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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The invisibles : an examination of refugee resettlement Labman, Shauna


Resettlement is one of three durable solutions, which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) uses to achieve refugee rotection. Refugees are assumed to locally integrate, voluntarily repatriate or resettle. Too many of the world's refugees, however, are left to linger in non-durable conditions in countries of first asylum that are often only minimally safer than the countries they have fled. Where neither local integration nor repatriation is possible, resettlement is the only option. Resettlement requires a third country to be willing to accept refugees into its territory. While signatory states to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 Convention) are obliged not to refoule asylum seekers at their borders, they have not committed to accept refugees for resettlement. By geographic distance, presumptions of safety, and a lack of legal obligations, those refugees who fail to make it to the frontiers of safe states are simply not seen. These refugees remain so far removed in a vague, far-off realm that they are rendered invisible. Their invisibility is reflected in the 1951 Convention's silence on obligations to them, the dearth of academic examination of resettlement, and media and government attention only in the celebratory act of making a small number of such refugees visible and legal, through the act of bringing them within a protective state's borders. Despite their invisibility, the protection needs of those refugees left outside the borders of safe states remains. The goals of this thesis are therefore to create visibility and increase resettlement. Resettlement is examined from its theoretical motivations, historical origins, current manipulations, and future possibilities - both generally and through an examination of the Canadian scheme. The thesis closes with recommendations for resettlement reform. They are targeted at UNHCR, the international community, national governments, and Canada in particular. For resettlement to offer a fair mode of protection a comprehensive and global model of resettlement must be designed and, ultimately, implemented.

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