The world breaks its asylum promise. The most powerful countries decided that people were entitled to seek asylum. Now they undermine those promises without consequences.

In this restive age of unprecedented human displacement, 100 million people have fled disaster and oppression to try their luck in a world that's increasingly tired of dealing with them.

The high-minded international agreements that were guiltly drafted after WorldWar II to protect refugees and asylum seekers have been steadily hollowed out by the same wealthy nations that consider themselves standard bearers of human rights.

The United States has been at the vanguard of this undoing. The government is well aware of its international-treaty obligations : The pleas of foreigners on US territory seeking protection from persecution are supposed to be heard.

Asylum seekers should be treated as potential refugees until their cases have been decided. It is illegal for governments to force people back to countries where they have a reasonable fear of persecution.

Just last month, Moroccan forces set upon a crowd of immigrants that had rushed to scale a fence into Spain, killing at least 23 people, according to human rights groups monitoring the Moroccan Spanish border.

A scathing statement from N.G.O.s in both countries blamed the deaths on a security deal between the two governments and ''European policies to externalize the E.U.'s borders, with the complicity of a southern country, Morocco.''

''Nobody is going to call out anybody else, because they're all doing it,'' said David Owen, a British political philosopher and the author of ''What Do We Owe to Refugees?''

''At some point this has to crack. Either we decide that human rights just don't matter, or the human rights of some people don't matter, or the international community will start taking this more seriously.''

We imagine a planet of nations and borders, but a growing chunk of humanity lives in camps. Most displaced people are likely to die in limbo, without ever being resettled. Refugee camps and transitional shelters have turned, increasingly, into long-term, even lifelong homes.

And that burden is unfairly distributed : Eighty-three percent of the world's refugees are hosted by low -and middle income-countries.

In the meantime, the inhabitants of the world's more comfortable places exist obliviously behind governments that do the dirty work. President Donald Trump fantasized aloud about electrified walls and a trench of alligators, but perhaps our most impenetrable border protection is the psychological insulation that separates the things we do from the way we prefer to think about ourselves.

The Publishing continues. The World Students Society thanks author Megan K. Stack for her opinion.


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