It is well understood that the definition of “refugee” in the 1951 Convention does not cover all forced migrants, or even all forced migrants in need of international protection. Through General Assembly resolutions, regional instruments and international practice, the definition of refugee—and UNHCR’s mandate to provide international protection—has evolved.
The Global Compact on Refugees has evolved from its point of origin as Annex 1 in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants.
Leah Zamore and I have completed a book manuscript entitled The Arc of Protection: Toward a New International Refugee Regime. The book, in draft, is being published on Public Seminar, a New School website. We are publishing the book in draft because we would welcome a discussion of the issues, including criticisms and corrections now--before it goes between hard covers. The Public Seminar site will publish comments and discussion points (as indicated at the bottom of each post). We'd be delighted to hear from you.
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.”