External Processing: A Tool to Expand Protection or Further Restrict Territorial Asylum?
Access to territorial asylum is under significant pressure in many corners of the world. Pushbacks at borders as well as pandemic-era mobility restrictions have prevented many asylum seekers from reaching their destinations. And new and ongoing crises, including those in Afghanistan and Ukraine, have highlighted the need to offer protection closer to where vulnerable populations live, and for high-income countries to find ways to share responsibilities with the low- and middle-income countries that host the overwhelming majority of people in need of international protection.
This has led to renewed interest in external processing, which involves conducting part or all of the asylum procedure outside a destination country’s territory. Notably, even as countries such 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 existing territorial asylum and expand, rather than restrict, protection opportunities.
This report—part of the Beyond Territorial Asylum: Making Protection Work in a Bordered World initiative led by MPI and the Robert Bosch Stiftung—highlights the opportunities that external processing offers as well as the challenges to its implementation and the risks it could pose to territorial asylum. It explores three categories of external processing policies implemented or proposed to date: humanitarian visas, emergency evacuations, and external processing centers. The report also identifies key conditions that must be present for external processing to occur in a protection-sensitive manner.
2 External Processing: A Brief History and Key Issues
A. The Relationship between External Processing and Territorial Asylum
B. Extraterritorial Jurisdiction and Protection Sensitivity
3 Models of External Processing
A. Model I: Humanitarian Visas
B. Model II: Emergency Evacuations
C. Model III: External Processing Centers in Third Countries
4 Conclusion and Recommendations