The Refugee Regime Complex

At the time of its creation, the refugee regime was relatively isolated amongst international institutions regulating human mobility. However, since its creation, globalization and interdependence have led to the creation of a range of new international institutions both in human mobility regimes, such as travel and labour migration, and non-mobility regimes, such as human rights, humanitarianism, development, and security. Many of these new regimes overlap with the refugee regime in significant ways, some complementary and some contradictory, relocating some of the most relevant politics for refugee protection into other issue-areas. This article argues that it is no longer possible to speak of a compartmentalized refugee regime; rather, there is now a “refugee regime complex”, in which the refugee regime overlaps with a range of other regimes within which States engage in forms of institutionalized cooperation that have a direct and an indirect impact upon refugee protection. The article explores what the emerging refugee regime complex means for States’ behaviour towards refugees, for refugees’ access to protection, and for the work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

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