This talk, based on Alexander Betts’ new book, will explore the challenge of responding to new drivers of cross-border displacement that fall outside the existing refugee framework. Rather than beginning with particular causes of displacement – whether environmental change, food insecurity, or generalized violence – it offers a human rights-based framework through which to critically consider who, in a changing world, should be entitled to cross an international border and seek asylum. Based on extensive fieldwork, it grounds its analysis in an exploration of contemporary flight from three of the most fragile states in the world: Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia. It explains the massive variation in national and international institutional responses in the neighboring states, arguing that politics rather than law ultimately determines how the refugee regime is implemented in practice. 

Alexander Betts is University Lecturer in Refugee Studies and Forced Migration at the University of Oxford. His research focuses on the international politics of refugees, migration, and humanitarianism, with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. His recent books include Protection by Persuasion: International Cooperation in the Refugee Regime (Cornell University Press 2009), Refugees in International Relations (with Gil Loescher, Oxford University Press 2010), Global Migration Governance (Oxford University Press 2011), and Survival Migration: Failed Governance and the Crisis of Displacement (Cornell University Press 2013). He has worked as a consultant to UNHCR, OCHA, UNDP, IOM, UNICEF, and the Council of Europe, and received research grants from the MacArthur Foundation, the Leverhulme Trust, and the Economic and Social Research Council. He has also held teaching and research positions at Stanford University and the University of Texas at Austin. He is Director of the Humanitarian Innovation Project (