When Crises Collide: Reforming Refugee Law to Prevent Environmental Degradation
24 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2018 Last revised: 17 Feb 2020
Date Written: 2018
Many scholars, politicians, and journalists have noted the humanitarian failures of the Syrian refugee crisis' management. Moreover, many academics have argued that dwindling natural resources will lead to more migration and refugee crises due to conflict, economic loss, and impossible living conditions. However, far fewer have written on the environmental destruction that such migration can cause when not adequately controlled. While international refugee law, mainly overseen by the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) and codified in the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Refugee Protocol, exists to protect refugees and offer infrastructure for their movement, its lack of central coordination and enforceability often leads to chaos that results in environmental damage. In this paper, I thus argue that in order to curb the mismanagement of natural resources and environmental degradation caused by unorganized mass migration, the UNHCR needs to create a strong central system to ensure that parties to the Refugee Convention and Protocol abide by these laws, and that the Convention and Protocol are implemented uniformly and efficiently. I also tackle concerns about this goal’s feasibility and introduce the creation of an electronic refugee and resource database as a politically workable solution.
Keywords: refugee, refugee law, UNHCR, environment
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