E.g., 08/11/2020
E.g., 08/11/2020

Refugee & Asylum Policy

Refugee & Asylum Policy

Tens of millions of people around the globe have been forcibly displaced by conflict, natural disaster, or persecution, seeking refuge either within or beyond the borders of their country. Humanitarian protection, whether for refugees, asylum seekers, or internally displaced persons (IDPs), represents a key policy area for many major immigrant-receiving countries as well as nations bordering locations where war, political upheaval, or natural disaster have disrupted daily life. The research offered here relates to the law and practice of protecting refugees and IDPs in areas of conflict as well as in industrialized nations, with a focus on secure solutions and effective institutional arrangements for comprehensive protection.

Recent Activity

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U.S. Marine secures barbed-wire fencing at the California-Mexico border.
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Sign left by No More Deaths activists in Arizona
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Migrants returning to Ethiopia
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Reports
December 2018
By Mark Greenberg, Julia Gelatt, Jessica Bolter, Essey Workie, and Isabelle Charo

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Migrants on a boat

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.

South Sudanese refugee girl

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.

Syrian family on a plane

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.

Metro in Caracas

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.

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Video, Audio
February 17, 2016

MPI's Demetrios Papademetriou discusses the current policy responses to the refugee and migration crisis at EU and national levels, and possible options for dealing more effectively with the crisis and longer-term integration challenges.

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February 8, 2016

Analysts discuss how private sponsorship programs for refugees, used by Canada and a handful of other countries, could alleviate some of the pressure from the European refugee crisis by allowing individuals, groups, businesses, and other entities to sponsor individual refugees for resettlement.

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January 27, 2016

The Special Representative on International Migration for the UN Secretary-General, Peter Sutherland, and the former UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, T. Alexander Aleinikoff, preview upcoming high-level humanitarian protection and migration summits in 2016, focusing on likely agendas and what tangible results might occur.

Video, Audio
October 27, 2015

In this webinar, the authors of three papers on the experiences of refugee children present their findings, with a focus on how such experiences affect their mental health and education.

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October 22, 2015

This webinar examines the challenges facing educators and policymakers in Europe and the United States as they attempt to meet the needs of immigrant and refugee students who arrive during their middle and high school years.

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Recent Activity

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2018 proved a banner year for far-right populist movements in Europe and the Americas. They claimed the presidency of Brazil, sparked the collapse of the Belgian government, and—whether in or out of office—put a harder-edged stamp on migration and asylum policies in Austria, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Sweden, and beyond.

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The Trump administration took sweeping action in 2018 to slow legal immigration, make life harder for some immigrants already in the United States, rebuff would-be asylum seekers, and reduce refugee resettlement. Shaping a narrative of crisis at the border, the administration significantly changed the U.S. asylum system, deployed troops and tear gas, and separated families—yet Central American migrants continued to arrive.

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Hardline migration and asylum policies in the United States and Australia in 2018 hit turbulence when their effects on the most vulnerable—young children—provoked widespread public revulsion and prompted a retreat, at least temporarily. Still, public outcry over the treatment of child migrants and asylum seekers often runs up against the intractability of the problems facing governments and the lack of good solutions.

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As industrialized countries are adopting harder-edge immigration and asylum policies to deal with real and perceived crises, humanitarian actors have sought to blunt the effects of those policies by launching rescue missions at sea, rendering direct aid to migrants in need, and offering legal assistance. A concerted pushback to this resistance emerged in 2018, with governments using legislative, legal, and other tools to fight back.

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Questions of how, when, and under what conditions migrants and asylum seekers can be returned to their origin countries have featured prominently in international discussions of migration in 2018. Crucially, so too has an increased interest on the part of both destination and origin countries in making reintegration assistance more effective to help ensure that return is sustainable.

Video, Audio, Webinars
December 13, 2018

On this webinar, MPI researchers and Utah and Colorado refugee coordinators explore promising practices to better serve refugee families, including education services for refugee youth, innovative efforts to secure better jobs for adult refugees, and other services designed to aid integration over time. They also discuss the potential for implementing and supporting two-generation approaches to refugee integration at a time when the system’s funding and capacity are in peril.  

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Faced with absorbing vast numbers of asylum seekers who headed to Europe during the 2015-16 migration crisis and the ongoing arrival of much smaller, but steady flows of Central Americans at the U.S.-Mexico border, EU Member States and the United States in 2018 took or explored significant steps to narrow asylum and harden policies.

Reports
December 2018

At a time when the U.S. refugee resettlement system is facing unprecedented challenges, innovative and cost-effective tools for supporting refugee integration are in demand. This report explores how a two-generation approach to service provision could help all members of refugee families—from young children to working-age adults and the elderly—find their footing.

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