US and Global Refugee Protection System
CMS’s work on refugee protection addresses a series of issues that has been of consuming international, state, and local policy interest. These include: addressing the multiple crises driving record levels of forced displacement; identifying long-term solutions for refugees and their host communities; the scope of international law; protection of refugee-like populations that may not meet the 1951 Convention’s definition of “refugee”; legal and policy barriers to protection; and the debates and struggles of host communities to accommodate the uprooted. CMS has also taken a person-centered approach to this work, regularly engaging refugees and asylum-seekers in its processes and events. In 2014 and 2015, CMS coordinated a series of meetings and events on strengthening the US refugee protection system which led to a special edition of its Journal on Migration and Human Security (JMHS), commemorating the 35th anniversary of the Refugee Act of 1980. The papers in this collection exhaustively documented, critiqued, and proposed improvements to the US refugee protection system.
Building on this initiative, in 2016, CMS organized a high-level conference – with support from the MacArthur Foundation – on rethinking and strengthening the global system of refugee protection. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), global forced displacement reached historic levels in 2017, with 68.5 million displaced, including 40 million internally displaced persons, 25.4 million refugees, and 3.1 million asylum seekers. Moreover, many of the large refugee-producing conditions and crises have shown few signs of abating. The CMS project was closely aligned with the UN Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants on September 19, 2016. CMS also hosted a listening session with refugees for the Special Adviser to the Summit, Karen AbuZayd, and organized a public event in Washington, DC with US and UN officials on Syrian and Iraqi refugees. In addition, CMS commissioned a unique series of expert papers designed to lift up new research, create a strong evidence-base for reform, and present new and promising policy ideas that will survive the two summits. In March 2018, it released a special JMHS edition based on these papers titled, “Strengthening the Global Refugee Protection System.” It rolled out in a series of events and briefings, designed to inform the development of the Global Compact on Refugees.
CMS also regularly produces reports and blogs on refugee issues, including a report on a fact-finding trip to Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Greece; a study on returnees to the Northern Triangle states of Central America; a first-hand report on the Venezuelan refugee crisis; and an extensive analysis released in July, 2018 on the US refugee resettlement program. CMS has also regularly reported on attacks on the US refugee protection system, including asylum and temporary protection, by the Trump administration. This work will continue into the foreseeable future.