United Nations Calls For Increased Refugee Responsibility Sharing

A United Nations report released on May 9th is calling for the creation of a new Global Compact to encourage countries to share the responsibility for hosting the millions of refugees who have and will continue to flee their home countries.

For decades, a small number of member states within the UN have been bearing a disproportionate share of the responsibility for hosting refugees, with developing countries accounting for the vast majority of these states. Nine out of ten refugees currently live in developing countries, while, as Sherif Elsayed-Ali, ‎Deputy Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International reveals, many wealthier countries, that could be doing a lot more to alleviate some of the burden, are not doing very much at all.

Kenya, one country that has been hosting a large number of refugees for years, is threatening to close down the world’s largest refugee camp and deport thousands of, primarily Somali, refugees. Elsayed-Ali explains that this threat, and other similar cases, are the “manifestation of the complete failure to uphold responsibility sharing as it should be” and a result of the international community continuing to ignore situations, like the refugee crisis, in Kenya.

In response to the ongoing global refugee crisis, the UN has convened a September summit. A report released on May 9th,“In Safety and Dignity: Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants,” details the UN’s expectations for the summit, as well as their desire to create a new Global Compact.

In the report, the UN states that the primary aim of the summit will be to pursue “new global commitments to address large movements of refugees and migrants, commencing with recommendations to ensure at all times the human rights, safety and dignity of refugees and migrants, including on addressing the causes of such movements, protecting those who are compelled to undertake such journeys, and preventing the discrimination and countering the xenophobia they frequently encounter.”

The proposed Global Compact will seek to identify a more predictable and equitable way of responding to large movements of refugees, provide the elements of a comprehensive response plan for refugees, and increase responsibility sharing for refugees.

The summit and Global Compact will also propose new solutions, such as increasing development aid to host countries. Kenya, Turkey, and Jordan, among other such countries that host large refugee populations, require increased international assistance to manage the financial burdens of providing shelter, education, and healthcare to refugees. However, while financial aid will provide immediate and temporary aid to the crisis, it will not permanently resolve the problem.

One issue that has not been adequately answered in the report or by UN officials is the issue of wealthy countries paying poorer countries to host refugees for them. Australia is one country that has adopted this approach, choosing to redirect large numbers of refugees to Papua New Guinea, Nauru, and Cambodia rather than letting them enter the country. In doing so, Australia is “absolving itself of its core responsibility under international refugee law” and perpetuating many of the issues currently contributing to the global refugee crisis (i.e. burdening lesser developed countries with more refugees).

Effectively resolving the global refugee crisis will entail “strengthening the global governance of migration, through the development of a global compact for safe, regular and orderly migration.” It will also necessitate global cooperation and the acceptance of enhanced responsibility sharing of refugees, particularly among wealthier nations that are currently failing to do their share. Providing funding to countries hosting refugees is only a temporary solution and paying other countries to host refugees is only prolonging the crisis. UN member states need to remember that they have agreed to international laws and made previous commitments regarding refugees, and as such must uphold responsibility sharing as it should be. The UN must continue to build on its rich history of inter-State cooperation and learn from recent experiences to increase shared responsibility of refugees and resolve the current crisis.


For the full UN report “In Safety and Dignity: Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants” visit the following link: //www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/70/59