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Refugees: Justice and Ethics Library Display 2021



Jayla Neret


A drawing portraying the moral obligation/responsibility the United States has to grant asylum to Afghan Refugees.


After the recent Taliban takeover, more Afghans are fleeing Afghanistan and seeking refuge in nations across the globe. It is important to acknowledge that the United States not only contributed to but also enabled the Taliban’s rise to power and this ultimately leads to the same question many Americans are asking themselves: “What is the U.S.’s responsibility to Afghanistan?”. My drawing explores this question from an ethical stance. The nation of Afghanistan and its people paid the price for al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks; an attack, might I add, that Afghanistan was not at all responsible for. The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and stayed there for 20 years. Throughout this war, over half a million people were killed, and even more were left injured, traumatized, and dislocated. In fact, this war is responsible for at least 5.9 million refugees; which arguably is also the fault of the United States.

The drawing depicts a Uncle Sam, representative of the U.S. government, debating on whether or not to provide asylum to Afghan Refugees. I chose a devil and angel on each shoulder to represent a figurative moral compass of “good” and “bad” as a visual metaphor for deontological ethics. Deontological ethics is the relationship between duty and the morality of human action; here the devil represents the duty of the U.S. and the angel represents the morality of humanity. The devil is reminding the U.S. of their actions that have led to Afghan refugees as a rationale as to why they should accept them. Because of the U.S.’s 20-year involvement in Afghanistan and their active contribution to the Afghan refugee crisis, I believe it is their “duty” or responsibility to help the nation as best they can. The angel is reminding the U.S. of their humility because I also believe that from a moral perspective any nation with the resources and capabilities to welcome refugees should. Refugee advocate and president of the international rescue committee, David Miliband, further discusses our obligation to refugees as people through a deontological approach in his 2017 Ted Talk. ” Miliband describes moral obligation as a telling of character, he focuses on the duty of humanity and one’s morality which is synonymous to Immanuel Kant’s deontological ethics theory. Miliband says the refugee crisis is a test of our character meaning denying people asylum when you’re able to help is reflective of your morality.

The United States has such immense access to wealth and resources and yet the decision on whether or not to help Afghan refugees is controversial. The United States has a duty to humanitarian action not only because of its contribution to foreign policy errors in Afghanistan but also because of its duty as humans. My drawing overall represents the responsibility The U.S. has to Afghan refugees and the analysis of deontological ethics to justify this obligation.


"Where Have Afghan Refugees Gone?” Council on Foreign Relations, Council on Foreign Relations, 11 Oct. 2021.

David Miliband, “The Refugee Crisis is a Test of our Character”,, April 2017.


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