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Refugee protection and international migration

As patterns of human mobility grow ever more complex, refugee and migration movements intersect in different ways. For instance, refugees may travel irregularly, using the same routes and modes of transport as other migrants. Conversely, the asylum channel may be used by people who are not in need of international protection, in order to secure the right to remain temporarily in a host country. As the international community sharpens its focus on the challenges thrown up by global migration, it is important to devise a legal and procedural framework that can combine migration management and the protection of refugees.

UNHCR does not consider itself to be a migration organization. However, in view of the growing links between refugee protection and international migration across the world, the Office considers it necessary and appropriate to participate in the migration debate. To the extent that this debate has a bearing on its mandate to protect and find durable solutions for refugees and others of concern, UNHCR will advocate for the rights of the displaced.

Since UNHCR’s Agenda for Protection identified the protection of refugees within broader migration movements as a priority, the Office has taken action on a number of fronts. At the inter-agency level, UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have founded the Global Migration Group. This Geneva-based forum brings together those international agencies whose mandates are relevant to the migration issue. The group serves as a forum for the exchange of information and aims to set forth common positions on migration and related subjects.

In 2007, UNHCR supported the organization of the civil society segment of the Global Forum on Migration and Development, held in Brussels in July. The forum followed the United Nations General Assembly’s September 2006 High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development. While the Global Forum focuses on labour migration and its link to development, UNHCR will highlight the challenges States face in hosting large numbers of refugees or receiving big returnee movements. The Office will propose ways to ensure that migration-control measures do not prejudice the right to seek and enjoy asylum. It will also work with the incoming chair of the Global Forum (the Philippines) to support the State-led Global Forum process, both individually and as a member of the Global Migration Group.

At the operational level, UNHCR has developed a 10-Point Plan of Action which provides a framework of protection tools that could be built into broad migration strategies. These take into account international protection needs, while creating solutions tailored to the differing categories of people in mixed-migration movements.

For instance, the plan proposes the establishment of “protection-sensitive entry systems”. The aim is to provide training and tools that help border officials screen and respond to people travelling irregularly who may be in need of international protection. UNHCR has also proposed the introduction of a profiling mechanism to help identify those in need of international protection among other arrivals in a country.
The proposals in the 10-Point Plan also acknowledge that developments in migration policy may offer opportunities for refugees. For instance, in some situations, refugees could profit from migrant-worker programmes or temporary work permits. They may even benefit from legal onward movement from the host State to a third country through regular migration channels.

In discussions with States and regional organizations, UNHCR is exploring the use of legal migration to provide refugees with effective protection in those countries that have not signed the Convention. The Office is also drawing attention to refugees’ potential to contribute to their countries of asylum by bringing new skills, filling
labour gaps and helping bridge cultural divides.

UNHCR has begun to implement the 10-Point Plan in the Mediterranean/Atlantic region (North Africa, Southern Europe) and Eastern Europe (please refer to the Europe and North Africa chapters) while seeking to expand its scope to other regions. One possible area for expansion could be the Gulf of Aden, where hundreds of people die annually while attempting to cross the Gulf from Bosasso (Puntland/Somalia) to Yemen. The movement across the Gulf of Aden is “mixed”, as it includes economic migrants as well as individuals fleeing conflict, persecution and/or serious human-rights violations.

In December 2007, the High Commissioner will convene his first “Dialogue on Protection Challenges”, which will propel discussions on a range of protection related issues, as well as key initiatives in the 10-Point Plan. To complement the forum, UNHCR will also host roundtable discussions on the Plan with experts from governments, international organizations, academia and civil society.

The results of these meetings will assist in the development of the 10-Point Plan Handbook, to be issued in 2008. The Handbook will provide detailed guidance on the 10-Points, as well as examples of best practice. These will be complemented by updated policy advice on topics such as secondary movements of asylum-seekers and refugees. The Office plans to develop a training package and to hold workshops in affected regions. The workshops will bring together government officials and other stakeholders to design regional strategies for the implementation of the 10-Point Plan.

With much international migration taking place by sea, UNHCR is increasingly involved with the disembarkation of mixed-migration groups and the search for solutions for those rescued at sea or found as stowaways and who are in need of international protection. The Office cooperates closely with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in the protection of refugees at sea and has produced a joint UNHCR-IMO leaflet providing guidance for rescue at sea. In late 2008, the Office will convene an inter-agency meeting on protection challenges arising in the context of maritime migration. UNHCR will also participate in the drafting of European Union guidelines on interception and rescue at sea.

Extracted from: UNHCR Global Appeal 2008-2009 - UNHCR: An Overview
link : www.unhcr.org/publ/PUBL/474ac8c12.pdf