On safe passage, asylum and R2P

Alex J. Bellamy over at IPI’s Global Observatory writes about safe passage and asylum on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the international community’s adoption of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle —

The relationship between R2P and the protection of refugees was understood from the outset. Indeed, R2P itself grew out of earlier attempts to recast sovereignty in order to improve the protection of displaced populations. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly argued that full implementation of international refugee law is among the steps required to fulfill R2P.

In 2008, Legal scholar Brian Barbour and the UN High Commission on Refugees’ (UNHCR) Brian Gorlick argued that “there may be no easier way for the international community to meet its responsibility to protect than by providing asylum and other international protection on adequate terms.”  They were right to do so. The granting of safe passage and asylum is without doubt one of the most effective, if not the most effective, ways of directly protecting people from atrocity crimes.

What is entailed here is simply the full implementation of the 1951 Convention on the Protection of Refugees and subsequent 1967 Protocol through the existing mechanisms, including UNHCR, already established to achieve that goal. Simply put “asylum”—a term not often associated with R2P—as others have argued, ought to be a key element, of the principle’s repertoire of responses to atrocity crimes. That is why, for example, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on R2P, Jennifer Welsh, has pointed out that Jordan is among the few countries that can claim to have fulfilled their responsibility to protect by accommodating Syrian refugees.