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Journal Article

March of refugees: an act of civil disobedience


Benli,  Ali Emre
Ethics, Law and Politics, MPI for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Max Planck Society;

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Benli, A. E. (2018). March of refugees: an act of civil disobedience. Journal of Global Ethics, 14(3), 315-331. doi:10.1080/17449626.2018.1502204.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-C7E4-8
On 4 September 2015 asylum seekers who got stranded in Budapest’s Keleti train station began a march to cross the Austrian border. Their aim was to reach Germany and Sweden where they believed their asylum claims would be better received. In this article, I argue that the march should be characterized as an act of civil disobedience. This claim may seem to contradict common convictions regarding acts of civil disobedience as well as asylum seekers. The most common justifications are given with reference to moral rights of citizens and concerns for enhancing justice or democracy within states. Asylum seekers are not members of the European public. How can they be entitled to break the law? I first show that the march displays features of a paradigm case of civil disobedience. Then, I identify moral reasons for asylum seekers to carry out the march acceptable from both strong and weak cosmopolitan perspectives. After that, I point out its corrective, stabilizing and democracy-enhancing roles in the European political landscape. I conclude by emphasizing that conceptualizing the march as an act of civil disobedience is significant in recognizing asylum seekers as political agents making claims within an evolving framework of refugee protection.