In the past five years, the world has witnessed an unprecedented rise in the number of people forcefully displaced by conflict and dire living conditions, sometimes traversing multiple regions on their way to safety. In response to the challenges posed by these patterns of conflict and displacement, states and regional organizations have focused on limiting the influx of refugees and migrants and instead committed resources to containment agreements with countries of origin and transit.
As of today, the vast majority of uprooted people still flees to and stays in neighboring countries, or are internally displaced, and for those, viable solutions need to be found. Failing that, people will continue to flee, move further, and seek access to more secure, albeit distant, countries and regions, irrespective of the level of border control, barriers, or cooperative agreements with transit countries. Torn between the promise of a safe haven (the metaphorical ‘lover’) abroad, and the familiar but now too dangerous place of origin, forced migrants leave their countries, sometimes regions, behind. Lacking legal routes to do so, many fall prey to human traffickers – which opens a whole array of legal, moral, and policy questions.
This talk aims to provide a legal backdrop to these convoluted challenges and discuss some of the root causes of conflict and inherent drivers of migration and refugee flows underlying current global crises, illustrating the complexity of the issues by depicting the nexus between the (lack of) rule of law, development, and forced migration and employing various country-specific examples from Europe, the Americas, and Africa.
The presentation draws on recent and current research projects, including an inquiry into Constitutional Coups d’état in Sub-Saharan Africa; a collaboration in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (with UNHCR and ICRC) on the Kampala Convention and the Protection and Inclusion of Refugees and IDPs in Host Communities; and a forthcoming, co-edited volume (with Richard Falk) on state responsibility for refugees and other people in need of protection in the context of war and occupation (‘War, Occupation, and Refugees’, Routledge).
Tom Syring is the 2020 American-Scandinavian Foundation Visiting Lecturer in the Rule of Law and Forced Migration, Chairman of the Human Rights Research League, and a Visiting Scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg. He has previously been a Visiting Scholar at Sorbonne Law School (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne) and at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, a Legal Adviser at the Norwegian Immigration Appeals Board, and taught at the University of Oslo and at Boston University as a Lecturer in International Law and Visiting Fulbright Scholar. Syring has particularly published and lectured on issues at the intersection of international humanitarian law, international criminal law, refugee law, and human rights. Recent and current research projects include a book on the root causes of protracted refugee crises (Still Waiting for Tomorrow: The Law and Politics of Unresolved Refugee Crises, co-edited, with Susan Akram); an inquiry into Constitutional Coups d’état in Sub-Saharan Africa; a collaboration in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (with UNHCR and ICRC) on the Kampala Convention and the Protection and Inclusion of Refugees and IDPs in Host Communities in the DRC; and a forthcoming, co-edited volume (with Richard Falk) on state responsibility for refugees and other people in need of protection in the context of war and occupation (War, Occupation, and Refugees). Tom Syring is a Co-Founder and former Co- Chair of the American Society of International Law’s Interest Group on International Refugee Law, a member of the Norwegian Resource Bank for Democracy and Human Rights (NORDEM), and Co-Chair of the European Society of International Law’s Interest Group on Migration & Refugee Law.