30 Jan A global solution to a global refugee crisis
If implemented as intended, the UN Refugee Convention points the way to a truly global solution to the refugee crisis. A contribution to the open GlobalRights debate on the future of refugee protection.
The UN Refugee Convention occupies an increasingly marginal position in the way refugees are protected around the world. I think this is a bad thing: for refugees and for states.
Presenting the draft of the Refugee Convention some 65 years ago, the first UN Secretary-General explained that “[t]his phase… will be characterized by the fact that refugees will lead independent lives in countries who housed them. Except for ‘extreme’ cases, refugees will no longer be held by an international organization as they currently are. They will be integrated into the economic system of the countries of asylum and they themselves will cover their own needs and those of their families”.
However, today, despite the fact that 148 countries have joined the Refugee Convention, the reality is quite the opposite. Most refugees are currently not allowed to live independent lives. Most of the refugees are being held by an international organization. And most refugees are definitely not allowed to provide for their own needs.
What went wrong?
Something that is not bad is the Refugee Convention itself. The refugee definition (a person with a “well-founded fear of persecution” on the basis of discrimination) has proven very flexible, identifying new groups of deeply marginalized people who cannot benefit from human rights protections in their own countries.
At least as important, his catalog of refugee-specific rights remains as valuable as ever. The underlying theory of the Refugee Convention is not about creating dependency through handouts at all. On the contrary, it guarantees the social and economic rights that refugees need to be able to recover after being forced to leave their own national community; for example, to have access to education, look for work, and start businesses. And as it was evident to the states that drafted the treaty, refugees could not begin to care for themselves, much less contribute to the well-being of their host communities, if they were locked up.
In what direction is it necessary to move forward?
A team of lawyers, social scientists, NGO activists, and government and intergovernmental officials, from all over the world, worked for five years to conceive the blueprint for a new approach to implementing the Refugee Convention. We reached a consensus on a number of basic principles.
Reforms must address the circumstances of all states, not just a few most powerful.
Most of the efforts to “reform” the refugee regime in recent years have been designed and controlled by powerful states, such as Australia and the European Union. No effort has been made to share in an equitable and binding way the much heavier burdens and responsibilities of the less developed world, not even at the level of economic contributions or the guarantee of resettlement opportunities. This condemns the poorest states, and the 80% of refugees residing in them, to rely on fickle and often insufficient support, often resulting in refugee rights not being respected. These are also decidedly short-sighted efforts, as the lack of meaningful protection alternatives close to home is a major motivation for seeking asylum outside the region; and this often favors the strategies of smugglers and traffickers.
Formulate plans for refugee movements, instead of simply reacting to them.
The international refugee system must commit to a predetermined division of (economic) burdens and (human) responsibility. Factors such as past contributions to refugee protection, GDP per capita, and arable land can be sensible starting points for assigning proportions to the economic and human dimensions of protection. But, as the European Union’s recent unsuccessful effort to determine those ratios after the fact made clear, the insurance-based logic of fixed allocations will only be possible to implement if it is done before a specific refugee movement happens.
Accept common but differentiated responsibilities for the States.
It is not necessary that there be a link between the place where the refugee arrives and the State in which he receives protection for the duration of the danger in his country; this would weaken the logic of economic migration disguised through the asylum procedure. And instead of asking all states to perform the same protective functions, we must harness the ability and willingness of different states to contribute in different ways. The core of a renewed protection regime should be a common but differentiated responsibility; In other words, beyond the common obligation to offer the first asylum, States could assume a variety of protection functions within their share of shared responsibility (protection while the danger lasts, immediate permanent integration in exceptional cases, residual resettlement); although all states would have the obligation to contribute to the shared distribution of burdens (economic) and responsibility (human), without favoring one dimension to the detriment of the other.
Change the administration of refugee protection from the national to the international level.
We advocate that a revitalized UNHCR be responsible for administering quotas, with authority to allocate funds and refugees based on respect for legal norms; and promoting the move to a common international refugee status determination system and group screening assessment to reduce processing costs, thus freeing up funds to provide real and reliable support to immediate countries of refugee status. reception, including seed funding to foster economic development that will link refugees to host communities and facilitate their subsequent return home. Our economists suggest that a reallocation of funds currently spent on national asylum systems would be more than enough to finance this system. and since,
Offer protection while the danger lasts, not necessarily permanent immigration.
We must make it clear that this is a system where migration is a means to protect, not an end in itself. Controlled entry regimes would be encouraged where possible, although the right of refugees to reach anywhere within their reach without penalty for their illegal presence should be respected (thereby reducing the market for smugglers and traffickers). ). Some refugees, such as unaccompanied minors and victims of severe trauma, will require immediate permanent integration, while others will instead need to be granted protection rights for the duration of the danger. Creative development assistance linking refugees with their host communities would improve chances for local integration, and many refugees would finally feel able to return home. But for those still, without access to any of these solutions 5-7 years after arrival, residual resettlement would be guaranteed for those still at risk, allowing them to rebuild their lives with lasting rights guaranteed. ; a stark contrast to the current common situation of often indefinite uncertainty.
If we really want to prevent the humanitarian tragedy from continuing, not only in Europe but around the world, it is necessary to end the atomized and chaotic approach to refugee protection that exists today. The time has come not to renegotiate the Refugee Convention, but to finally put that treaty into practice so that it works fairly and reliably.
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