MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration Issues Statement on a New Approach to Durable Solutions for Refugees
WASHINGTON — Amid record human displacement, more attention is being given to the reality that most refugees are likely to remain indefinitely in countries of first asylum, potentially facing bleak futures without the legal right to work or access to adequate housing and basic services such as education and health care.
With limited possibilities for refugees to return to their countries of origin and only a fraction selected for resettlement, the focus of the international community has turned to how to improve the lives of refugees in countries of first asylum—in particular as deteriorating conditions there can be a major driver of onward asylum flows, as seen in Europe beginning in 2015. Nearly nine in ten refugees live in a country where economic opportunities are already scarce, and the costs of full integration are too high to make permanent settlement for substantial numbers practical.
The Migration Policy Institute’s Transatlantic Council on Migration, a unique deliberative body that examines vital policy issues and informs migration policymaking processes in North America and Europe, devoted its 15th meeting to the topic of what actions are needed to move beyond the current “care and maintenance” model of protection and provide refugees with the opportunity to lead a decent life and contribute to their local economies and communities, wherever they are.
A new Council statement issued today, Beyond Care and Maintenance: Rebuilding Hope and Opportunity for Refugees, synthesizes some of the Council’s discussions and thinking, offering three priorities where policymakers should focus their action in this area:
- Expand the availability and reliability of assistance to first-asylum countries. Donor countries must understand that effectively addressing situations of displacement in first-asylum countries is in their strategic interest, and devote financial resources and resettlement places accordingly.
- Provide opportunities for refugees to become self-reliant as early as possible. Assistance should be provided in ways that allow refugees to become self-supporting from the earliest days of a crisis. Tools such as cash-based, rather than in-kind, assistance are a valuable step in this direction.
- Invest in improving the host-country economic and policy environment, as well as in supporting refugees themselves. Efforts that focus on expanding the pool of economic opportunities for all, including by incentivizing foreign investment in refugee-hosting regions, can benefit refugees while also alleviating pressure on host communities.
“The capacity of first-asylum countries to undertake, on their own, the obligations of permanent settlement and formal integration will be constrained under the best of circumstances—yet it remains the most viable option for the majority of the world’s displaced,” write authors Demetrios G. Papademetriou, who is president emeritus of MPI, and Susan Fratzke, a policy analyst with MPI’s international program. “As a result, the international community will need to focus over the coming years on how to work with first-asylum countries to create the conditions for refugees to live with dignity, provide for themselves and their families, educate their children and access opportunities that allow them to resume their lives.”
The Council Statement comes amid a series of reports that focus on innovative solutions to respond to the unprecedented global humanitarian crisis, both for individuals fleeing persecution and for overburdened host communities. The series also examines promising practices to promote the longer-term social and economic inclusion of refugees.
For the Council’s research and more on its work, visit: www.migrationpolicy.org/transatlantic.
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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at local, national and international levels. MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration is a unique deliberative body that examines vital policy issues and informs migration policymaking processes across the Atlantic community.