More than 65 million people worldwide have lost their homes and livelihoods, primarily as a result of threats to their security arising from conflict, extremism and public disorder. The absence of regular avenues to safety forces many to travel along dangerous routes and rely on smugglers and traffickers. Measures simply seeking to restrict the movement of refugees and migrants divert movements along clandestine routes, and could come to contribute further to the criminal networks of smugglers and traffickers. Security and refugee protection are not mutually exclusive – they need to go hand in hand, as one is not possible without the other. The international refugee protection regime explicitly acknowledges and reflects this.
In this sense, UNHCR in collaboration with Arab Interior Ministers’ Council organized the first expert regional meeting – of its kind – in November 2016, aiming at providing a forum where discussions are held on the ways to address legitimate security concerns while at the same time upholding fundamental principles of refugee protection. In the meeting, Member States presented practical challenges faced in their respective countries, to which ideas on methodologies applicable in the national and cross-national context had been offered and discussed. Opportunities for collaboration were also identified, with a view towards ultimately establishing integrated responses that address both the protection and security aspects of the current displacement and migration situation in a spirit of solidarity and responsibility-sharing.
On a related note, the MENA region witnesses large complex mixed movements, including a growing number of asylum seekers and refugees, from the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa towards the Gulf, North Africa, the Mediterranean region and Europe. North African countries may witness an increase in the number of arrivals who may have reached their intended destination or may be in transit on the way to Europe. Sea arrivals from North African countries to Europe through the Central and West Mediterranean routes are also expected to continue. To mediate this, UNHCR and the Arab Interior Ministers Council organized a workshop on “International Protection in Mixed Movements in the Central Mediterranean: Trends and Good Practices”, in June 2021 in Sharm El Sheikh city of Egypt, in the context of the ongoing capacity-building and training initiatives that have been co-organized by both organizations since 2016 on matters related to refugees, forced displacement, and statelessness. The workshop did seek agreement with Members part of AIMC on priorities and modalities to strengthen protection in mixed movements in the North African region, and consideration with the situation and policies in the country of origin and destination. It also aimed at identifying the major challenges faced by participating States in the delivery of protection in the context of irregular mixed movements of refugees and migrants, with a focus on the protection of refugees and other persons under UNHCR’s mandate; and to share States’ good practices on a range of thematic areas e.g. access to territory, existing legal and social protection frameworks and policy regulating asylum and protection; reception, documentation and referral of persons in need of international protection, assistance and solutions (including return to country of origin); disclosure and identification and referral of persons with specific needs, including victims at and persons at risk of being trafficked, exploited and abused, management of search and rescue/rescue and search; alternatives to detention for cases in need of international protection, and the collection and exchange of data. The workshop resulted in the adoption of a number of recommendations, most importantly working on more regional and international coordination and cooperation and exchanging information about mixed movements of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, strengthening protection systems for them, protecting victims of human trafficking, as well as working on developing mechanisms that allow victims of human trafficking access to justice. Among the most important recommendations also the designation of national focal points to follow up on the implementation of these outputs and the establishment of a regular review mechanism to assess progress and identify obstacles and find solutions to overcome them.
Recommendations of the Regional Expert Meeting on Addressing National Security without Undermining Refugee Protection.
Recommendations of the Regional Workshop on International Protection in Mixed Movements in the Central Mediterranean: Trends and Good Practices.