On Friday 7 August, in light of Jason Buzi’s proposal for a Refugee Nation, Professor Alexander Betts spoke to ABC News about the need for innovative and creative solutions for the current global displacement crisis, with 20 million refugees around the world. He argues that while the idea of a Refugee Nation is flawed and would not work, but it is useful as a metaphor for thinking creatively about how territory can be used and how we think about asylum.
He emphasizes that the vast majority of refugees are in countries neighbouring their home nations, such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan in the case of Syrian refugees, but these countries are unable to sustain the current numbers. And with less political will to host refugees in, for example, Australia and Europe, he argues that we need “creative, alternative and in some ways radical rethinking of how we reinvigorate asylum and ensure people in need get access to territory and can be protected in dignity.”
Returning to Buzi’s idea of a Refugee Nation, Professor Betts states that the idea is most useful in highlighting that “if in particular areas, where we’ve got excess territory, we can rethink how we use it, it might be of benefit not only to refugees but also the host community. We’ve actually got a neglected history of refugees being integrated in underdeveloped and under-occupied areas of land in ways that have contributed.” He cites examples from Europe, Africa and Central America, and identifies an example where zonal development in Jordan could assist with the current crisis, and could be applied elsewhere to the benefit of the host community and its economy.
He concludes by arguing that “given the opportunity, given economic freedom, refugees create jobs, including for host country nationals.”