Refugees or Migrants? The UNHCR’s Comprehensive Approach to Afghan Mobility into Iran and Pakistan

  • Giulia Scalettaris
Part of the Migration, Minorities and Citizenship book series (MMC)


Labelling constitutes an inescapable part of public policy-making (Wood, 1985; Zetter, 1991, p. 44), which entails identifying standardized categories of people in order to define those who can reap the benefits of rights and entitlements. By defining groups of clients and spheres of competence, this operation of classification contributes to organizing public policy. The current international framework addressing international mobility is based on the distinction between ‘refugees’ and ‘migrants’. What theoretically distinguishes refugees from migrants is the cause of departure: forced in the case of refugees (such as persecution and conflict), voluntary in the case of migrants (such as economic reasons). International migration and asylum are currently considered as separate international policy areas. This is reflected in the institutional separation between those institutions responsible for refugees and those for migrants. While there is a consolidated international regime to protect refugees, based on the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugee (hereafter the 1951 Geneva Convention) and the existence of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there is no such regime for other categories of migrants, nor is there international consensus about the responsibility of states for responding to migration.1


Labour Migration Global Governance Evaluation Unit Geneva Convention Status Attribution 
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© Giulia Scalettaris 2010

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  • Giulia Scalettaris

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