Refugee Protection and International Migration

Migration, September 2010

Conference poster

From September 6-7 2010, Tanzania hosted the latest in a series of regional conferences on refugee protection and international migration. The meeting was held in Dar es Salaam with the support of UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Delegates, including government officials from 12 countries in eastern Africa, the Great Lakes region and southern Africa, discussed common challenges and opportunities in responding to south-bound movements of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers.

More and more people are undertaking the long, complex and dangerous journey from East Africa and the Horn of Africa to South Africa, seeking to escape violence, persecution, drought or poverty, or, in many cases, a combination of them all. They are joined by people from other countries, including those in the Great Lakes region and Zimbabwe, on their way southwards. South Africa last year received 220,000 claims for asylum, the largest number in the world.

Increasingly, refugees and migrants travel together, using the same routes and employing the same smugglers. This makes it difficult for states to identify those who are in need of international protection. Growing security concerns make the control of borders an urgent priority for most governments.

Refugees and migrants often use irregular and dangerous routes to reach their destinations, be it by land, sea or air. They face significant hardship and danger while en route, including exploitation and physical and sexual abuse as well as detention in isolated areas and under poor conditions. While not all people in mixed migration movements may have a refugee claim, many have urgent protection and assistance needs.

The Regional Conference on Refugee Protection and International Migration: Mixed Movements and Irregular Migration from the East and Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region to Southern Africa was aimed at creating a fuller understanding of the nature, scale and reasons for south-bound mixed migration, and at allowing states, civil society and international organizations to devise strategies on how to respond to these movements in an effective, coordinated and protection-sensitive manner.

It was the fourth in a series of regional gatherings on refugee protection and international migration. The others were held in Yemen (May 2008), Senegal (November 2008) and Costa Rica (November 2009).

The conference coincided with the release of new UNHCR report on refugee protection and international migration that looks specifically at the refugee agency's role in Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa.