Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Vincent Chetail and Céline Bauloz
Chapter 22: The limitations of voluntary repatriation and resettlement of refugees
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is charged with the pursuit of durable solutions for the 'problem of refugees'. Those solutions are voluntary repatriation and assimilation within new national communities, that is, either in the country of refuge ('local integration') or in a third State ('resettlement'). Those solutions are not addressed as such in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees but the Convention is essentially geared to enabling local integration - stopping short of naturalization which States Parties to the Convention are merely to facilitate rather than grant - and resettlement by allowing the transfer of assets and local integration elsewhere. When contrasted with the quintessential solution to the problem of refugees, that is, loss of refugee status because the circumstances in connection with which the refugee was recognized as a refugee have ceased to exist, the solutions UNHCR is charged to pursue are solutions that involve refugees as refugees. The solutions are implemented when the special regime of international refugee law still applies, which entails that they require the cooperation and consent of the refugees. It is indicative of the conditionality of the durable solutions that extends beyond refugees. As far as voluntary repatriation is concerned, this solution appears to lose its practical prominence this century particularly when compared with the decade of voluntary repatriation in the 1990s of the past century when geopolitical watersheds enabled the resolution of many root causes of flight, and hence return.
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