Regions, Containment, and Justice in the International Refugee Regime
Keywords:UNHCR, IOM, refugee, migration management, cosmopolitanism, regionalism, responsibility-sharing
The international refugee regime is defined by a dearth of responsibility-sharing between states and proliferation of border externalizations to contain refugees in their regions of origin. This has resulted in refugees and asylum-seekers having differing access to international protection based on their nationality and location, with states in the Global South housing a disproportionate share of the world’s displaced. To reform the international refugee regime the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and International Organization for Migration (IOM) have furthered a politics of scale encouraging non-binding supranational regional approaches to forced migration management. In this article, I document and assess UNHCR and IOM’s regionalist politics of scale, and regional approaches to forced migration management more broadly. I argue that regional approaches, the territorialization of unequal treatment of refugees based on their nationality and location, and the containment of refugees in the Global South are interwoven, and because of this, regionalism is an unjust means of reforming the international refugee regime. In furthering this argument, I draw from moral cosmopolitanism’s philosophy of justice and explain its relevance to debates about borders, responsibility-sharing, and refugee protection. In doing so, I build upon critical geography’s tradition of identifying how power produces marginalization and what should be done about it. I conclude that justice in the international refugee regime is best ensured through a binding global framework of responsibility-sharing.
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