Refugee Burden-and-Responsibility Sharing: Revisiting the Debate on the Right to Compensation to Refugee-Hosting States

Caroline Nalule

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Much of the world’s rising refugee population is situated in developing
countries most of which struggle to fulfil their developmental obligations
towards their own citizens, while the better financially-placed countries
are increasingly changing their asylum policies to avoid most of the
obligations that come with the admission of high numbers of impromptu
refugees and asylum seekers. The refugee-burden and responsibility-sharing landscape is evidently uneven and inequitable. Even as the more
recent adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees seeks to address the
global imbalances in refugee burden- and responsibility-sharing and re-affirms states’ commitments to refugee protection and support for host
countries and communities, its strategy remains grounded in the traditional
durable solutions. It does not address the issue of the responsibility of
refugee-producing states. Scholarship in this regard, particularly in the late
1980s and 1990s argued that refugee-producing states that engaged in
internationally wrongful acts resulting into refugee outflows that in turn
created a refugee burden for other states should bear responsibility and pay
compensation to the refugee-hosting states. This article aims to develop
this argument further with a specific focus on the African region. The
African region has in the last three decades seen significant development
not only in its normative framework but also in regional cooperation
schemes that would provide a strong basis and framework for the
implementation of the obligation for refugee-producing states in breach of
their international obligations to compensate refugee-hosting states. While
the right to compensation, as it were, would not be a panacea to the global
refugee crises, it could perhaps have a deterrent effect on states that may
act with impunity and make them responsible for their share in causing the
refugee situation. It could also incentivize reluctant states to uphold their
obligations towards refugees in accordance with international law.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441 - 496
Number of pages56
JournalMichigan State International Law Review
Issue number3
Early online date1 Jul 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative
Commons Attribution License (,
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original work is properly cited.


  • Refugee burden-and-responsibility sharing; ; ;
  • compensation
  • international law
  • refugees

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


  • Migration, Displacement and Belonging
  • Peace and Conflict


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