World’s leading experts gather at UBC to discuss refugee reform

Experts in the area of refugee law gathered at UBC
recently to discuss refugee reform.

Not since World War II has the Western world seen a refugee crisis of the current magnitude. As policy makers and politicians around the globe try to grapple with this complex issue, the Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia, in partnership with the University of Michigan and sponsored by the Allard Prize for International Integrity, hosted a two-day workshop on refugee reform with some of the world’s leading and most influential refugee law scholars. 

The comprehensive workshop culminated in a Call to Action to all governments and policy makers in regards to this global crisis. 

Leading the workshop was Dean and Professor Catherine Dauvergne from the Allard School of Law and Professor James C. Hathaway from the University of Michigan.

“It’s been an incredibly important year for how western liberal democracies understand refugee law, because of the flood of Syrian refugees and migrants into Europe. And for the first time since the refugee convention was written after World War II, there has been significant numbers of uninvited people with a genuine human rights need arriving in western liberal democracies. It has triggered an opportunity to relook at global arrangements for refugees,” said Dean Dauvergne. 

The idea of understanding refugee law as a shared responsibility was the unifying theme at the workshop. One of the recommendations put forth is establishing a model of global responsibility, which includes a system of fiscal burden sharing to make the granting of asylum by poorer countries viable.

“Most people that need refugee protection simply flow over to the border of the country that is closest to their home and will protect them,” explains Dean Dauvergne. “The accident of geography creates tremendous inequalities.”

Dean Dauvergne uses the example of Dadaab, Kenya, which is home to the world’s largest refugee camp. With 340,000 people living here, primarily from neighboring Somalia, the Kenyan government recently re-announced plans to close the more than twenty-year old camp due to the strain on its economy and resources. 

In their final statement, the workshop participants wrote that: “A meaningful system of global responsibility sharing will require 1) substantial innovation in institutional capacity; 2) incentives for rights-respecting conduct by states and other key actors; 3) clear roles not just for states proximate to refugee flows, but also for states outside the region; and 4) hard limits on the amount of time that a refugee can be expected to wait for a durable solution.”

Dean Dauvergne says that the primary obstacle facing refugee advocates at the moment is that there is no legal mechanism in place that makes governments responsible for anybody who is not their citizen. “Both legally and practically, prosperous western states that have the most capacity to actually assist refugees have no obligation to do so until someone arrives at their border.”

To view the full statement from the workshop, click here


This workshop was generously supported by: