Human rights discourse has become central to the global debates about treatment of and solutions for refugees and displaced persons. Following the expansion of rights-oriented terminology generally, advocates for displacees have increasingly framed their arguments in human rights terms. Many believe that human rights discourse can help mobilize humanitarian solutions for people fleeing violence and persecution. However, we argue that the backlash against human rights institutions and organizations within some communities may render this strategy ineffective and even reinforce exclusionary attitudes among host communities. Based on socio-legal analysis of the refugee label and human rights discourse within Israeli society, we demonstrate how the strategic use of this terminology by pro-refugee NGOs portrays displacees as a security and identity threat to local communities. We suggest alternative framings that might better achieve advocates’ goal of protection.

Kevin Cope & Shiri Krebs, Can Rights Discourse Diminish Support for Displaced Persons?, 20 Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies 279–292 (2022).