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Kneebone, S --- "Comparative Regional Protection Frameworks for Refugees: Norms and Norm Entrepreneurs" [2016] UMelbLRS 4

Last Updated: 22 May 2019

Comparative regional protection frameworks for refugees: Norms and norm entrepreneurs

Susan Kneebone*

The focus of this collection is generally on regional approaches to refugee protection, and specifically upon the norms, and the norm entrepreneurs of those approaches. In 2015 two refugee protection crises highlighted the importance of regional approaches to refugee protection: namely the Rohingya ‘boat people’ crisis which unfolded in the Indian Ocean in May 2015 and the advance of Syrian refugees towards Europe which escalated from the same period. In each case it was the dissemination of shocking images in the global media which raised attention to the crisis: in the situation of the Rohingya it was the discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave of smuggled Rohingya in a trafficking camp in southern Thailand in early May,1 whereas in the case of Syrian refugees it was the single image on 2 September

of the body of a young Syrian boy named Eylan. In fact both crises have been simmering for some time and arose from protracted, unresolved situations involving groups from different religious and ethnic backgrounds. The Syrian crisis is an outcome of the conflict in Syria which is now in its fifth year, and which has displaced half of the country’s population of 22 million people. The Rohingya situation is complex and long-standing, but was precipitated by the actions of people smugglers who abandoned their human cargo at sea.

Each crisis has highlighted the strengths and limits of regional approaches to refugee protection and the importance of looking closely at the underlying norms, and the identities and activities of the relevant ‘norm entrepreneurs’ at the regional level. For example, in 2009 the Rohingya situation was regarded as a ‘mini-crisis’ which led to the reinvigoration of the regional process known as the Bali Process, led by Australia, and whose official title is

the Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime.2 Yet, the Rohingya situation was not resolved by that or any similar regional process. In the context of the current Syrian crisis, the spotlight now is on the mechanisms of refugee protection which the European Union (EU) has developed. The response of these mechanisms to this crisis will provide an insight into their effectiveness.

The purposes of the papers which make up this this collection are to identify the key actors in promoting refugee protection norms and their agenda-setting or ‘steering’ modes in the regional context; and to evaluate dominant mechanisms and discourses on regional refugee protection. Some issues considered by the papers in this special issue are whether


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