Document Type

Report

Publication Date

2017

Abstract

Freedom of movement is essential for refugees to enjoy meaningful protection against the risk of being persecuted, and enables them to establish themselves socially and economically as foreseen by the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (“Convention”). The very structure of the Convention presumes the right to leave in search of protection, since a refugee is defined as an at-risk person who is “outside” his or her own country. Once outside the home state, the Convention makes express provision for rights not to be sent away (non-refoulement), to enjoy liberty upon arrival, to benefit from freedom of movement and residence once lawfully present, to travel once lawfully staying, and ultimately to return to the home state if and when conditions allow. Respect for refugee freedom of movement in its various forms is thus central to good faith implementation of the Convention. The right of refugees to move has moreover been reinforced by the advent of general human rights norms in the years since the Convention’s drafting. Of particular importance is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”), the relevant provisions of which have been authoritatively interpreted to apply equally to citizens and non-citizens, including refugees. Despite the clear legal foundation of refugee freedom of movement at international law, states are also committed to the deterrence of human smuggling and trafficking, to the maintenance of effective general border controls, to safeguarding the critical interests of receiving communities, and to effectuating safe and dignified repatriation when refugee status comes to an end. Legal obligations to respect refugee freedom of movement therefore co-exist with, and must be reconciled to, other important commitments. With a view to promoting a shared understanding of how best to understand the scope of refugee freedom of movement in the modern protection environment we have engaged in sustained collaborative study of, and reflection on, relevant norms and state practice. Our research was debated and refined at the Eighth Colloquium on Challenges in International Refugee Law, convened between March 31 and April 2, 2017, by the University of Michigan’s Program in Refugee and Asylum Law. These Guidelines are the product of that endeavor and reflect the consensus of Colloquium participants on how states can best answer the challenges of implementing the right of refugees to freedom of movement in a manner that conforms with international legal principles.


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