MPI Report Examines Use of External Processing as Complement to Territorial Asylum Rather than Means to Restrict Arrivals
WASHINGTON — Even as Australia and the United Kingdom have adopted policies to offshore asylum processing to countries such as Papua New Guinea and Rwanda in hopes of deterring spontaneous arrivals, there is growing interest in using external processing in ways that complement and add to existing territorial asylum. Asylum systems are under immense pressure as crises from Afghanistan to Ukraine and beyond have driven millions to seek safety abroad. A new Migration Policy Institute report considers whether external processing could relieve some of these pressures by offering another means for individuals at risk to apply for and access protection before they reach the border, alongside the traditional route of applying for asylum after arriving at a country’s territory.
The report, External Processing: A Tool to Expand Protection or Further Restrict Territorial Asylum?, looks at how countries have implemented or proposed different mechanisms for processing protection claims beyond their own borders, including humanitarian visas, emergency evacuations and external processing centers. The report examines the features that must be in place for external processing to occur in a protection-sensitive manner that provides more, rather than fewer, opportunities to access protection—capitalizing on the potential benefits of these pathways while reducing the risks.
“Because external processing models can be conducted closer to protection seekers’ countries of origin, they hold the potential to minimize loss of life on dangerous flight routes, as well as smuggling and trafficking,” the report notes. “They can also provide time for destination states to conduct thorough security and health screenings of protection seekers and prepare local administrative structures before arrivals in situations of large-scale movements.”
Examining practices among the external processing programs implemented to date, the report finds that protection opportunities best exist when such processing is additive of existing territorial asylum, protection seekers are guaranteed robust procedural rights and implementation is sensitive to the local contexts of the countries that host protection seekers during the processing phase. This could be done through one of three mechanisms outlined in the report: humanitarian visas, emergency evacuation mechanisms or processing centers located outside a state’s territory.
The report is part of the three-year Beyond Territorial Asylum: Making Protection Work in a Bordered World initiative undertaken by MPI and the Robert Bosch Stiftung. The initiative seeks to address challenges to asylum systems that are under immense pressure and seize the opportunity to explore and test new ways to facilitate access to protection that better support equity and result in more flexible, sustainable infrastructure.
Read the report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/external-processing-asylum.