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More than 630,000 Rohingya refugees had crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar during the last quarter of 2017, fleeing targeted violence by the Burmese military. This displacement, resulting from what the United Nations called a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing," marked the world's fastest-growing refugee crisis. Its speed and scale have challenged governments and aid organizations to effectively respond.
European leaders in 2017 pursued migration partnerships with North African countries, seeking to stem maritime arrivals across the Mediterranean. Italy struck a deal with Libya to provide support in cracking down on illegal migration and smugglers, while Germany signed cooperation agreements with Egypt and Tunisia. Meanwhile, widespread reports of migrant abuse in Libya are prompting questions about the limitations and human costs of these partnerships.
To reflect on the outcomes of the stocktaking meeting in December 2017 on the progress made towards conceptualizing the Global Compact for Migration, MPI hosted a conversation with Eva Åkerman Börje, from the office of the UN Special Representative for International Migration, and Ilse Hahn, from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Millions of displaced people were unable to return home in 2017, and countless others found themselves newly displaced. Targeted violence in Myanmar caused more than 624,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh, and conflict in South Sudan drove at least 668,000 abroad. Some first-asylum countries, such as Uganda and Turkey, were largely accommodating, while others, such as Jordan and Lebanon, pressured refugees to leave.
The global refugee resettlement landscape changed dramatically in 2017, as the United States began to step back from its role as global leader on resettlement. The Trump administration reduced the 2018 refugee admissions ceiling to the lowest level since the program began in 1980. While other countries increased their commitments or launched new programs, this was not enough to make up for the gap left by the United States.
Governments on the receiving end of migrants and refugees reinforced their commitment to returns in 2017, sending or coercing migrants to move back to impoverished or violent homelands. The Dominican Republic pushed out some 70,000 Haitians and native born of Haitian descent, while more than 500,000 Afghans left Iran and Pakistan. Though many of these migrants chose to return, in practice the line between forced and voluntary returns is blurry.
Migration surged throughout South America in 2017, challenging governments to keep up with inflows. Brazil, Colombia, and Peru worked to process record numbers of Venezuelan asylum applications, and launched special visa programs for some new arrivals. While the government responses have been largely welcoming, the illegal immigration of Haitians provoked more restrictive policy reactions in Chile and Argentina.
With 1 million people forcibly returned to Afghanistan in 2016 alone, the nature of return policies and reintegration assistance from European governments and others merits significant attention. This report examines the implications that returns present for those who are returned, Afghan society, and the migration-management and development objectives of the countries that are initiating the returns.