Comparative regional approaches to refugee protection

The first strand of the ‘Pushing the Boundaries’ project examines refugee protection at the regional level in Latin America. It shows that transnational cooperation on forced migration in Latin America is not new, but rather builds on existing regional initiatives; in particular, the emergence and consolidation of a network of bilateral and multilateral treaties on political asylum, as well as activities undertaken by the Organization of American States (OAS).

However, novel inter-governmental responses to forced migration have also tended to emerge in specific historical contexts of violent societal conflict. For example, in the 1960s mass outflows from Haiti and Cuba produced important advances by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights as well as the OAS drafting of an American refugee treaty (ultimately aborted). In the 1970s the exiles from Southern Cone countries formed the basis for the subsequent sustained engagement with UNHCR at the regional level. In the 1980s the armed conflicts in Central America produced novel regional accords on the protection of refugees which also, for the first time, included the internally displaced. In the 1990s and 2000s conflict-related displacement in and from Peru and Colombia led to the San Jose process, MERCOSUR Declaration and Mexico Plan of Action.


The major output resulting from this strand of the project is a major new monograph authored by the PI on Asylum, Refugees and Forced Migration: Regional Flows and Responses in Latin America (manuscript in preparation). It is based on archival research and interviews carried out over three years (2012-2015) and it represents the first detailed study of refugee and forced displacement flows and the responses of States in Latin America over the last century.

The PI, with the research assistance of Diana Trimiño Mora, drafted a detailed research paper proposing a new interpretation of the expanded refugee definition contained in the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees, an innovative regional refugee protection instrument in Latin America. This influential paper was published in both English and Spanish. It was presented, with supplementary comments, by invitation of the UNHCR in October 2013 at an Expert Meeting on the Interpretation of the Expanded Refugee Definition included in the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees organised in Montevideo, Uruguay. It fed into the resulting UNHCR ‘Summary Conclusions on the interpretation of the extended refugee definition in the 1984 Cartagena Declaration’.

The PI also drafted a book chapter and a journal article on rapid development of the human rights framework for refugee protection developed by the Inter-American System of Human Rights (IASHR) of the OAS. Another journal article was published examining these developments in the IASHR in comparative perspective with parallel advances in the UN, African and European human rights systems, specifically in relation to the procedural guarantees for refugee status determination. This research fed into, and was cited in, proceedings before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in 2013 concerning procedural guarantees in asylum applications.

Within this strand, a thematic seminar series entitled ‘Refugee Protection at the Regional Level’ also took place at the Refugee Law Initiative in 2013-14. Alongside presentation of the Latin American case by the PI, there were presentations on refugee protection in Africa (Dr Chaloka Beyani, LSE), South East Asia (Professor Susan Kneebone, Monash), Europe (Dr Eiko Thielemann, LSE), the Middle East (Anna Segall, UNRWA) and North America (Professor Philip Schrag, Georgetown, and Dr Jaya Ramji-Nogales, Temple). Podcasts of many of these presentations are available here.

The main outputs from this strand include:

2015 Asylum, Refugees and Forced Migration: Regional Flows and Responses in Latin America (manuscript in preparation)

Journal Articles
2015 ‘¿Una solución simple para los refugiados que huyen de la guerra? La definición ampliada de América Latina y su relación con el Derecho Internacional Humanitario’ (2015) XV Anuario Mexicano de Derecho Internacional 165, jointly with D. Trimiño [OA]

2015 ‘Reframing Relationships: Revisiting the Procedural Standards for Refugee Status Determination in light of Recent Human Rights Treaty Body Jurisprudence’ 34(1) Special Issue Refugee Survey Quarterly 79

2013 ‘The Inter-American Human Rights System: A New Model for Integrating Refugee and Complementary Protection’ 17 International Journal of Human Rights 689, jointly with S. Barichello

Book Chapters
2014 ‘Protection of Asylum-Seekers under the Inter-American Human Rights System’, in A. Abass and F. Ippolito (eds.), Regional Organizations and the Protection of Asylum Seekers (Ashgate) jointly with S. Barichello

2013 ‘European Influences on Refugee Law in Latin America: Accelerated Procedures in Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela’, in M. Fullerton, H. Lambert and J. McAdam (eds.) The Global Reach of European Refugee Law (CUP)

Policy publications
2014 Comments to UNHCR on its Summary Conclusions on the 1984 Cartagena Declaration’s Refugee Definition (February 2014 draft of conclusions)

2013 Post Hoc Comments to the Expert Meeting on the ‘Interpretation of the Expanded Refugee Definition included in the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees’

2013 Transnational Reparations for Refugees and others Displaced Outside Their Country, Lucero-García v Chile (Amicus Curiae submission to Inter-American Court; joint authors)

Papers presented
2014 ‘Human Rights and the Legal Protection of Refugees in Latin America’, paper presented on Panel on Role of Human Rights Norms in Regional Protection Regimes at IASFM Annual Conference in Bogotá, Colombia

2014 ‘Refugees, Forced Migrants and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’, paper presented at Human Rights, Asylum and Refugee Protection seminar series, Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, UK

2014 ‘The Latin American Paradigm for Protecting Victims of War and Generalised Violence: New Developments’, paper presented at RLI/CRS Regional Perspectives on Displacement: War, Generalised Violence and Refugee Protection international video-conferencing seminar, University of London, London, UK

2013 ‘Regional Approaches to Refugee Protection in Latin America’, paper presented at Comparative Regional Protection Frameworks for Refugees: Norms and Norm Entrepreneurs workshop, University of London, UK

2013 ‘Interpretation of the Concept “Circumstances which have Seriously Disturbed Public Order”’, paper presented at the UNHCR-organised Expert Meeting on the Interpretation of the Expanded Refugee Definition included in the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees, Montevideo, Uruguay

2013 ‘Pushing the Boundaries: Asylum in the Inter-American Human Rights Framework’, paper presented at workshop on The Role of International Organisations and Human Rights Monitoring Bodies in Refugee Protection at the UK Research Office, Brussels, Belgium

2013 ‘A Simple Solution to War Refugees? The Latin American Expanded Definition and its relationship to IHL’, joint paper presented at the RLI/RSC Refuge from Inhumanity conference at All Souls College, Oxford, UK