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Devastating to the individuals involved and frequently destructive in its
long-tenn impact on cultural groups and entire societies, the involuntary separation
of families is a widespread problem that deserves increased attention as an
issue of international human rights. Today, the international legal system is beginning
to address the concerns of the family and the need for justice within the
family, and to develop nonns that in many circumstances treat involuntary family
separation as a violation of international law. Its approach, however, has
been fragmentary and inconsistent, viewing family separation through particular
lenses, such as children's rights or privacy, without establishing a coherent
framework that brings these various perspectives together. In this article, we
identify and compare the emerging principles of international law that relate to
the issue of family separation and elaborate on them in a way that, we hope, will
help to build such a framework.

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