From Political Instrument to Protection Tool? Resettlement of Refugees and North-South Relations

Thais Bessa


 Lacking a clear legal definition, the conceptualization and application of durable solutions have been highly influenced by states’ interests that were often at odds with humanitarian concerns on refugee protection.During the Cold War resettlement was perceived as the preferred dur­able solution, although it was selectively applied to differ­ent refugee crises in the South.With the asylum crisis in the 1980s and the end of the Cold War, a new agenda of containment emerged as Northern countries’ interest in receiving refugees declined.During the 1990s voluntary repatriation emerged as a new preferred solution and there was an effort to redefine and adapt resettlement to a new context.This process focused on detaching resettlement from its previous political and immigration character and redefining it as an exclusive protection tool and instrument of international co-operation.Hence, resettlement in the post-Cold War era is characterized by depoliticization, a smaller number of beneficiaries, and geographic expansion.However, it is important to critically question whether such depoliticization has happened in fact, the reasons behind it, and its relation to North-South politics and contain­ment strategies.

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