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Footing the Bill

Refugee-Creating States’ Responsibility to Pay

Pakistani immigrants row their engineless dinghy, which was drifting out of control, in rough seas between Greece and Turkey, early May 30, 2015. Yannis Behrakis / Reuters

Nearly a century has passed since the League of Nations appointed the first High Commissioner for Refugees, and the international community’s treatment of such displaced persons has come a long way since. Millions have been displaced by conflict and persecution, but have also found protection in the form of refuge in another country or through the opportunity eventually to return safely to their own. This success, however, does not mean that the current system for handling refugees is sufficiently effective or accountable. That there are nearly 55 million forcibly displaced persons around the world is evidence enough of that. More than four million people have fled from the civil war in Syria, and nearly two million of them are now in Turkey.

In situations of mass displacement, the international community relies on individual states to shoulder the primary responsibilities of their care, and to extend hospitality to those who cannot

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