A really, really bad month for refugees

September was a really bad month for refugees.

I’m not referring to the fires that ripped through the Moria refugee camp in Greece, leaving thousands of refugees homeless. Or even to the cutting off of aid to Somali refugees in Kenya in order to force them to return to a country still plagued by persecution and hunger. Sadly, humanitarian disasters and refoulement of refugees back to dangerous countries have become so routine that they barely qualify as news.

The reason that September was an especially bad month for refugees is rather because last month we were supposed to put an end to the chaotic asylum system under which refugees have to risk their lives in order to save their lives. Under which nearly half of the world’s refugees are prisoners in camps. That imposes economic and security costs on the good citizen states that live up to their protection responsibilities. And most fundamentally, that has failed to deliver solutions for at least 10 million refugees in so-called “protracted refugee situations” — refugees who have been waiting an average of 20 years for a solution, with none in sight.

In twin summits in New York in mid-September — a meeting on Monday 19th sponsored by the UN Secretary-General – and a Tuesday 20th pledging conference convened by US President Obama — governments had the chance to agree to a new era of refugee protection. An era of managed flows that would not reward traffickers and smugglers; a system that would fairly share-out responsibility among all states, and operate in a way that was attentive to their security and other interests; and most fundamentally a system that would ensure real, rights-regarding protection to all refugees, allowing them to get on with their lives and contribute to the well-being of the communities that host them.

That did not happen.

The Obama meeting focused on securing stop-gap pledges to resettle Syrian and other refugees ...

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