Recent UNHCR figures show that almost 60 million people are currently displaced by conflict and persecution, and nearly 20 million of them are refugees. For example, in the case of Syria, more than 4 million people have fled the conflict; nearly 2 million of them are now in Turkey alone, with Jordan and Lebanon hosting 1.8 million between them. It is the individual state that bears the primary responsibility for the care of the refugees it hosts, and the vast majority of refugees are hosted by developing nations (86% in 2014).
However, should refugee-producing countries, such as Syria, be held financially responsible for compensating receiving countries, or compensating refugees themselves? This is a question posed in a new article by Professor Guy S. Goodwin-Gill (RSC Honorary Associate and Emeritus Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford) and Selim Can Sazak (The Century Foundation) for Foreign Affairs titled ‘Footing the Bill: Refugee-Creating States’ Responsibility to Pay’.
As the article states: “By definition, the refugee problem is an international one: Every state that admits refugees acts on behalf of the international community in defense of fundamental human rights principles. In turn, asylum states are entitled to expect the support of others, whether it is through financial, political, or material aid, or ideally, through more active efforts to mitigate the problems that create refugees in the first place. Tragically, such support is rare, and the cost of caring for refugees is disproportionately borne by those nations that are least able to afford it.”
Host countries currently rely on voluntary contributions from the international community, which usually fall far below actual needs. So, should “refugee-receiving states or competent international institutions” be allowed “to draw on the assets of refugee source countries”? Where refugees flee persecution, could “the state of origin…be held financially liable for support costs, and subjected to sanctions”?