Students Staff

16 October 2014

Essex launches landmark refugee project

Professor Geoff Gilbert from the University of Essex has been awarded $50,000 for a project which could improve the welfare of millions of refugees around the world.

Professor Geoff Gilbert

Professor Geoff Gilbert

Professor Gilbert, from Essex's School of Law and Human Rights Centre, will explore new solutions for dealing with refugee crises which, if implemented, could contribute to the protection of refugees from arrival to the eventual long-term solution to their displacement.

The project is funded by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and will culminate in December when Professor Gilbert, and Senior Research Officer Anna Magdalena Ruesch, will present their recommendations in Geneva.

Professor Gilbert, an expert in international refugee law, explained: “Traditionally there have been three solutions to international refugee crises: placing people in refugee camps; repatriation; and resettlement in other countries. These solutions have not evolved since the UNHCR was founded in 1950, in the wake of World War II, and we are now seeing third generation refugees being born in camps, and people living their whole lives without proper access to basic human rights like health, education and work.”

He added: “We are at a point now where we need new solutions that really empower refugees, and that we can implement the minute they are displaced.”

Professor Gilbert and Ms Ruesch will make two field trips, to north Africa and south America, where they will meet with refugees and displaced people, agencies and non-governmental organisations, as well as government officials, judiciary and civil society.

They will explore how utilising different sets of laws can reshape UNHCR solutions and improve refugee prospects.

Dr Clara Sandoval and Lorna McGregor, both of the Human Rights Centre and School of Law, will advise as experts in the rule of law.

In February 2014 Essex became the first university in the UK to sign a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).


More information
For further information please contact the University of Essex Communications Office, telephone: 01206 873529 or email:

The Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex has pioneered the teaching, research and practice of human rights over the last 30 years. Its 80 academics, from 11 disciplines, advise and act on behalf of governments, NGOs, national and regional human rights bodies, and international organisations such as the UN. In 2010, the Centre helped the University of Essex secure the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in recognition of its work in advancing global human rights. As part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, the University will mark the contribution of its human rights researchers with a series of events and activities in March 2015.

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