Policy Brief Series


Policy Brief 6: Making the Global Compacts Work: What future for refugees and migrants?


By T. Alexander Aleinikoff and Susan Martin

Our latest brief, 'Making the Global Compacts Work: What future for refugees and migrants?', published in partnership with The New School’s Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility, flags the way for real progress and pinpoints what sticking points remain for the Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration.

Policy Brief 5 - Creating safe zones and safe corridors in conflict


By Geoff Gilbert and Anna Magdalena Rüsch

The conflict in Syria has prompted renewed calls for so-called ‘safe zones’ and ‘safe corridors’ to prevent people from needing to seek protection abroad as refugees, and to encourage refugees to return home. Given the inherent dangers that arise from trying to leave a conflict zone and travelling onwards to seek asylum, the idea of creating safe zones within States has been put forward as a positive humanitarian alternative. Yet, there are a number of legal and practical preconditions that must be met for safety to be guaranteed.

Policy Brief 4 - The Interdiction of Asylum Seekers at Sea: Law and (mal)practice in Europe and Australia


By Violeta Moreno-Lax

The phenomenon of irregular migration by sea or ‘boat migration’ is not new, but it has drawn significant attention since the Tampa affair in Australia in 2001 and during the so-called ‘migration/refugee crisis’ in the Mediterranean in 2015–2016. Both regions have replaced proactive search and rescue (SAR) efforts with militarised border security missions, which has had detrimental effects on those seeking asylum.

This policy brief explores this evolution and critically evaluates policies and practices of deterrence at sea against the standards set by international law.

Policy Brief 3 - In search of commitments: The 2016 refugee summits


By Elizabeth Ferris

An extraordinary series of meetings took place in 2016 to respond to perceptions of an unprecedented global refugee crisis. This policy brief traces the context and the results of these meetings and explores the common themes that emerged over the course of the year. The meetings examined include: the Supporting Syria and the Region Conference, held in London in February; the High-Level Meeting on Global Responsibility Sharing through Pathways for Admission of Syrian Refugees, held in Geneva in March, the World Humanitarian Summit, held in Istanbul in May; the Summit on Refugees and Migrants, held in New York on 19 September; and the United States (US) Leaders’ Summit, held in New York on 20 September. Although not all these meetings were technically ‘summits’, they all sought to mobilise attendance and commitments at the highest political level, and for this reason are referred to in this policy brief as ‘the summits of 2016.’

Policy Brief 2 - Regional refugee protection in comparative perspective: Lessons learned from the Asia-Pacific, the Americas, Africa, and Europe


By Professor Kate Jastram

Refugee movements in South-East Asia, the Middle East and Europe during 2015, along with the fact that more people are displaced now than at any time since the Second World War, provide an opportune moment to revisit some of the key regional cooperation arrangements for refugee protection. There are lessons to be learned, in particular from the 1989 Comprehensive Plan of Action for Indochinese Refugees, and its precursor agreement in 1979 (CPA), as well as from the 1989 International Conference on Central American Refugees (CIREFCA). These two programs were widely seen as successful when they were implemented, and they have stood the test of time.

Regional refugee protection cooperation arrangements can provide practical, principled responses by several States working together to meet the protection needs and humanitarian challenges posed by the movement of asylum seekers, whether fleeing in large or small numbers. There is no single definition of a regional cooperation arrangement, but the most important and useful examples are those that are protection-oriented...

Policy Brief 1 - Extraterritorial processing in Europe: Is 'regional protection' the answer, and if not, what is?

Professor Jane McAdam

The loss of over 700 lives in a single incident in the Mediterranean on 18 April 2015, following a six-day period in which over 10,000 migrants were rescued, has sparked renewed debates about whether extraterritorial processing – sometimes called ‘offshore processing’ – might save lives at sea.

Despite a plethora of European proposals over the past 20 years, none has ever been sufficiently fleshed out to receive adequate support to be implemented. Legal and practical concerns have proven insurmountable. There is also recognition that while regional or other external processing arrangements may provide a useful complement to other protection mechanisms, they are not a solution in and of themselves.