There have always been refugees: people forced from their home countries by war, persecution, or other types of violence and who must seek new homes and new lives abroad. But the world is now experiencing a crisis of a greater scope and severity than anything it has seen in decades. 

In 2014, an estimated 14 million people were newly displaced by conflict or persecution, and almost 60 million people – one in every 122 people around the globe – were living in situations of forced displacement. The ongoing conflict in Syria alone has led to 9.5 million internally displaced persons and 4 million refugees. But it is not just a Middle Eastern and European problem. There are refugees fleeing countries from Honduras to Nigeria to Myanmar seeking protection in countries from the United States to Australia to Turkey and Lebanon. 

The ongoing refugee crisis has placed unprecedented strains on international, regional, and national institutions, and exacerbated longstanding tensions and unresolved questions in the global framework for refugee protection. 

Schedule of Events (with linked video footage)

Introductory Remarks

Panel 1: Can effective steps be taken to address protracted refugee situations and the root problems that cause refugee flows? With many refugees languishing in camps or unstable situations in nearby countries, how can the international community provide them with adequate support or help them find new homes? How can countries be incentivized to take in their fair share of refugees? 

Panel 2: How can states’ interests in border protection and controlling mass migrations be reconciled with refugees’ rights and protection needs? International law bars countries from returning refugees to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened. While some nations have responded generously, many countries have gone to great lengths to evade their obligations by preventing refugees from arriving in the first place.  

Keynote Address - Mark Hetfield, President and CEO of HIAS

Panel 3:How should states manage the pressure to tighten eligibility standards, lessen procedural protections, or place higher burdens of proof on asylum‐seekers when there is a large scale refugee flow? These mass refugee flows tend to heighten fears that asylum claims will be by persons that are really economic migrants, potential terrorists, or otherwise “unworthy.” 

Closing Remarks

Past Symposia

Spring 2016 - The Global Refugee Crisis (click here for full transcript)