Note from team leader for People on the Move

Matthew Scott

Head of People on the Move Thematic Area

Since the founding of the Institute, refugee law has been an area in focus in research and education.

As of 2015, the Institute has been widening its work to increase human rights protection for people on the move, with special attention to the following four areas:

• Shaping global policy on refugees and management of migration, with improved human rights enforcement and protection of people on the move.
• Reforming refugee protection and management in countries of first asylum.
• Supporting enhanced protection of refugees and internally displaced where environmental degradation and climate change are factors of displacement.
• Enhancing social inclusion, integration and access to justice of migrants and refugees.

Today, we have both policy and research expertise amongst senior staff on issues related to global refugee policy, EU asylum and immigration policy, the link between migration management and human rights and social inclusion of migrants and refugees.

We also have the unique advantage of having partners and presence in some of the most important regions when it comes to refugees: The Middle East, South East Asia, East Africa, and Europe, with several offices located in major countries of first asylum, such as Turkey, Jordan, Kenya and Indonesia. Several of these are also scenarios of wider migration flows.

The Situation

Forced displacement has grown markedly in recent years as a result of different human rights violations. Both migrants and refugees continue to face serious obstacles accessing safety and protection and respect for their inherent human rights.

Economic migrants still largely lack applicable protection standards, as do people forced to move for reasons of climate change and environmental destruction. Furthermore, national economic, political and security considerations have led several liberal states to blatantly violate international refugee law, under an increasingly accepted paradigm of deterrence.

Meanwhile, neighbouring countries in regions of origin are left to shoulder an inordinate responsibility for refugees with limited or no solidarity from other states, leading also several of these to increasingly consider more restrictive policies.

Expanded border controls also force many irregular moving migrants and refugees to risk their lives in order to reach safety. Last, but not least, many migrants and refugees experience increasing xenophobia and hate crimes in host states and communities.

The growing politicisation of asylum and immigration make our efforts in this area both more important and more difficult.

Human rights admonitions regarding migrants and refugees increasingly fall on deaf ears, and several countries openly admit to disrespecting core norms of international refugee and human rights law, or adopt policies designed to eclipse or shift relevant obligations.

Political attempts to reform both refugee and migration governance are ongoing at the UN level, yet the outcomes are uncertain and a further deterioration of protection standards for both migrants and refugees may be a likely scenario during the next five years.

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