Close to half of the global refugee population, now 20 million, has been displaced for five years or more, many for more than 20 years. As the world buckles under the strain of relatively newer refugee crises in Syria, Nigeria, and elsewhere, the three ‘durable solutions’ to displacement traditionally advocated by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)—repatriation, resettlement, and local integration—have proven elusive for the vast majority of refugees. Just over one percent globally benefited from resettlement or returned to their countries of origin voluntarily in 2014.
Relieving the strain on the humanitarian system will require new and creative solutions that go beyond what is on the table. In recognition of the need for refugees to regain access to employment and economic opportunities, and to reduce the attraction of smuggling services, government and humanitarian communities alike have begun to explore how to increase opportunities for refugees to move legally beyond countries of first asylum.
A new report from Migration Policy Institute Europe, No Way Out? Making Additional Migration Channels Work for Refugees, examines concrete ways to use existing initiatives and programming to open additional legal migration pathways for refugees both within and beyond countries of first asylum.
With greater numbers of people seeking to move, we’re seeing many destination countries tightening entry criteria. Now is a key moment for governments to review their immigration processes as a whole, and identify simple, concrete adaptations that would offer refugees opportunities to move beyond long-term stasis in countries of first asylum.
The report assesses the accessibility of existing labour, education, and family migration channels to refugees and explores the potential for expanding mobility opportunities via these channels. It goes on to discuss the need for refugees to have a stable legal status in a country of first asylum in order to access opportunities elsewhere, and considers the political and technical barriers that often make countries of first asylum reluctant to become ‘permanent’ hosts of refugee populations.
Some pathways will be more easily implemented than others. Those requiring long-term adaptation of processes, like recognition of qualifications, could take longer, whilst others—like the introduction of scholarship or private sponsorship programmes—might be more swiftly put into effect. International organizations such as UNHCR can play a role not just in moving the discussion forward, but also in identifying and sharing best practices and monitoring implementation.
Read the report online.
Cover photo / Getty/ Jeff Mitchell