Brief Reviews

A Reform Proposal for Global Refugee Policies

By Kenneth Anderson
Friday, May 5, 2017, 11:00 AM

Lawfare Brief Reviews is pleased to note Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World (Oxford UP, forthcoming September 2017), by Paul Collier and Alexander Betts. Paul Collier is professor of economics at St. Antony’s College, and author of the celebrated 2007 book on international development and global poverty, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It. Alexander Betts is the Leopold W. Muller professor of forced migration and international affairs at Oxford.  They are two important academic and policy voices in global refugee policy debates, and Refuge aims to give an ambitious and yet realistic agenda for reform of the world’s refugee legal, institutional, and policy framework(s).  

The need for modernization and reform is clear, the authors note. Among other things, global refugee numbers are at their highest levels since the end of World War II—and yet the system for dealing with them and their needs has changed relatively little except to grow in size and populations, and build ever more permanent refugee camps. Collier and Betts argue for an approach that jettisons the current general assumption of indefinite dependency (based on a humanitarian list of imagined “basic needs”) in refugee camps located in remote border regions.  They propose to replace it with policies aimed explicitly aimed to “reintegrate displaced people into society … a new economic agenda that begins with jobs, restores autonomy, and rebuilds people’s ability to help themselves and their societies." Readers will have to decide for themselves how realistic they think such policy reform proposals are in the current global political environment, but they are given vigorous argument in favor by two eminent academics in the fields of migration studies and international development.

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