A roundtable with T. Alexander Aleinikoff

Friday, 15 March 2019, 18:00-19:30

Alte Kapelle, University of Vienna, Campus, Spitalgasse/ Alser Straße, 1090 Vienna

The world is facing record numbers of persons displaced by conflict and violence, while the international refugee regime is fundamentally broken. States have adopted policies to deny, deter, and detain asylum seekers. Persons recognized as refugees are routinely denied rights guaranteed by international law. A humanitarian system established to provide emergency care is now called upon to render services for long and indefinite periods of time. No formal process or dependable practice of international responsibility-sharing currently exists. The result is that millions of refugees around the world experience a “second exile” — years spent in limbo with little opportunity to rebuild their lives or to contribute to the communities that host them. Most spend those years struggling to survive in just a handful of developing countries. The refugee crisis is not global; but the crisis of responsibility is.

In their new book “The Arc of Protection: Toward a New International Refugee Regime", T. Alexander Aleinikoff and Leah Zamore adopt a revisionist and critical perspective. They argue that latent tensions in the international refugee protection system have helped to produce the current systemic breakdown. To repair and reform the current system, they suggest returning to some of the regime’s foundational principles while transcending others. Aleinikoff and Zamore argue for a focus on refugee rights, autonomy, and mobility. They also propose changes at the level of structures and institutions, especially when it comes to responsibility-sharing and the humanitarian-development divide.

T. Alexander Aleinikoff is University Professor and Director of the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility, The New School, as well as former UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees.


Ayse Caglar (Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna, and Permanent Fellow at Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna)

Melita Sunjic (Director of the migration communication agency Transcultural Campaigning, and former international spokesperson of UNHCR)


Rainer Bauböck (European University Institute, Florence, and Commission for Migration and Integration Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences)