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Refugee Resettlement

‘Resettlement’ is one of the so-called durable solutions UNHCR has been charged to pursue (cf. the mandate of UNHCR). It is a solution that has been developed in practice by UNHCR, yet it is not clear what its legal parameters are other than that states are not obliged to offer resettlement places.

The discretionary nature of resettlement in the sense indicated appears to be perceived as entailing the absence of a normative framework, in particular the applicability of human rights, and international refugee law at large.

The interest in this research was triggered, first of all, by an interest in the mandate of UNHCR regarding durable solutions – my Ph.D. thesis focused on one of them: voluntary repatriation of refugees – and secondly by an invitation to address a subject regarding Dutch gateways to international law (that resulted in the first publication listed below). Although the research has eventually to result in a book, a few research question were addressed preceding writing that book. Before the contemporary international regime for refugees was created, resettlement took place on a large scale: the IRO resettled a million refugees and displaced persons in the wake of the Second World War, a scale that has never been repeated since. Since the creation of the presentday regime only a few larger scale resettlements took place, most notably – but really modest in scale when compared to the IRO time – that of the Hungarian refugees in 1956, and 1957. Why nearly all Hungarian refugees could be resettled was addressed in the second publication listed below. As indicated earlier, offering resettlement places is a discretionary act, and the question arose whether there are circumstances in which it could be argued that offering resettlement places is mandatory. This question was addressed (and answered affirmitatively), together with Tom de Boer, in the fourth publication listed below. Another question, arguably the most pressing one relating to resettlement, is what the entitlements are of refugees in the process of resettlement, if any. This question is addressed, again with Tom, in the article listed below as in progress.

Ultimately, resettlement will be the subject of a monograph that will outline the applicable legal framework including any rights refugees may have with respect to resettlement (in addition to the rights they have and retain simply on account of their being refugees).

Output so far on this subject

  1. Quota refugees’, the Dutch Contribution to Global Burden-Sharing by Means of Resettlement of Refugees”, 39 International Journal of Legal Information 2011, 130-163;
  2. “The 1956 Hungarian Refugee Emergency, an Early and Instructive Case of Resettlement”, 5 Amsterdam Law Forum 2013, 45-63;
  3. “The Limitations of both Voluntary Repatriation and Resettlement of Refugees”, in V. Chetail C. Bauloz (eds.), Research Handbook on International Law and Migration, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd., 2014, 562-585;
  4. “From Internment to Resettlement of Refugees: On US Obligations Towards MeK Defectors in Iraq” (with Tom de Boer), 15 Melbourne Journal of International Law 2014, 21-108;
  5. “Particulier initiatief en de bescherming van vluchtelingen. Een Canadees voorbeeld dat navolging verdient”, Ars Aequi, juni 2015, 424-436 [een zogenaamde ‘amuse’];

In progress

  1. “The Legal Abyss of Discretion in Resettlement of Refugees”, with Tom de Boer (will be completed in the spring of 2018).
prof. dr. M.Y.A. (Marjoleine) Zieck

Faculty of Law

Public International Law