The global refugee regime now faces a major challenge: over the past decade, the world has witnessed displacement at levels not seen since World War II. Innovations in transport and information technology have not only changed the overall levels of migrant and refugee flows, but have dramatically altered migrants’ choices over travel routes, and their decisions about where and how to resettle. Yet modern refugee law stems from a very different era: an era where transportation costs and information scarcity posed significant barriers to any type of travel, and governments did not routinely patrol borders. Originally designed to protect Russian nobility fleeing the Bolsheviks, and adjusted multiple times to address regional crises, the global refugee regime now represents one of the most harmonized areas of international law, and one of the few generous commitments rich and stable governments offer to outsiders. Conversely, the international protection regime for economic migrants is stingy and haphazard – while refugees are entitled to many protections, economic migrants can often be turned away for any reason.
Current research underway will examine challenges and possible reforms to the international migration regime from an interdisciplinary perspective, bringing together legal scholars, political scientists, and sociologists. I will focus on Europe, where the refugee crisis is most acute. Indicatively, in Europe, both the Dublin Regulation, the main tool governing refugee allocation, and the entire Schengen system of open borders are being re-thought due to the current crisis.