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Landscapes of refugee protection

Coddington, K.

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K. Coddington


In this paper, I argue that conditions for asylum seekers in countries that have signed the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (hereafter ‘Convention’) are increasingly paralleling those in non-signatory countries. The similar deterioration of treatment of asylum seekers is symptomatic of the disintegration of the existing refugee protection system established by the Convention. This paper focuses on the case of Thailand, a non-signatory country that has been widely criticised for its treatment of refugees, and compares three significant trends in refugee protection with those in the UK. In Thailand as well as the UK, protection takes shape as ad hoc, arbitrary and differentially applied across space, leading to extreme precariousness. Two concepts frame my comparison of the Thai and UK contexts: the landscapes of protection that encompass the range of practices engaged in refugee governance, from signed treaties to soft laws, subcontracted service providers and substandard media coverage; and the graduated levels of protection that rely on spatial logics to manage access to protection and shape both refugees’ imagined futures as well as their present status. This comparison challenges the implicit distinctions between developed and developing countries, as well as signatories and non-signatories to the Convention, that have predominated in refugee scholarship, and extends recent scholarship that deconstructs the coherence and authority of the nation state. I conclude that these presumed divisions are not only inaccurate, but mask the precarious and dangerous realities that asylum seekers and refugees face in both locations. Increasingly, the protections offered by the Convention have become a façade for arbitrary and harmful treatment of refugees.


Coddington, K. (2018). Landscapes of refugee protection. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 43(3), 326-340.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 6, 2017
Online Publication Date Jan 25, 2018
Publication Date Sep 1, 2018
Deposit Date Oct 6, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jan 25, 2020
Journal Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Print ISSN 0020-2754
Electronic ISSN 1475-5661
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 43
Issue 3
Pages 326-340


Accepted Journal Article (647 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This is the accepted version of the following article: Coddington, K. (2018). Landscapes of refugee protection. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 43(3): 326-340, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.

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