Millions of people are being forced from their homes by conflict, violence, disaster, or poverty. From those fleeing the war in Syria or climate change-induced droughts, to those stranded in inadequate conditions in Europe, these vulnerable individuals vary widely in terms of nationalities, languages, dialects, educational levels, income, social status, and access to technology. What they share is the overwhelming need for information in a language they understand in order to make decisions about their next steps, remain safe, and access available assistance.
Economic development requires people to move to where the jobs are, from lagging to leading regions within a country or across borders. This leads to optimal utilization of their human capital and to important gains for them and the economy. The movement of migrants to economic opportunities and to networks that help them integrate the labor market, leads to geographical concentrations of migrant populations. Notably the flows of high-skilled migrants are very concentrated, as they tend to go to few countries worldwide, and to a few selected areas within the country. Agglomeration effects and knowledge spillovers increase the productivity of high-skilled workers who work in the same area or collaborate with other high-skilled workers.
It is, I think, a happy state of affairs that the New York Declaration did not include a GCR. It has given UNHCR and interested parties the opportunity to take a broader view of what ails the international refugee regime and what is needed to fix it. This will now be worked out in the “Programme of Action” to be included in the GCR. The Programme of Action is nominally a detailed plan for ensuring success of the CRRF. But already in the Zero Draft of the GCR it is more than that, and it is here that future development of the GCR will, and needs to, take place.
Lebanon has long hosted refugee populations. In 1948 Palestinians began arriving fleeing violence due to the formation of the Israeli state. The Syrian refugee crisis has resulted in yet another wave of refugees into Lebanon. Due to the unprecedented scale of the displacement, the Syrian refugee crisis has captured international attention. Yet, this has been at the expense of other crises and vulnerable populations.
Last year the Court of Justice of the European Union issued two judgments on the Syrian refugee crisis. Both cases concerned Europe’s externalization of migration policy – i.e. the legal and practical measures taken to enforce refugee exclusion outside or at the borders of the territories of EU member states. These policies have been labeled as the politics of non-entrée by Hathaway & Gammeltoft-Hansen. In the judgments, the Court decided that it was not competent to rule on the cases because it had no jurisdiction. As I have argued more extensively in an article published open access in the Journal of Refugee Studies, the result of this is that law is not only an instrument for excluding people from European territory. The exclusion now runs through law itself. Although European fundamental human rights law is still formally neutral, the exclusion of non-Europeans is becoming a core element of European law.
High Commissioner Grandi ended the Dialogue with a powerful and informative set of remarks. Mr. Grandi repeatedly emphasized the contribution of hosting states in responding to refugee situations. Thus he began by describing the continuing South Sudanese displacement crisis (about to enter its fifth year), mentioning the six neighboring states that have taken in two million refugees and implicitly contrasting their efforts with the contributions of donor states (only 1/3 of the appeal for funds had been met, and of the 90,000 refugees UNHCR has said need resettlement it is likely that less than 2% will actually be resettled this year). The High Commissioner stated that thinking about responsibility-sharing must begin with recognition that hosting states “pay the highest price” (particularly municipalities). Hosting states, he said, “have been waiting a very long time for things to change.”
I am “blogging” (never thought I would use that word) from the High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges in Geneva, which is devoted this year to the Global Compact on Refugees. High Commissioner Grandi gave a lengthy opening statement [see the UNHCR story on the speech]. The HC stated that the next step in the process, following the two day Dialogue, would be the writing of a “zero draft” of the Compact, which would be shared with states prior to the consultation stage set to begin in mid-February.
A bit of shameless self-promotion. The Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility has recently launched a project on a Global Broadband Plan for Refugees, aimed at expanding connectivity for refugees and refugee-hosting communities. The initiative is supported by Tent.org, USA for UNHCR and the World Bank. We are working with UNHCR to identify CRRF pilot countries in which to begin the project. Read more about the project at https://www.broadband4refugees.org/. Read the brief, subscribe for updates, and find more information on our partnerships and objectives.