Refugee burden-and-responsibility sharing: Revisiting the debate on the right to compensation to refugee-hosting states
Much of the world’s rising refugee population is situated in developing countries most of which struggle to fulfil their developmental obligations towards their own citizens, while the better financially-placed countries are increasingly changing their asylum policies to avoid most of the obligations that come with the admission of high numbers of impromptu refugees and asylum seekers. The refugee-burden and responsibility-sharing landscape is evidently uneven and inequitable. Even as the more recent adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees seeks to address the global imbalances in refugee burden- and responsibility-sharing and re-affirms states’ commitments to refugee protection and support for host countries and communities, its strategy remains grounded in the traditional durable solutions. It does not address the issue of the responsibility of refugee-producing states. Scholarship in this regard, particularly in the late 1980s and 1990s argued that refugee-producing states that engaged in internationally wrongful acts resulting into refugee outflows that in turn created a refugee burden for other states should bear responsibility and pay compensation to the refugee-hosting states. This article aims to develop this argument further with a specific focus on the African region. The African region has in the last three decades seen significant development not only in its normative framework but also in regional cooperation schemes that would provide a strong basis and framework for the implementation of the obligation for refugee-producing states in breach of their international obligations to compensate refugee-hosting states. While the right to compensation, as it were, would not be a panacea to the global refugee crises, it could perhaps have a deterrent effect on states that may act with impunity and make them responsible for their share in causing the refugee situation. It could also incentivize reluctant states to uphold their obligations towards refugees in accordance with international law.