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MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration Launches Series of Reports Examining the Increasingly Strained Global Humanitarian Protection System
Press Release
Wednesday, March 25, 2015

MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration Launches Series of Reports Examining the Increasingly Strained Global Humanitarian Protection System

First Report Examines Increasing Mismatch between Frameworks that Define the Existing Protection Regime and Contemporary Patterns of Displacement

WASHINGTON – There is a growing consensus that the global refugee system is failing not only those it was designed to protect but also the host states that are providing protection. More than 51 million people worldwide are in a displacement situation as refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced persons (IDPs)—the highest level since World War II. Ongoing conflicts in Syria, South Sudan, Libya and Iraq and the emerging crisis in Ukraine—as well as more long-standing ones in Somalia and Afghanistan—have demonstrated that current mechanisms are not equitably distributing the responsibility for providing protection, nor are they offering efficient and effective access to refuge for those in need.

The Migration Policy Institute’s Transatlantic Council on Migration today is launching the first in a seven-report series that draws from a recent Council meeting, “Refitting the Global Protection System to Meet the Challenges of Modern Crises.”

The first report, Protection in Crisis: Forced Migration and Protection in a Global Era, details the increasing mismatch between the legal and normative frameworks that define the existing protection regime and the contemporary patterns of forced displacement that are driven by tangled webs of crises that include intrastate conflict, poor governance and instability, environmental degradation and resource scarcity. Many forced migrants now fall outside the recognized refugee and asylum apparatus. And the blurring of the lines between voluntary and forced migration, as seen in “mixed” migration flows, together with the expansion of irregular migration, have further complicated today’s global displacement picture.

“While most of the displaced—as many as 95 percent—will remain in their country of origin or in the immediate neighborhood, forced migrants are increasingly relying on wider patterns of mobility, both on the regional and global scale, to ensure their access to livelihoods and safety,” writes Roger Zetter, emeritus professor of refugee studies at Oxford University. Yet even as the strains on the protection system increase, Zetter writes: “Responses and adaptations by governments and humanitarian actors have so far been limited.”

The report argues for fundamental reform of the protection system, including shifting the emphasis from the status of the displaced to their needs and situating policies to address displacement within a wider strategic framework that encompasses elements of migration management, host-country development and resettlement support alongside traditional asylum.

Forthcoming reports in the Transatlantic Council series focus on current challenges, including the situation of Syrian refugees in Turkey and rising unaccompanied child migration from Central America to the United States, and propose innovative solutions to rethink global protection—including models that seek to transition refugees from dependence to self-reliance and the potential of labor mobility to facilitate refugee protection. The series also will feature a policy brief from the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, T. Alexander Aleinikoff.

“As policymakers in Europe, North America and elsewhere grapple with protection challenges, there is a great need for a broader, more coherent policy framework that is compatible with the scale and nature of today’s forced migration realities,” said MPI President Emeritus and Transatlantic Council Convenor Demetrios G. Papademetriou. “This series of reports highlights gaps in the existing global protection system and explores opportunities for effective reform, including ways in which policymakers and stakeholders can cooperate to develop more flexible policies that are more responsive to on-the-ground conditions and reduce some of the perverse consequences of present policy, ensure that responsibilities are distributed more equitably and place forced migrants on a path to self-sufficiency.”

The report can be downloaded at: https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/protection-crisis-forced-migration-and-protection-global-era.

Learn more about the Transatlantic Council and its work here: https://www.migrationpolicy.org/transatlantic.

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The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, D.C. dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. For more, visit www.migrationpolicy.org.