Refugee Cities Roundup

Over the last few months there has been a flurry of interest in refugee cities. Factscoexist recently published my piece arguing for refugee cities. Here’s an excerpt.

The key to refugee cities is a legal environment conducive to economic development. The baseline is ensuring refugees have the right to work and own land. More radically, refugee cities could import good institutions. A refugee city with rule of law, property rights, and economic freedom would become a beacon for refugees everywhere.

Paul Romer explicitly called for refugee cities during a recent interview.

It is important then that this free zone shall be counted as an independent unit, with its own laws and rules – not as part of Sweden. Those who live there will not be Swedish citizens, but to live his life completely separate from the rest of society, says Paul Romer.

Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of Great Britain called for special economic zones for refugees.

Economic zones should be created in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey as part of a job-creation initiative that will help both refugees and locals.

Viktor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister called on the EU to create a refugee city in Libya.

The European Union should build a “giant refugee city” on the Libyan coast to process the asylum claims of refugees arriving there from elsewhere in Africa, the Hungarian Prime Minister has proposed.

Jordan is experimenting with a plan to give refugees currently in a camp work permits. Ethiopia is building industrial parks to give jobs to refugees. I wouldn’t describe either plan as a refugee city as there does not appear to be any intent to ensure the rights of refugees to own land and property.

Pieter Cleppe of Open Europe called for the creation of refugee cities.

I propose to create what I call “free havens”, which really are newly created cities, governed by officials from countries with a high level of rule of law, and where any refugee could go to.

The more recent calls for refugee cities join previous calls which I list here. Those who have argued for refugee cities or special economic zones for refugees include George Soros, Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Peter Sutherland. There are also two organizations, Refugee Cities and Refugee Nation, which advocate the creation of new jurisdictions for refugees. I think refugee cities are near a tipping point and with coordinated action we could see refugee cities being built soon.


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