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Rethinking refugeehood: statelessness, repatriation, and refugee agency



Hannah Arendt's characterisation of the refugee as rightless and stateless has become a touchstone for scholars grappling with the nature of forced migration and exile. While aspects of Arendt's depiction continue to resonate, the notion of refugees as stateless, rightless ‘scum of the earth’ is now in many cases anachronistic, and no longer clearly reflects the challenges now faced by the majority of the world's refugees. This is attributable to structural changes in the refugee regime, particularly the increased focus on repatriation and the reconstitution of the relationship between refugees and their states of origin, a possibility largely unforeseen by Arendt. Drawing on the example of the Guatemalan repatriation movement, this article contends that indiscriminately portraying refugees as stateless represents a potential disservice to the displaced, as it may inadvertently undermine refugees' claims against their states of origin for the redress of their rights as citizens. There is a need to expand theorising on refugees from a narrow focus on the refugee as rightless and stateless to a broader conception of the refugee as a bearer of claims for the renegotiation of her relationship with her state.



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1 Other important theorists include Michael Walzer, Seyla Benhabib, and Giorgio Agamben. For a compelling refutation of Agamben's theorising of the refugee predicament, see Owens, Patricia, ‘Reclaiming “Bare Life”?: Against Agamben on Refugees’, International Relations, 23:4 (2009), pp. 567–82.

2 Amongst the many possible examples, see Landau, Loren B. and Manson, Tamlyn, ‘Displacement, Estrangement and Sovereignty: Reconfiguring State Power in Urban South Africa’, Government and Opposition, 43:2 (2008), pp. 315, 332; Shindo, Reiko, ‘Struggle for Citizenship: Interaction between Political Society and Civil Society at a Kurd Refugee Protest in Tokyo’, Citizenship Studies, 13:3 (2009), pp. 219–37; Franke, Mark F., ‘The Displacement of the Rights of Displaced Persons: An Irreconciliation of Human Rights between Place and Movement’, Journal of Human Rights, 7 (2008), pp. 262–81; Agier, Michel, Managing the Undesirables: Refugee Camps and Humanitarian Government (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2011); Adelman, Howard and Barkan, Elazar, No Return, No Refuge: Rights and Rites in Minority Repatriation (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011); Owens, Patricia, ‘Beyond “Bare Life”: Refugees and the “Right to Have Rights”’, in Betts, Alexander and Loeshcer, Gil (eds), Refugees in International Relations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 133–50; Betts, Alexander and Loescher, Gil, ‘Refugees in International Relations’, in Betts, Alexander and Loescher, Gil (eds), Refugees in International Relations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 152; Levy, Carl, ‘Refugees, Europe, Camps/States of Exception: “Into The Zone”, the European Union and Extraterritorial Processing of Migrants, Refugees, and Asylum-seekers (Theories and Practice)’, Refugee Survey Quarterly, 29:1 (2009), pp. 92119; Nyers, Peter, Rethinking Refugees: Beyond States of Emergency (London: Routledge, 2005).

3 For biographical examinations of Arendt, see Owens, Patricia, ‘Hannah Arendt: A Biographical and Political Introduction’, in Lang, Anthony F. Jr. and Williams, John (eds), Hannah Arendt and International Relations: Readings Across the Lines (London: Palgrave, 2005), pp. 2740; and Young-Bruehl, Elisabeth, Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World, 2nd Edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004).

4 For example, in her seminal article ‘Refugees and Exile: From “Refugee Studies” to the National Order of Things’, Liisa H. Malkki states that Arendt ‘insisted on the necessity of examining displacement through the prism of the often xenophobic national states, and she explicitly traced the political and symbolic logics that had the effect of pathologizing and even criminalizing refugees … The contemporary linkages amongst nationalism, racism, and immigration in Europe and elsewhere attest to the continued relevance of Arendt's observations.’ Reflecting a concerning trend in refugee studies scholarship, Malkki simply asserts rather than demonstrates the continued prescience of Arendt's reflections, and does not engage the challenges that accompany attempts to generalise from Arendt's historically contingent account of the refugee's predicament.

5 Arendt, Hannah, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt, 2001), p. 267.

6 As Belton suggests, the uncritical conflation of refugees and stateless populations may also have negative ramifications for stateless persons, exacerbating the marginalisation of those who have no country against which they may make claims for the protection of their rights as citizens. On the need for a liberal political theory of statelessness, see Belton, Kristy A., ‘The neglected non-citizen: Statelessness and liberal political theory’, Journal of Global Ethics, 7:1 (2011), pp. 5971. See Macklin, Audrey, ‘Who is the Citizens's Other? Considering the Heft of Citizenship’, Theoretical Inquiries in Law, 8:2 (2007), p. 336 for a compelling discussion of the view that in order to better understand the nature of citizenship, it may be necessary to retrieve ‘statelessness from its tangled relationship with refugeehood’, while avoiding a ‘stark and totalizing binary of stateless/citizen’.

7 To date, research – particularly theoretically oriented research – on repatriation has been limited. On this point, see Zetter, Roger, ‘Returning to Yerussalem’: Exile, Return and Oral History’, History Workshop Journal, 58 (2004), p. 299. Like returnees, de jure stateless persons (as distinguished from refugees) have also been relatively ‘invisible’ in scholarship and in practice.

8 Agamben, Giorgio, ‘We Refugees’, trans. Rocke, M., Symposium, 49:2 (1995), pp. 114–19.

9 Owens, Patricia, ‘Humanity, Sovereignty and the Camps’, International Politics, 45 (2008), p. 522. On political action, see Arendt, Hannah, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998). The notion of a political home emerges as a theme in several of Arendt's essays published in Kohn, Jerome (ed.), Essays in Understanding, 1930–1954 (New York: Schocken, 2005), including ‘The Aftermath of Nazi Rule’.

10 Growing interest in the intersection of International Relations, international studies, and Arendtian theory is evidenced in works such as Lang, Anthony F. Jr. and Williams, John (eds), Hannah Arendt and International Relations: Readings Across the Lines (London: Palgrave, 2005); Owens, Patricia, Between War and Politics: International Relations and the Thought of Hannah Arendt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007); and Kesby, Alison, The Right to Have Rights: Citizenship, Humanity and International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). On the significance of refugees for the study of International Relations, see for example, Loescher, Gil and Betts, Alex, Refugees in International Relations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

11 80 per cent of the world's refugee population remains in the global South. See UNHCR, 2009 Global Trends (Geneva: UNHCR, 2010), p. 8.

12 Benhabib, Seyla, The Rights of Others: Aliens, Residents and Citizens (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

13 UNHCR, 2009 Global Trends, p. 12.

14 Bosniak, Linda, The Citizen and the Alien: Dilemmas of Contemporary Membership (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), p. 1.

15 Ranger, T., ‘Studying Repatriation as Part of African Social History’, in Allen, T. and Morsink, H. (eds), When Refugees Go Home (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1994), p. 289.

16 Arendt, Hannah, ‘We Refugees’, in Kohn, Jerome and Feldman, Ron H. (eds), Hannah Arendt: The Jewish Writings (New York, Schocken, 2007), p. 264.

17 Arendt, Origins, p. 294.

18 Ibid., p. 279.

19 Arendt, Origins, p. 281, citing Simpson, John Hope, The Refugee Problem (Oxford: Institute of International Affairs, 1939), pp. 232, 4.

20 Agamben, ‘We Refugees’.

21 Arendt, Origins, p. 344; Isaac, Jeffrey C., ‘Hannah Arendt on Human Rights and the Limits of Exposure, or Why Noam Chomsky is Wrong about the Meaning of Kosovo’, Social Research, 69:2 (2002), p. 507; Isaac, Jeffrey C., ‘A New Guarantee on Earth: Hannah Arendt on Human Dignity and the Politics of Human Rights’, American Political Science Review, 90:1 (1996), pp. 6173.

22 Arendt, Origins, p. 297.

23 Ibid., p. 296.

24 Benhabib, Rights of Others, p. 50.

25 Arendt, Origins, p. 293.

26 Ibid., p. 294.

27 Ibid., p. 301. See also Owens, Patricia, ‘Xenophilia, Gender and Sentimental Humanitarianism’, Alternatives, 29:3 (2004), pp. 285304.

28 Arendt, ‘We Refugees’; Heuer, Wolfgang, ‘Europe and its refugees: Arendt on the politicization of minorities’, Social Research, 74:4 (2007), pp. 1161, 1169; Arendt, Hannah and Blumenfeld, Kurt, ‘In keinem Besitz verwurzelt’: Die Korrespondenz, Nordman, Ingeborg and Philling, Iris (eds) (Nordlingen: Rotbuch, 1995), p. 66 (quoted in Heuer, ‘Europe and its refugees’, p. 1169).

29 Arendt, Origins, p. 293, emphasis added.

30 Ibid., p. 267.

31 Ibid., p. 290.

32 Ibid., p. 281, quoting Jermings, R. Yewdall, ‘Some International Aspects of the Refugee Question’, British Yearbook of International Law (1939).

33 In addition to the scholarship cited in notes 3 and 5, for examples of scholarship premised on the view that Arendt's conception of the refugee continues to pertain today, see Wolfgang Heuer, ‘Europe and its refugees’; Hayden, Patrick, ‘From exclusion to containment: Arendt, sovereign power, and statelessness’, Societies Without Borders, 3 (2008), pp. 248–69; Hayden, Patrick, ‘Citizens of nowhere: the evil of statelessness’, in Hayden, Patrick (ed.), Political Evil in a Global Age: Hannah Arendt and International Theory (London: Routledge, 2009); Krause, Monika, ‘Undocumented migrants: An Arendtian perspective’, European Journal of Political Theory, 7:3 (2008), pp. 331–48; Pupavac, Vanessa, ‘Refugee Advocacy, Traumatic Representations and Political Disenchantment’, Government and Opposition, 43:2 (2008), pp. 270–92; Bernstein, Richard J., ‘Hannah Arendt on the Stateless’, Parallax, 11:1 (2005), pp. 4660. For a helpful discussion of how Arendt's broader theoretical work may advance understanding of the circumstances facing refugees today, see Patricia Owens, ‘Reclaiming “Bare Life”?’ as well as Parekh, Serena, ‘A meaningful place in the world: Hannah Arendt on the nature of human rights’, Journal of Human Rights, 32 (2004), pp. 4153 (on statelessness and human rights) and Bilsky, Leora, ‘Citizenship as mask: Between the imposter and the refugee’, Constellations, 15:1 (2008), pp. 7297.

34 Agier, Managing the Undesirables, pp. 15–16.

35 Bernstein, ‘Arendt on the Stateless’, p. 51.

36 Ibid.

37 Ibid., quoting Arendt, Origins, p. 459.

38 Benhabib, Seyla, The Reluctant Modernism of Hannah Arendt (London: Sage, 1996), p. 198; Parekh, ‘A meaningful place’, p. 52.

39 Kerber, Linda, ‘The Stateless as the Citizen's Other: A View from the United States’, American Historical Review, 111:1 (2007), pp. 7, 9.

40 UNHCR often claims that refugees themselves, like states, prefer return as the durable solution to their displacement. However, the evidence supporting such claims is in many instances thin; in general, there is a lack of data on refugees' preferences regarding durable solutions. For more on this issue, see Takahashi, Saul, ‘The UNHCR Handbook on Voluntary Repatriation: The Emphasis on Return over Protection’, International Journal of Refugee Law, 9:4 (1997).

41 On the importance of reading Arendt's work on refugees, statelessness, and citizenship in its historical, geographical, and political context, see Macklin, ‘Who is the Citizen's Other’ (on refugees and statelessness), and Owens, Patricia, ‘Not Life but the World is at Stake: Hannah Arendt on Citizenship in the Age of the Social’, Citizenship Studies, 16:2 (2012) (on citizenship and ‘the social’).

42 Gibney, Matthew, The Ethics and Politics of Asylum (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 4.

43 This is not to suggest that in these states there is no contestation between ethnic or national groups for power and place in the political community.

44 Arendt, Hannah, ‘The Seeds of a Fascist International’, Essays in Understanding (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1994), p. 143, quoted in Owens, ‘Humanity, Sovereignty and the Camps’, p. 523.

45 Macklin, ‘Who is the Citizen's Other’, p. 339.

46 Forced migration has long been sidelined from the push for accountability for violations of human rights. However, recent years have seen an increased push for accountability for displacement as a human rights violation. See, for example, Duthie, Roger, ‘Displacement and Transitional Justice’, International Journal of Transitional Justice, 5 (2011), pp. 241–61.

47 Arendt, Origins, p. 278.

48 Macklin, ‘Who is the Citizen's Other’, p. 347. Important exceptions include Bhutan's denationalisation and expulsion of ethnic Nepalese citizens (Lhotshampas) in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and the increasing interest in the denationalisation of Muslim citizens expressed by Western states such as the United States and the United Kingdom after the attacks of 11 September 2001. Interestingly, the case of the Lhotshampas demonstrates that repatriation may be a relevant (if elusive) solution even for the de jure stateless. See Bill Frelick, ‘For Bhutan's Refugees, there's No Place Like Home’ (2011), {}; and Hutt, Michael, Unbecoming Citizens: Culture, Nationhood and the Flight of Refugees from Bhutan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003). For de jure stateless people who are not displaced, or do not see themselves as having any ‘country of origin’, repatriation is not a pertinent solution to their predicament.

49 Batchelor, C. A., ‘Statelessness and the Problem of Resolving Nationality Status’, International Journal of Refugee Law, 10:1/2 (1998), p. 175; UNHCR, The World's Stateless People: Questions and Answers (Geneva: UNHCR, 2006), pp. 89.

50 Shachar, Ayelet, ‘Against birthright privilege: redefining citizenship’, in Benhabib, Seyla, Shapiro, Ian, and Petranović, Danilo (eds), Identities, Affiliations, and Allegiances (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 267. Shachar is referring here to de jure statelessness.

51 See Mohammed Adow, ‘Somali passports for sale’, BBC News (12 May 2004), {}. The author witnessed this practice while working for UNHCR. After being granted refugee status, refugees are typically issued alternative identification, such as a Travel Document, but copies of the passport are retained.

52 See Kesby, The Right to Have Rights for a detailed discussion of this issue.

53 I borrow this term from Kerber, ‘Citizen's Other’, p. 7, but use it in a different sense. While the maintenance of a link between the state of origin and the refugee may potentially be beneficial when it comes to negotiating repatriation and reconstituting the relationship between the returning refugee and the state, ‘statefullness’ may be highly problematic when safe and dignified repatriation opportunities are not forthcoming. The perception that the state of origin is primarily responsible for resolving refugees' predicament may undercut efforts to convince other actors such as host states and resettlement countries that they should make local integration or resettlement opportunities available to the displaced.

54 By 2003, the average duration of a refugee's exile was 17 years. See Milner, James, ‘Refugees and the Regional Dynamics of Peacebuilding’, Refugee Survey Quarterly, 28:1 (2009), p. 18.

55 Ong, Aihwa, ‘(Re)articulations of citizenship’, PS: Political Science and Policy, 38 (2005), p. 697.

56 Macklin, ‘The Citizen's Other’, p. 337.

57 Kerber, ‘Citizen's Other’, p. 30.

58 Ibid., p. 21; Torpey, John, The Invention of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship and the State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 127–9.

59 Borneman, J., ‘Returning German Jews and Questions of Identity’, in Long, L. D. and Oxfeld, E. (eds), Coming Home? Refugees, Migrants and Those Who Stayed Behind (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), p. 129.

60 Martin, Susanet al., The Uprooted: Improving Humanitarian Responses to Forced Migration (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2005), pp. 81–6; Loescher, Gil, The UNHCR and World Politics: A Perilous Path (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

61 Hathaway, James, ‘The Meaning of Repatriation’, International Journal of Refugee Law, 9:4 (1997), p. 53. In 2009, only one per cent of refugees around the world were resettled. See UNHCR, 2009 Global Trends, p. 12.

62 Phuong, Catherine, Forcible Displacement in Peace Agreements (Geneva: International Council on Human Rights Policy, 2005).

63 UNHCR, 2007 Global Trends: Refugees, Asylum-seekers, Returnees, Internally Displaced and Stateless Persons (Geneva: UNHCR, 2008), p. 10.

64 On norms surrounding refugee repatriation, see for example Zieck, M., ‘Voluntary Repatriation: Paradigm, Pitfalls, Progress’, Refugee Survey Quarterly, 23:3 (2004); Bagshaw, Simon, ‘Benchmarks or Deutschmarks? Determining the Criteria for the Repatriation of Refugees to Bosnia and Herzegovina’, International Journal of Refugee Law, 9:4 (1997); Bradley, Megan, ‘Back to basics: The conditions of just refugee returns’, Journal of Refugee Studies, 21:3 (2008).

65 Kofi Annan, ‘United Nations Secretary-General's address’, Statement delivered to the UNHCR Executive Committee’, Geneva (6 October 2005). While some scholars have questioned the widespread assumption that there is a mutually reinforcing relationship between the success of peace and repatriation processes, the close relationship between peacebuilding and repatriation movements has been established through the work of scholars such as Patricia Weiss Fagen, Richard Black, and Michael Dumper. See for example Fagen, Patricia Weiss, ‘Post-Conflict Reintegration and Reconstruction: Doing it Right Takes a While’, in Steiner, N., Loescher, G., and Gibney, M. (eds), Refugee Protection: Ethical, Legal and Political Problems and the Role of UNHCR (New York: Routledge, 2003); various contributors in Dumper, Michael (ed.), Palestinian Refugee Repatriation in Global Perspective (London: Routledge, 2006); and various contributors in Black, Richard and Koser, Khalid (eds), The End of the Refugee Cycle? Refugee Repatriation and Reconstruction (Oxford: Berghahn Books, 1999).

66 Quoted in Rensmann, Lars, ‘Returning from forced exile: Some observations on Theodor W. Adorno's and Hannah Arendt's experience of postwar Germany and their political theories of totalitarianism’, Leo Baeck Institute Year Book, 49 (2004), p. 189.

67 Rensmann, ‘Returning from forced exile’, pp. 177–8. Rensmann (pp. 176–7) suggests that unlike many Jewish refugees, Arendt was able to contemplate and ultimately act on her intention of returning to Germany because she saw the Holocaust as a product of ‘modern social conditions in general’, a view which left ‘the role of political culture and (anti)democratic tradition, human action and responsibility, and in this case specific German culpability … by the wayside’. Rensmann (p. 177) argues that Arendt's experiences of return ‘did lead to a shift, albeit one that was limited, contradictory and fragmented’ in her interpretation of the Third Reich and the Shoah.

69 Arendt, Origins, p. 281.

70 Ibid.

71 Ibid., p. 283.

72 Ibid., p. 284.

73 Ibid., p. 292.

74 Ibid., pp. 279, 286.

75 Shklar, Judith, ‘Obligation, Loyalty, Exile’, Political Theory, 21:2 (1993), p. 193.

76 Shklar, ‘Obligation, Loyalty, Exile’, p. 193.

77 Arendt, Origins, pp. 267, 300.

78 Ibid., p. 276.

79 Owens, ‘Reclaiming “Bare Life”?’, p. 568.

80 These processes of rights assertion are often supported by international actors and include, for example, efforts to ensure that the rights of refugees and other displaced persons are recognised in peace agreements and national constitutions, and campaigns to secure the restitution of refugees' lost property. See for example Leckie, Scott (ed.), Returning Home: Housing and Property Restitution Rights of Refugees and Displaced Persons (New York: Transnational Publishers, 2003).

81 Arendt, Origins, p. 301.

82 See, for example, Van Hear, Nicholas, New Diasporas: The Mass Exodus, Dispersal and Regrouping of Migrant Communities (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998).

83 Arendt, Origins, p. 301.

84 Owen, ‘Reclaiming “Bare Life”?’, pp. 576–7.

85 Costello, P., Guatemala: Displacement, Return and the Peace Process (Geneva: UNHCR, 1995); Stepputat, Finn, ‘Repatriation and the Politics of Space: The Case of the Mayan Diaspora and Return Movement’, Journal of Refugee Studies, 7:2/3 (1994), p. 179.

86 Worby, Paula, ‘Security and Dignity: Land Access and Guatemala's Returned Refugees’, Refuge, 19:3 (2001), p. 17.

87 Commission for Historical Clarification, Guatemala: Memory of Silence – Report of the Commission for Historical Clarification (Guatemala City: CEH, 1999), Conclusions, Section I, paras 2, 15, 25, Section II, paras 111, 122.

88 Worby, ‘Security and Dignity’, p. 17; Seils, Paul, ‘Reconciliation in Guatemala: The role of intelligent justice’, Race and Class 44:1 (2002), p. 43.

89 Costello, ‘Guatemala’; Worby, ‘Security and Dignity’, p. 18.

90 Stepputat, ‘Repatriation and the Politics of Space’, p. 181.

91 Arendt, ‘We Refugees’, p. 264.

92 Riess, S., ‘“Return is struggle, not resignation”: Lessons from the repatriation of Guatemalan refugees from Mexico’, UNHCR New Issues in Refugee Research Working Papers, 21 (2000). Riess and other scholars of the Guatemalan return demonstrate that the ‘retornados’ challenged not only their relationship with their state of origin, but also with UNHCR and the broader refugee regime.

93 Krznaric, R., ‘Guatemalan Returnees and the Dilemma of Political Mobilization’, Journal of Refugee Studies, 10:1 (1997), p. 71.

94 Leffert, M., ‘Women's Organizations in Guatemalan Refugee and Returnee Populations’, in Smillie, Ian (ed.), Patronage or Partnership: Local Capacity Building in Humanitarian Crises (Bloomfield: Kumarian Press, 2001); Worby, ‘Security and Dignity’, p. 20. On the significance of the evolving indigenous identities of the Guatemalan refugees and returnees, see, for example, R. Krznaric, ‘Guatemalan Returnees, and Finn Stepputat, ‘Repatriation and the Politics of Space’.

95 Worby, ‘Security and Dignity’, pp. 19–20.

96 Stepputat, ‘Repatriation and the Politics of Space’, p. 178.

97 Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), Uncertain Return: Refugees and Reconciliation in Guatemala (Washington: WOLA, 1989), p. 5.

98 Krznaric, ‘Guatemalan Returnees’, pp. 64–5; Worby, Paula, Lessons learned from UNHCR's involvement in the Guatemalan refugee repatriation and reintegration programme (1987–1999) (Geneva: UNHCR, 1999), pp. 1314.

99 See, for example, various contributors in North, L. and Simmons, A. (eds), Journeys of Fear: Refugee Return and National Transformation in Guatemala (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1999).

100 Jamal, A., Refugee Repatriation and Reintegration in Guatemala: Lessons from UNHCR's Experience (Geneva: UNHCR Evaluation and Policy Analysis Unit, 2000), p. 5.

101 Resettlement Accord 1994, Section I, Objectives, Article 4.

102 Worby, ‘Security and Dignity’, p. 17; K. Long, ‘State, Nation, Citizen: Rethinking Repatriation’, Oxford Refugee Studies Centre Working Papers, 48 (2008).

103 Taylor, C., Return of Guatemala's Refugees: Reweaving the Torn (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998), p. 10.

104 While there are certainly unique elements of the Guatemala return movement, the case is not sui generis. The ‘retornados’ derived inspiration from the organised return of refugees to El Salvador from Honduras in the 1980s, and the use of repatriation movements as campaigns for the reassertion of political claims is a well-established practice in the Great Lakes region of Africa. That said, it should be noted that my goal is not to generalise from this analysis of the Guatemalan return, but to use this case as an entry point for rethinking the implications of repatriation for conceptualisations of refugees as rightless and stateless.

105 Arendt, Origins, p. 284.

106 On the spread of international norms on property restitution for repatriating refugees, see, for example, Williams, Rhodri, The Contemporary Right to Property Restitution in the Context of Transitional Justice (New York: International Center for Transitional Justice, 2007). On the involvement of displaced populations in transitional justice mechanisms, see, for example, Duthie, ‘Displacement and Transitional Justice’; and Young, Laura and Park, Rosalyn, ‘Engaging Diasporas in Truth Commissions: Lessons from the Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission Diaspora Project’, International Journal of Transitional Justice, 3 (2008). Returnees have assumed leadership positions in various governments, including in Timor-Leste and in Somalia's transitional administration.

107 Krznaric, ‘Guatemalan Returnees’, p. 71; Pares, Inter, ‘Building the Road Home’, Inter Pares Bulletin, 25:4 (2003).

108 Turton, David, ‘The Meaning of Place in a World of Movement’, Journal of Refugee Studies, 18:3 (2003), p. 278.

109 Arendt, Origins, p. 301.

110 Turton, ‘Meaning of Place’, p. 258.

111 See Owens, ‘Xenophilia’, pp. 297–8 for a more detailed discussion of this point.

112 Isaac, ‘A New Guarantee’, p. 64.

113 Heuer, ‘Europe and its Refugees’, pp. 1163–4; see also Isaac, ‘A New Guarantee’, pp. 61–4.

* I would like to thank the RIS reviewers and editorial team for their very helpful comments on an earlier version of this article. I would also like to thank Christine Straehle and Patti Lenard for their comments. Any errors or shortcomings are of course my own. This work was supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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