, does closing borders to those in need of a sanctuary in times of civil strife mark the end of humanity?

Mercy Deborah is an Assistant Professor at the Jindal Global Law School at O. P. Jindal Global University (JGU) based in Sonipat, Haryana (India). Her areas of research and teaching include health law and policy, consumer law, family law, civil procedure and criminal justice system. Mercy did her graduation reading in History and Law from the University of Delhi and obtained her Masters in Law as a student of Merit Scholarship from the Indian Law Institute, New Delhi specializing in Criminal Law. Currently, she is pursuing her doctoral studies at the National Law University Delhi (NLUD) in the area of ‘Rights of Human Subjects in Medical Research in India’. Prior to joining the academia, she worked as an Associate at the Law Office of the Additional Solicitor General of India, High Court of Delhi and later practiced in the City Civil Courts of Delhi.

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