With record numbers of people displaced by war, violence and persecution globally, the question of how States might cooperate to manage forced migration and respond to the needs of people on the move has become more relevant than ever. The scope and magnitude of global displacement demand something more than unilateral and uncoordinated State responses to forced migration. While the international protection regime provides an important overarching framework in this regard, it is also useful to consider how States respond to issues of shared concern at the regional level. This project explores the normative and legal bases for cooperation on refugee protection in various regions, including the Asia-Pacific, Europe and Africa. In particular, it considers how States share responsibility and the accountability mechanisms in place to ensure refugee protection in the Asia Pacific; regional refugee protection mechanisms in Africa; and European approaches to irregular migration, including the ‘extraterritorial processing’ of asylum seekers outside the European Union.

Refugee protection in the Asia-Pacific (Madeline Gleeson, Natasha Yacoub, Tristan Harley, Brian Barbour, Ashraful Azad)

The situation of refugees in the Asia-Pacific region is a major focus of the Kaldor Centre's work on regional protection. This research seeks to respond to three broad issues. First, what are the legal and normative frameworks governing refugee protection at the State and regional levels in the Asia-Pacific region? Second, how do States in the Asia-Pacific region cooperate on refugee protection and forced migration? Or, conversely, how do they cooperate with, or contribute to, each others’ failures to protect asylum seekers and refugees? And finally, building on existing efforts and the Global Compacts, what might cooperation on refugee protection look like in the Asia-Pacific region? How can best practices in this regard be identified and supported?

In addition to identifying the legal and normative frameworks governing refugee protection in the Asia-Pacific region, at both the regional and national levels, this research involves consideration of: the merits of regional approaches for sharing responsibility (in a general sense) for refugees in the Asia-Pacific region; maritime interception practices and the issue of protection at sea; protection available within the region for Rohingya refugees; the role of advocacy and local-level actors in refugee protection; the application of the Global Compacts in the region; the issue of meaningful participation of refugees in decision-making processes; and the lessons to be learned from the history of cooperation on refugee protection in post-colonial Southeast Asia.

Madeline Gleeson also convenes the Asia-Pacific research group within the Kaldor Centre's Emerging Scholars Network.

Europe (Riona Moodley and Madeline Gleeson)

This research examines how European countries have responded to the challenges of irregular migration since 2015, including the legal and policy frameworks that have been implemented at the domestic and regional levels to address issues such as: irregular maritime arrival, the relocation of refugees between European Union (EU) member states, resettlement, and expedited return of people found not to be in need of international protection. This research includes a specific focus on recent proposals put forward in the EU to introduce a form of external (or regional) processing that will enable the protection claims of asylum seekers to be processed in ‘transit countries’ before they reach Europe. In particular, it assesses the legal feasibility of such proposals, having regard to international and EU human rights law, and considers the extent to which such proposals are capable of improving the protection outcomes available to asylum seekers.

Regional refugee protection mechanisms in Africa (Tamara Wood)

This research aims to provide a comprehensive and principled analysis of the criteria for refugee status set out in Africa’s ‘expanded refugee definition’ – Article I(2) of the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. It considers questions such as: does Africa’s expanded refugee definition apply only to those fleeing other African states, or could it also protect those who come to Africa from elsewhere, such as Syria or Yemen? Does the expanded refugee definition apply to individuals or groups of refugees, and how should it be applied in situations of large-scale movement and mass influx? Does the expanded refugee definition extend to those displaced by situations not traditionally thought to give rise to refugee protection, such as natural hazards, disasters and the adverse effects of climate change? The comprehensive analysis of Africa’s expanded refugee definition provided by this research could provide guidance to states, decision makers, advocates and refugees themselves about the scope of refugee protection in Africa.

Tamara Wood also convenes the Africa research group within the Kaldor Centre's Emerging Scholars Network.

Special Series: The Andaman Sea Crisis 5 years on, Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law (2020) 
  Where to From Here? Report from the Expert Roundtable on regional cooperation and refugee protection in the Asia-Pacific, Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law (2016)

'Policy Brief 1 – Extraterritorial processing in Europe: Is 'regional protection' the answer, and if not, what is?', Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law

Madeline Gleeson, 'Regional Cooperation on Refugee Protection: The Unanswered Questions', Middle East Institute, 5 September 2017


Penelope Mathew and Tristan Harley,  Refugees, Regionalism and Responsibility (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2016)

The Kaldor Centre plays a vital role in developing legal, sustainable and humane solutions for displaced people around the world.