Friday, September 4, 2009

Refugee Limbo

This week's Economist details disturbing trends in the situation of refugees globally. Over the past two decades, we've seen the rise of "Fortress Europe" and "Fortress America," aiming to keep out migrants of all types. Particularly in the wake of 9/11, it's become much harder to cross borders to seek protection, and asylum applications in the developed world have dropped. The ramifications of these policies for refugees may now be playing out on the global stage.
The Economist article reveals that those fleeing persecution are now less likely to cross borders in general, and even those who do struggle to find durable solutions to their plight. While refugee numbers have dropped over the past fifteen years, the number of internally displaced persons -- persons who are not entitled to the same international legal protections as refugees -- is on the rise:
► Nearly two-thirds of refugees are now in "protracted refugee situations," meaning that 25,000 or more refugees from the same country have been forced to remain in a host country for at least five years.
► About one-third of the over ten million refugees in the world today live in refugee camps; in Africa, the number is two in three.
► Eighty percent of all refugees live in poor rather than in wealthy countries.
Because host countries are now less likely to have the resources to care for refugees, these refugees become more and more dependent on handouts from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. UNCHR's cause is a noble one, but it was not designed to provide longterm governance to large refugee populations; moreover, there are many institutional concerns with this state of affairs, including serious deficits of democratic participation and procedural due process.

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