The future of refugee protection

What new approaches to meet a growing crisis?

United Nations Photo/Flickr

The UN says there are almost 15 million refugees in the world, the highest number since 1993. Continued instability in the Middle East and North Africa suggests this number will grow. The international regime governing the reception and treatment of refugees was put in place at the end of World War II. Does it remain ‘fit for purpose’?

The chaotic and tragic images of Syrians fleeing across the Aegean are repeated (though less reported on) on the other side of the world, as Rohingya refugees from Myanmar flee across the Indian Ocean. In both cases, and many more, states eschew orderly reception and resettlement plans for the refugees, and show little solidarity with first asylum countries. How can states be convinced to co-operate to provide the protection all agree is necessary, rather than compete to impose ever-harsher barriers to entry?

There will be important UN conferences in 2016 where states will recommit to humanitarian principles and to international burden sharing. New ideas and innovative policy proposals are urgently needed to reinvigorate a truly global  commitment to refugee protection.


Rethinking solutions to the Rohingya refugee crisis

December 19, 2019
By: Brian Gorlick
Français | العربية

The Rohingya refugees are unlikely to be able to return home anytime soon. We need to look at other ...

Turkey’s fast fashion is rising on the backs of Syrian refugees

October 3, 2019
By: Salma Houerbi
Español | العربية

Weak labour legislation in Turkey, paired with brands that put profits before people, is causing harmful ...

Values-based collective action helps resist the criminalization of compassion

October 17, 2018
By: Rachel Freed

Humanitarian workers giving aid to migrants are being threatened and in some cases imprisoned. But compassionate ...

Family separation: a flashpoint in the global migrant crisis

June 29, 2018
By: Brian Root  & Rachel Schmidt

Situations of inhumane treatment and abuses of power are where we need human rights the most, and the ...

The US role in forced migration from the Middle East

October 18, 2017
By: Azadeh Shahshahani

American foreign policy is at the root of forced migration from different parts of the world, and human ...

Refugee politics from the local to the international

February 21, 2017
By: Sarah Stroup

The Trump administration is affecting refugee politics from small towns to the world stage, and activists ...

New approach to refugee protection must prioritize self-sufficiency

August 15, 2016
By: Mallory Mroz

A new approach to refugee protection needs to draw on the principles of self-sufficiency to prevent ...

Self-interest argument for refugee admission backfires in Japan

June 15, 2016
By: Saul J. Takahashi

Japan fails to protect refugees—but arguing it should do so because its aging society needs new immigrants ...

Accounting for human rights: lessons from Syria

May 25, 2016
By: Sean Luna Mcadams

If refugee advocates don’t shine a light on budgets, it will be nearly impossible to ensure sustained ...

Migrants are driving innovative campaigns for female refugees in Germany

May 23, 2016
By: Claudia Bollwinkel

Activists are using a multi-van in Germany to help female refugees cope with violence and harassment.

Broader view shows path to refugee reform

May 17, 2016
By: David James Cantor

The refugee regime extends well beyond the 1951 Convention, and a broader contextual view is necessary ...

Crisis in Europe exposes failing refugee protection regime

May 11, 2016
By: John Torpey

The refugee protection regime works if it remains limited to those genuinely fleeing persecution — though ...

Without adequate reflection, new refugee solutions risk failing

May 5, 2016
By: Chris Dolan

We have to stop pushing new refugee solutions without assessing where we have succeeded and failed so ...

Statelessness as forced displacement

April 27, 2016
By: Kristy A. Belton

When we think of forced displacement, we don’t usually think about the stateless. But we should.

Is a reformed Refugee Convention a solution?

April 12, 2016
By: Neva O. Öztürk & Cavidan Soykan

The Refugee Convention was designed for an earlier era, but there seems little will to update its provisions ...

Burden-sharing: Utopian dream or principled pragmatism?

April 6, 2016
By: Irene Khan 

Global burden-sharing schemes won’t solve the refugee crisis – experience shows tailored, regional arrangements ...

Refugee protection is politics

March 31, 2016
By: Roni Amit & Loren B. Landau

The best refugee legislation in the world will have little effect when those seeking protection are ...

Syria continues to bleed while the Middle East closes its doors

March 23, 2016
By: Susan M. Akram

Host states impose greater restrictions on refugees’ rights at least partly because Western states aren’t ...

The struggle for sans-papiers human rights

March 15, 2016
By: Upendra Baxi

Protecting the rights of refugees and migrants requires a response based in hospitality not hostility.

Political realities challenge refugee reform

March 9, 2016
By: Bill Frelick
Français | Español

Does anyone really have the authority to bind states to accept their fair share of global refugee burdens ...

The duty to rescue: a new paradigm for refugee protection

March 7, 2016
By: Jean-François Durieux
Français | Español

The refugee protection regime needs reform, but this requires new international approaches that go beyond ...

Putting on the pressure: domestic constituencies and refugee policy

March 4, 2016
By: Emily Arnold-Fernandez
Français | Español

As long as states do not face pressure from their own constituencies, domestic refugee policy is unlikely ...

Rediscovering a winning formula for refugee protection

March 3, 2016
By: James Milner 
Français | Español

State cooperation can only solve the refugee crisis if states actually want to cooperate. And evidence ...

Improve refugee protection by managing it better

March 2, 2016
By: Tim Finch 
Français | Español

The disorder and tragedy inherent in large-scale, spontaneous refugee flows is not inevitable—what we ...

Refugee reform must become a global project

March 1, 2016
By: Alex Neve
Español | Français

Many different states are implicated in the wars and human rights violations that provoke refugee crises, ...

A global solution to a global refugee crisis

February 29, 2016
By: James C. Hathaway 
Français | Español | العربية

If implemented as intended, the UN Refugee Convention points the way to a truly global solution to the ...