As Asylum Access celebrates 10 years of making refugee rights a reality, we’re also looking ahead to the next decade.
We’ll continue giving refugees the tools to assert their rights, so they can rebuild their lives. In the past year, we opened operations in 3 new countries — we now have a total 15 offices across Ecuador, Panama, Mexico, Thailand, Malaysia and Tanzania — which allowed us to provide legal information, advice or representation to over 30,000 people last year.
We’ll also continue to advocate for changes to laws and policies that implement refugees’ human rights — allowing them to move out of camps, walk down the street without fear of arrest, seek a job or start a business, enroll their children in local schools, count on protection of local police. And when needed, we’ll use legal systems to establish and enforce these rights.
But in the next 10 years, we will go even further to push for an exponential impact.
At a point where the world faces the largest crisis of forced displacement since WWII, with nearly 60 million people displaced including 20 million refugees, our global refugee response systems must change. Over the next 10 years, Asylum Access wants to lead this charge.
We are already demonstrating that we have a model that works to put refugees back in control of their lives and gives them the power to contribute to their host communities. Instead of aid, we give refugees the tools to dismantle barriers to their own full participation in the economic and civic life of their new homes, wherever they find themselves — and we’ve seen our approach work.
But our “secret sauce” has never been secret. We want other NGOs, UN agencies, development banks, and funders whose efforts touch the refugee response system to join us in moving beyond aid to eliminate barriers to refugee autonomy, and to catalyze refugees’ power to positively transform their own lives and the lives of their new communities.
We want other NGOs, UN agencies, development banks, and funders whose efforts touch the refugee response system to join us in moving beyond aid to eliminate barriers to refugee autonomy, and to catalyze refugees’ power to positively transform their own lives and the lives of their new communities.
Over the next 10 years, we’ll be sharing our vision for a refugee response system that gives the world’s 20 million refugees the power to rebuild their lives. And we’ll be supporting others in the refugee response ecosystem by sharing our tools and catalyzing conversations about how to achieve this vision.
A few highlights of our perspective after 10 years of human rights advocacy with and for refugees:
Refugee-hosting governments hold the key to ensuring — and to making the most of — refugees’ autonomy and power. We must hold them accountable, and we must support them to change.
Funders, especially donor governments, must go beyond aid to support advocacy. Specifically, funders should support local advocacy organizations with the skills, experience and connections to effectively engage host governments to establish policies and practices that respect refugees’ rights and ensure the well-being of both refugees and locals.
International development organizations need to ensure their staff are educated about refugee issues. When development and humanitarian professionals believe the average time in a refugee camp is 6 months to 2 years — as many have said to me — they will not include refugees in long-term development planning. This does a huge disservice to refugees and locals alike.
The United Nations Refugee Agency has a number of key roles to play in reforming refugee response. Many of these steps are already in progress. Educating other multilaterals. Bringing new actors into refugee response. Embracing and encouraging local NGO advocacy as a critical component of achieving change.
Written by Asylum Access Executive Director Emily Arnold-Fernandez