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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 1 .

Refugees, Rights and Realities: Evolving International Concepts and Regimes
Frances Nicholoson & Patrick Twomey

(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999)
391pp. Index. Hb.: 45.00; ISBN 0-5216-3282-X

This book examines international law on the rights of refugees and asylum seekers and the ways this body of law is often not respected in the reality of state practice. Seventeen chapters in four sections are concerned with the evolving nature of law regarding refugees, the role of UNHCR, the responses of states and individual rights, and the European regime. It derived from a conference held by the Human Rights Law Centre at the University of Nottingham in 1996.

The book provides a detailed and wide-ranging analysis of current theory and practice with regard to refugee law, the practice in a range of countries from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Rwanda to the Confederation of Independent States.

The book is not concerned directly with ethnic conflict, but ethnic conflict inevitably leads to people, sometimes many thousands of people, seeking asylum or refugee status in other countries. European countries receive many of these people, who have been driven from their homes by fear, torture, intimidation; who have experienced the death or loss of loved ones, and who now need to be treated with care and humanity.

The book provides a useful overview and analysis of current practice, and demonstrates how inadequate this is even in so-called civilised countries. The last decade has seen a large increase in the numbers of refugees and asylum seekers. It is not necessarily the case that laws, many of which were framed in the years after World War Two, are adequate to cope with today's needs. The book shows that there is a clear recognition that we in Europe need to work together to develop international strategy regarding the legal issues surrounding refugees and asylum seekers, and that, nearly fifty years after international law was implemented we often still do not treat such people with fairness, consideration, or humanity.

Dr Nigel Hunt
Nottingham Trent University

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