In recent years, some States have pursued increasingly restrictive policies and practices in order to deter refugees and asylum seekers from reaching their borders. Such policies of ‘externalisation’ are manifestly inconsistent with the spirit of international cooperation embodied in the 1951 Refugee Convention.
Given the proliferation of externalisation policies in recent years, there needs to be greater clarity around the term ‘externalisation’: what it means, what it comprises, and implications under international law.
Resettlement is an important element of refugee protection worldwide. However, it is fundamentally different from territorial asylum systems. Resettlement should complement the reception of asylum seekers but should never replace it.
Illegal pushbacks – and the use of violence – on Europe’s borders have increased to unprecedented levels, raising the alarm about abuses of fundamental human rights.
While Frontex is currently under unprecedented examination for human rights violations at the EU’s borders, its work beyond EU borders remains barely scrutinised.
The Libya-Niger Emergency Transit Mechanism launched in 2017 successfully evacuated a large number of asylum seekers detained in Libya. However, the outcomes for many of the asylum seekers, and indeed for the three main partners (UNHCR, the EU and Niger), were far from what they had hoped for.
The international community needs to move away from the prevailing discretion-based model for pathways to asylum. The ‘right to flee’ must be taken seriously.
Recent legal developments in different continents exemplify the near impossibility of using courts to challenge the legality of externalisation practices.
Nine years after it was first implemented, Australia’s ‘Pacific Solution’ has not proven to be the promised panacea. Any country or region hoping to emulate the Australian offshore framework should be wary of its legal, ethical and operational failings.
Litigation has achieved some positive results in challenging Australia’s offshore processing framework but comes with risks.
Although Canada enjoys a good international reputation for its refugee resettlement programmes, it has also externalised refugee protection under the pretext of preserving the integrity of its asylum system and responsibility sharing.
A new law in Denmark, which could ultimately end the integration of refugees on Danish territory, offers important lessons about contemporary externalisation policies and the political motives behind them.
Measures to control asylum seekers’ entry to US territory during the COVID-19 pandemic reflect a long history of remote border controls.
Since 2017, aerial surveillance has become central to EU attempts to identify, deter and return intercepted migrants to Libya. As a result, struggles between the EU and civil society rescue actors have also shifted from the seas to the skies.
Over the last two decades, new immigration detention systems have emerged across the globe, a direct result of the externalisation policies of wealthy destination countries.
Displaced persons’ mobility and their translocal networks can provide important resources in the search for durable solutions.
Millions of Eritreans and Congolese find themselves in situations of protracted displacement. A more nuanced understanding of how physical and social mobility affects their daily lives is crucial to developing more effective tailor-made interventions.
Syrian refugees’ aspirations to move contradict the notion that those refugees who are ‘stuck’ in displacement are passive victims without agency. Rather, in the absence of viable options for physical mobility, refugees may still engage in aspirations to ‘move on’ even when they are not able to do so physically.
People living in protracted displacement in Italy and Greece are frequently more mobile than is generally recognised in public discourse and policy.
Recent research explored how refugees make use of their networks to escape from protracted displacement. Germany’s Humanitarian Admission Programmes have been able to provide legal ‘complementary’ pathways for Syrian refugees who had transnational ties. The effectiveness and reach of these schemes, however, are constrained by various factors.