In a bit of shameless self-promotion: IRC and Vox have teamed up to launch a podcast called Displaced. They gave me a chance to talk about the GCR and the refugee regime in general. You can find the podcast here or listen below.
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.
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.
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.
Officials see them as cruel exploiters of human misery: criminals, traffickers, predators. Indeed, many policymakers seem to suggest that if only we crack down on smugglers, refugee crises would be solved. Popular culture—including through Oscar-nominated documentaries—glorifies Greek and Italian Coast Guards and other anti-smuggler agents as saviors from the machinations of evil smugglers. Syrian migrants have a different view.
The association of violent criminality with immigration crops up time and time again across the popular and political press. Last Monday’s coverage on the New York Times Daily, which focused on the bind sheriffs face when asked by ICE to impose detainers on “illegal immigrants,” unfortunately takes up this characterization.
As debate on the European migrant crisis shifts from the voyage of migrants and their initial arrival in Europe to the long-term experiences of migrants in host countries, we must reexamine the issue of organized crime and forced migration.