Yesterday on CNN’s Amanpour, Alexander Betts (RSC Director) and Paul Collier (Blavatnik School of Government) discussed how the international refugee system can be transformed and fixed.
They describe the refugee crisis as “a very fixable problem” and note that most refugees live in just 10 countries in developing regions, not in Western, developed nations. Most refugees, they state, stay close to their home country and their preference is to return home when, for example, the conflict in their home country is over.
Betts and Collier therefore argue for the need to provide money to these host countries to enable them to host such large numbers of refugees. They also argue for the need to empower refugees through jobs and education.
Taking the example of Jordan, currently hosting many thousands of Syrian refugees, here a pilot programme is running to provide refugees with employment in special economic zones, with trade concessions provided by the EU. This, Betts states, allows “Syrians to work alongside Jordanian nationals in a way that benefits the Syrian refugees, benefits the Jordanian economy, and empowers people and businesses to eventually go home and rebuild.”
He argues that the refugee system is not suited to the current situation. UNHCR is very good at certain things such as providing legal advice to governments and providing care and maintenance in camp environments. However, Betts says, “it’s less strong at two things we urgently need: economic development to provide jobs and autonomy to refugees, and secondly, political leadership to guide states towards collective action. It can update, it needs to update, but now it’s facing a fork in the road and faced with the challenge of political toxicity, rising populist nationalism, and cuts to its budgets, it needs new sustainable models.”
Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System, written by Alexander Betts and Paul Collier, is published on 30 March by Penguin Allen Lane.
Watch the programme here >>