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Refugee protection in Europe: lessons of the Yugoslav crisis

Thorburn, Joanne (1995) Refugee protection in Europe: lessons of the Yugoslav crisis. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86155) (KAR id:86155)


This thesis addresses the issue of refugee protection in Europe, and draws on the approaches taken to the crisis in former Yugoslavia to find lessons for future policies and strategies.

The protection of refugees in Europe has a long history and during the twentieth century has provided a basis and model both for other regions and for a universal approach. At the end of the twentieth century refugee protection in Europe is being challenged. Part of the test arises from the number of immigrants, with various motivations, arriving in Europe combined with the continent's own moves towards territorial integration and free movement for its own citizens. Another factor is the potential for mass movement arising from various manifestations of the end of the Cold War, exemplified by the displacements in former Yugoslavia.

The progressive development of refugee law and policies shows that while a strong basis to universal protection was established with the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, later developments, including the 1967 Protocol, have been made according to the circumstances of the moment. Given the regional situation at the end of the twentieth century, a further contextualised evolution may be appropriate. This could take the form of a mechanism of temporary protection, supplementary to and supportive of the 1951 Convention.

In this thesis the existing basis of protection, and its essential components, are established through an assessment of who may be defined as a refugee and how, and analysis of the human rights norms in which refugee protection is grounded. The situation in Europe in the 1990s shows that there is the potential for continued evolution, meeting the requirements to which states have internationally agreed and maintaining the humanitarian stance upheld by European states for most of the twentieth century.

The development of European protection strategies must occur in a holistic context, addressing the causes of movement, involving different types of protection (in the country of origin; in the neighbouring states and wider region of origin on a short-term basis and longer-term asylum) and admitting that various solutions are possible. Protection in itself does not solve a refugee's situation. The opportunity to return, remain in the host state or resettle to another state, within any of the three situations a long-term perspective for employment and family life and involvement in all the political, social and cultural aspects of citizenship, can solve the personal, and wider, crisis, although certain scars may remain.

European states have developed different strategies to cope with the short-term protection needs of those displaced during conflict in former Yugoslavia. As well as protection in so-called 'safe areas' they have developed 'temporary protection' policies, allowing a short-term, limited status to people who were not accorded Convention refugee status. In spite of efforts to harmonise their asylum and immigration policies, even European Union Member States created very different schemes, policies and legislation. Four of the mechanisms are assessed in this thesis.

Policy options are advanced which favour protection for those in need, take into account the range of political and legal commitments and aims of states, citizens and refugees, and the means for policy determination.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86155
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: refugees; Yugoslavia
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
K Law > KZ Law of Nations
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:31 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:27 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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