Report cards on refugees’ rights

Bruce Forster

The US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants has provided valuable data in its Refugee Rights Report Cards but further analysis produces even more useful information.

Refugees have rights, as stipulated in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Unfortunately, these rights are frequently breached. In order to measure the degree of compliance with the Convention by host countries, the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) evaluated 52 host countries on four components of refugee rights, and produced a set of four Refugee Rights Report Cards in its 2009 World Refugee Survey.1 This data is interesting but using some system of analysis would facilitate the assessment of refugee rights compliance for individual countries and for the entire set of countries surveyed.

The four components of the Report Cards, and their respective grading schemes, are as follows:

Refoulement2/Physical protection
A: No refoulement; fair asylum system
B: No refoulement but faulty asylum systems
C: Some refoulement but not systematic; governmental harassment and serious physical risk
D: Systematic refoulement; governmental violence against refugees
F: 100+ refoulements; severe governmental violence

Detention/Access to courts
A: No arbitrary detention; access to courts and documentation
B: Little detention
C: Significant detention; faulty access to courts and documentation
D: More than 100 arbitrarily detained
F: More than 200 arbitrarily detained; no access to courts

Freedom of movement and residence
A: No restrictions in policy or practice
B: Almost no restrictions in policy or practice
C: Restrictions in policy but wide tolerance
D: Restrictions in policy and practice; harassment
F: Severe restrictions in policy and practice

Right to earn a livelihood
A: No restrictions in policy or practice
B: Almost no restrictions in policy or practice
C: Restrictions in policy but wide tolerance in practice
D: Restrictions in policy and practice; harassment
F: Severe restrictions in policy and practice

The result is a set of four Refugee Rights Report Cards, one for each Rights component, and with each containing 52 countries with their respective score. The USCRI Report Card for the Refoulement/Physical Protection category is given below for illustrative purposes.

Table 1: Refoulement/Physical protection

 

GRADES

A

B

C

D

F

 

 

 

 

 

 

COUNTRIES BY GRADE

Botswana

Burundi

Algeria

Chad

China

 

Brazil

Canada

Bangladesh

Europe

DR Congo

 

Costa Rica

Rep. of Congo

Cameroon

Iraq

Egypt

 

Malawi

Ivory Coast

Ghana

Israel

Israeli-occupied territories3

 

Niger

Ecuador

India

Pakistan

Iran

 

 

Ethiopia

Jordan

Panama

Kenya

 

 

Guinea

Mauritania

Russia

Lebanon

 

 

Kuwait

Nepal

Saudi Arabia

Libya

 

 

Senegal

Rwanda

Sudan

Malaysia

 

 

Serbia

Venezuela

Syria

South Africa

 

 

Tanzania

Zambia

 

Thailand

 

 

Uganda

 

 

Turkey

 

 

 

 

 

US

 

 

 

 

 

Yemen

Source: USCRI, World Refugee Survey 2009 [reference added by FMR]

While the four tables contain valuable information for assessing the accountability of host countries, the data, as presented, is not very convenient for further analysis. Analysts or other interested readers need to go through each of the four tables picking out the set of scores of their country or countries of interest. In order to make this more convenient a single Report Card for the set of host countries along with their respective scores can be generated using the data contained in the four tables. A stylised version with selected countries (for reasons of space) is given in Table 2.This table makes it very easy to examine individual countries since all scores appear with the respective country.

Notice that Brazil is the only country to score A for every component. As most countries have scores that vary across the four components, how does one assess the overall performance of a particular country? One method could be to use the Grade Point Average (GPA) system commonly used to measure students’ academic performance. Each letter score is associated with a numerical one: A=4; B=3; C=2; D=1; and F=0. The average score across the set of scores is calculated for each country, which gives a measure of the average performance of the country. Country-specific GPAs are given in the far right-hand column of the following table:

Table 2: Measures of host country compliance with refugee rights
(The full table is available at the bottom of this article)

 

Country
(in alphabetical order)

Refoulement/
Physical Protection

Detention/
Access
to courts

Freedom
of movement and residence

Right to
earn
a livelihood

GPA

1. Algeria

C

D

F

F

0.75

2. Bangladesh

C

D

D

C

1.5

3. Botswana

A

B

C

B

3.0

4. Brazil

A

A

A

A

4.0

      ------

 
 
 
 

 

25. Jordan

C

D

A

D

2.0

26. Kenya

F

D

F

D

0.5

27. Kuwait

B

A

B

D

2.75

    ---------

 
 
 
 

 

50. Venezuela

C

C

C

B

2.25

51. Yemen

F

D

C

C

1.25

52. Zambia 

C

B

D

D

1.75

Source: Author’s creation based on USCRI, World Refugee Survey 2009

If the information in table 2 is rearranged, not alphabetically but rather in descending order by GPAs, the analyst can then select an appropriate cut-off GPA, and see how many countries score above that point. This number, or the proportionof countries scoring above the cut-off point, can serve as indicators of the overall performance of the group. An alternative approach is to compute the average GPA for the group and this becomes the indicator of the overall performance.

There is another factor that could be taken into consideration, however, in grading countries’ performance. In a 2007 Introductory Note to the 1951 Convention, UNHCR states that the principle of non-refoulement is considered to be sufficiently fundamental that no deviation is acceptable. If this condition is invoked in the grade assessment process then any country that scores a C, D or F on the question of refoulement receives a failing grade overall. This means that we can start with the non-refoulement component, and consider only those countries scoring an A or a B. As can be seen from Table 1, only 17 of the 52 countries survive this first test. For these 17 countries, GPAs can be computed using all four components, and these GPAs are their grades. (The average grade for the 17 acceptable countries is 2.77.) The rest of the countries – approximately two thirds – receive failing grades, having deviated from the non-refoulement requirement.

The results presented here could not be gleaned by merely looking at the four tables in USCRI’s report. Those tables provide the raw data. The GPA is a vehicle for extracting additional penetrating information and analysis of the refugee rights compliance of individual countries and of the set of host countries together.

Bruce A Forster was Professor of Economics and Dean of Business at the University of Wyoming, Arizona State University’s West campus, and the University of Nebraska at Kearney from 1991 to 2009, and is now Professor emeritus at UNK and ASU.

2 The protection of refugees from being returned to places where their lives or freedoms may be threatened

3 Consisting of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and much of the Golan Heights.

4 Measures of host country compliance with refugee rights

Full version of Table 2

  • Arranged alphabetically by country
  • Arranged by Grade Point Average (GPA)
A) Country

(in alphabetical order)

Refoulement/
Physical Protection

Detention/
Access
to Courts

Freedom
of Movement and Residence

Right to
Earn a Livelihood

GPA

Algeria

C

D

F

F

0.75

Bangladesh

C

D

D

C

1.5    

Botswana

A

B

C

B

3.0

Brazil

A

A

A

A

4.0

Burundi

B

B

D

C

2.25

Canada

B

B

A

A

3.5

Cameroon

C

B

C

C

2.25

Chad

D

A

C

B

2.5

China

F

F

D

D

0.5

Congo (Republic of)

B

B

C

A

3.0

Congo (Democratic Republic of)

F

C

B

B

2.0

Costa Rica

A

B

A

A

3.75

Equador

B

D

C

B

2.25

Egypt

F

F

B

D

1.0

Ethiopia

B

B

F

D

1.75

Europe

D

D

B

B

2.0

Ghana

C

A

C

C

2.5

Guinea

B

B

C

B

2.75

India

C

C

D

D

1.5

Iran

F

D

F

F

0.25

Iraq

D

D

D

C

1.25

Israel

D

C

C

C

1.75

Israeli Occupied Territories

F

D

F

C

0.75

Ivory Coast

B

B

C

C

2.5

Jordan

C

D

A

D

2.0

Kenya

F

D

F

D

0.5

Kuwait

B

A

B

D

2.75

Lebanon

F

D

C

D

1.0

Libya 

F

F

C

D

0.75

Malawi

A

B

C

A

3.25

Malaysia

F

F

D

F

0.25

Mauritania

C

B

B

C

2.5

Nepal 

C

B

D

F

1.5

Niger

A

A

A

B

3.75

Pakistan

D

B

B

C

2.25

Panama

D

C

D

D

1.25

Russia

D

F

D

D

0.75

Rwanda

C

B

D

C

2.0

Saudi Arabia

D

B

D

C

1.75

Senegal

B

A

A

C

3.25

Serbia

B

C

B

C

2.5

South Africa

F

F

B

B

1.5

Sudan

D

F

D

C

1.0

Syria

D

C

D

D

1.25

Tanzania

B

D

F

F

1.0

Thailand

F

F

F

D

0.25

Turkey

F

F

D

D

0.5

Uganda

B

B

D

C

2.25

United States of America

F

D

A

A

2.25

Venezuela

C

C

C

B

2.25

Yemen

F

D

C

C

1.25

Zambia 

C

B

D

D

1.75

 

B) Country

(ranked by GPA)

Refoulement/
Physical Protection

Detention/
Access
to Courts

Freedom
of Movement and Residence

Right to
Earn a Livelihood

GPA

Brazil

A

A

A

A

4.0

Costa Rica

A

B

A

A

3.75

Niger

A

A

A

B

3.75

Canada

B

B

A

A

3.5

Malawi

A

B

C

A

3.25

Senegal

B

A

A

C

3.25

Botswana

A

B

C

B

3.0

Congo (Republic of)

B

B

C

A

3.0

Guinea

B

B

C

B

2.75

Kuwait

B

A

B

D

2.75

Chad

D

A

C

B

2.5

Ivory Coast

B

B

C

C

2.5

Ghana

C

A

C

C

2.5

Mauritania

C

B

B

C

2.5

Serbia

B

C

B

C

2.5

Burundi

B

B

D

C

2.25

Cameroon

C

B

C

C

2.25

Equador

B

D

C

B

2.25

Pakistan

D

B

B

C

2.25

Uganda

B

B

D

C

2.25

United States of America

F

D

A

A

2.25

Venezuela

C

C

C

B

2.25

Congo (Democratic Republic of)

F

C

B

B

2.0

Europe

D

D

B

B

2.0

Jordan

C

D

A

D

2.0

Rwanda

C

B

D

C

2.0

Ethiopia

B

B

F

D

1.75

Israel

D

C

C

C

1.75

Saudi Arabia

D

B

D

C

1.75

Zambia

C

B

D

D

1.75

Bangladesh

C

D

D

C

1.5    

India

C

C

D

D

1.5

Nepal 

C

B

D

F

1.5

South Africa

F

F

B

B

1.5

Iraq

D

D

D

C

1.25

Panama

D

C

D

D

1.25

Syria

D

C

D

D

1.25

Yemen

F

D

C

C

1.25

Egypt

F

F

B

D

1.0

Lebanon

F

D

C

D

1.0

Sudan

D

F

D

C

1.0

Tanzania

B

D

F

F

1.0

Algeria

C

D

F

F

0.75

Israeli Occupied Territories

F

D

F

C

0.75

Libya 

F

F

C

D

0.75

Russia

D

F

D

D

0.75

China

F

F

D

D

0.5

Kenya

F

D

F

D

0.5

Turkey

F

F

D

D

0.5

Iran

F

D

F

F

0.25

Malaysia

F

F

D

F

0.25

Thailand

F

F

F

D

0.25

Source: Author’s creation based upon USCRI, World Refugee Survey 2009

 

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