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© UNHCR
Displaced persons from camps in Germany, Austria and Italy board an IRO-chartered ship on their way to start a new life in the USA. UNHCR's predecessor, the International Refugee Organisation (IRO) helped one million people to resettle overseas.

In today’s era of rising populism, tensions between the nation-state and internationalism have reached a particular crescendo over refugees’ cross-border movement. In response, the UK and the UN are both seeking to reform existing refugee policy. By unpacking the international refugee regime’s historical origins, this project reframes the contemporary discourse to directly inform policy-making. It examines how today’s refugee regime was the product of a particular historical moment after the Second World War, which established a system of global governance for managing forced migration, and set the stage for internationalist tensions with the nation- state. The UK was central to this process, as two of the era’s biggest refugee crises occurred following its withdrawal from India in 1947 and Palestine in 1948. This interdisciplinary research therefore comparatively analyses the past in order to enhance understandings of the present.

The team