The REF-ARAB project
Refugees and the Arab Middle East: Protection in States Not Party to the Refugee Convention (REF-ARAB).
Photo: Pinky Binks, Unsplash
About the Project
The states of the Arab Middle East (AME) are at the frontier of the international refugee regime. While most of the world’s states have signed or ratified the two primary international legal instruments providing for the protection of the world’s refugees – the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (the Refugee Convention), many others have not. This is particularly the case in the Arab Middle East where only Egypt and Yemen are party to the Convention. This reluctance to implement fully the international refugee law regime is seemingly paradoxical for a region where refugees have been seen as a ‘defining feature’. The region has long been one of the world’s major producers of refugees (for example, from Palestine, Iraq, Yemen and Syria), and several states have complex histories of alternatively creating and hosting massive refugee flows.
The REF-ARAB project thus interrogates the key question of: What does refugee protection look like in states facing extraordinary refugee influxes and who are not party to the key international legal instruments providing for the protection of the world’s refugees? The project offers a framework capable of grasping the multifaceted characteristics of refugee protection in the AME by studying the practice of, and interaction between, actors on a global, national and local level. It encompasses both a broader perspective that historically and politically situates these non-party states within the international refugee regime, and a more focused perspective that grounds refugee protection in lived experiences and local initiatives.
The REF-ARAB project will:
- study the historical and political circumstances related to why so many states in the Arab Middle East (AME) have remained non-parties to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (the Refugee Convention);
- explore how the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) executes its mandate to provide international protection to refugees in these same states; and
- examine the avenues available for refugees in these countries by means of non-governmental legal aid organizations in securing legal protection on the basis of human rights instruments and other domestic legislation.
The REF-ARAB project draws together an international and interdisciplinary research team, and their findings will be disseminated through a series of high-profile academic publications and innovative forms of popular scientific communication. The project carries great societal significance – for refugees themselves, for AME states hosting large refugee populations, and for European states (Norway included) seeking to develop their support of refugees in the region and concerned about the impact of failures of protection.
REF-ARAB is funded by the Research Council of Norway's Independent projects (FRIPRO) programme.
The REF-ARAB project is led by Professor Maja Janmyr and includes collaborators from the University of Glasgow, University of Warwick and the University of York. The project additionally employs two postdoctoral research fellows at the University of Oslo.