The system isn't delivering
The global refugee system is not working for the vast majority of people uprooted by war and persecution. Most refugees are forced to languish in developing countries for years without basic rights, while a tiny few are able to access a lasting solution to their displacement.
Refugees contribute, but countries rarely let them
Refugees have too often been pigeon holed as a "burden" to host states. But there is a growing body of evidence that where refugees are empowered to participate in the economy and society they make incredible contributions (see Tent and OPEN's work, or read Refuge by Alexander Betts and Paul Collier).
In most cases refugees are denied the basic rights the Refugee Convention envisaged for them - and are forced into a marginal existence for prolonged periods of time. It is no wonder millions of refugees choose to take dangerous onward journeys in search of countries that will let them settle with dignity.
New approaches needed
We need a create a much more balanced global refugee system - where all countries are doing their bit to ensure people seeking refuge are not left out in the cold. This can't be done by governments alone - the private sector, citizens and community groups all have a role to play. But governments must create the right policy settings - to encourage this whole-of-society investment; and provide genuine safe and legal pathways for refugees.
Some countries and communities are already starting to innovate to address these flaws in the global refugee system. Brazil is providing temporary travel passes to refugees so that they can legally travel to Brazil to apply for asylum. The private sector in the United States and Europe is playing a critical role investing in refugee communities and their employment outcomes. Canada has pioneered community sponsorship schemes for refugees, and is exporting this model to countries around the world.
To fix the flaws in the global refugee system we need to learn from these models and innovate.