Refugees, Regionalism and Responsibility
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Refugees, Regionalism and Responsibility

Penelope Mathew and Tristan Harley

Regional cooperation is sometimes seen as the answer to refugee movements. This book examines whether regional arrangements have resulted in protection and durable solutions for refugees and how responsibility for refugees has been shared at the regional level. Posing critical questions about responsibility-sharing and regionalism, the book is a timely contribution on an issue garnering increasing attention as a result of maritime arrivals in the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia.
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Chapter 5: The International Conferences on Assistance to Refugees in Africa

Penelope Mathew and Tristan Harley


In comparison to other regions in the world, such as South East Asia and the Middle East, Africa has a strong legal commitment to the protection of refugees. In 1969, the OAU (now the African Union) developed a definition of refugeehood that expanded the definition of a refugee to include those fleeing generalized violence. Since then, African countries have committed to the primary responsibility of hosting refugees, albeit with questionable implementation. This chapter examines a major set of arrangements developed for sharing responsibility for refugees in Africa, namely the International Conferences on Assistance to Refugees in Africa. ICARA I and II took place in the early 1980s and focused on obtaining extra-regional funding from the international community to support the protection of large-scale intra-regional refugee and returnee populations within Africa. The regionalism evident in this arrangement was arguably primarily about inter-African solidarity and containment and the arrangements are notable for their failure to fully achieve the goal of improved refugee protection.

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