The End of Refugee Camps?
The Ashgate Research Companion to Migration Law, Theory and Policy , S. Juss (ed.), March 2013
19 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2013 Last revised: 4 Dec 2013
Date Written: March 1, 2013
Encampment is one of the main challenges to the protection of the human rights of refugees. In most of Africa and in many parts of Asia it is the standard way of hosting and assisting refugees, and often the only one employed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (‘UNHCR’), humanitarian organizations, and many host states. Until recently there had been little critical engagement with the question of refugee camps within policy circles. Something began to change when a group of human rights and humanitarian organizations, led by the US Committee for Refugees and Migrants ('USCRI'), organized a worldwide worldwide campaign against what was labeled ‘the warehousing of refugees’ and adopted the Statement Calling for Solutions to End the Warehousing of Refugees in September 2009. In their own words, refugees are warehoused when they: 'are confined to camps and segregated settlements or otherwise deprived of their basic rights, in situations lasting 10 years or more. Warehousing refugees not only violates their rights but also often reduces refugees to enforced idleness, dependency, and despair.'
Although the UNHCR has not joined the USCRI campaign, it has recently embarked on its own internal process of policy review that indicates a willingness to reassess the organization's current approach to the protection of refugees in the political South. This review process culminated in 2009 with the adoption of the Policy on Refugee Protection and Solutions in Urban Areas (‘2009 Urban Policy’). This new policy – strongly supported by the High Commissioner Mr Antonio Guterres, purports to respond to the reality that more than half of the world’s refugges lives in urban environments. Lauded as ‘the beginning of a new approach’, the 2009 Urban Policy is the centrepiece of the UNHCR’s ‘recalibrated’ approach to urban-based refugees, marking a generally welcome shift away from the organization's far more restrictive policy published in 1997.
Keywords: refugee law, UNHCR, urban-based refugees
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