By GS Gilbert
Given that there are approximately 65 million forcibly displaced individuals of concern to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), respect for international refugee law, international human rights law, the international law of armed conflict, international criminal law and the rule of law generally has never been greater if the need for flight is to be prevented or at least lessened. As for protection and solutions, though, they are often considered to be separate elements of UNHCR’s response to displaced persons and stateless persons, yet that is a false dichotomy. Traditionally, protection consists of documentation, registration, non-refoulement and status determination; solutions used to be three durable solutions of voluntary repatriation/ return, resettlement/ relocation, and local integration. However, when the modal average time spent as a displaced person is twenty years, the concepts of protection and solutions have to be reconfigured so that they are recognised as coterminous, that solutions begin at the point of protection and that ongoing solutions promote protection. To explain, the documentation and registration of new arrivals and of stateless persons is often seen as the start of international protection and, to be sure, it is, but they are also the gateway to solutions. They provide access to the ongoing solutions of employment, education, health care and legal services, all rights provided for in the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951, and its 1967 Protocol, they empower the displaced and stateless person and make them readier to enter durable and sustainable solutions such as voluntary repatriation/ return, resettlement/ relocation or local integration. “Warehousing” refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in camps miles away from all other population centres leaves them at risk, particularly women and children of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV), and denies them chances to promote their own solutions. Where refugees and IDPs are integrated with the local population, the UN agencies can provide an integrated and comprehensive response that benefits the displaced and the local population as well as the government, central and regional.