Protection through Mobility: Opening Labor and Study Migration Channels to Refugees


Here’s a report I wrote with Sarah Rosengaertner for the Migration Policy Institute, first published in October 2016


The limitations of the current refugee protection system have become painfully evident as the number of refugees and displaced persons passed 65 million by the end of 2015. With little hope of establishing stable lives in first-asylum countries, being resettled, or returning to their countries of origin, many refugees opt to move onward in search of their own solutions, undertaking dangerous journeys to Europe, North America, and elsewhere.

These journeys are often done via informal and irregular channels. But increasing attention is being paid to the role that legal work and study migration channels could play in the international response, potentially helping to relieve the unequal burden on countries of first asylum, connecting refugees with meaningful opportunities to earn a living and regain stability, and supporting their integration into host societies.

This report discusses the steps that policymakers can take to open legal mobility and migration opportunities within existing labor and study channels for refugees, while considering the practical and political barriers to such efforts. The authors make clear that such channels will need to operate as a complement to the traditional protection system, in part because only a relatively small share of refugees stand to benefit from gaining access to existing human-capital migration channels.