Journal Article

Visions of Refugia: Territorial and transnational solutions to mass displacement

Published 11 July 2017 / By Robin Cohen & Nicholas Van Hear

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Over the last two years we have been engaged in a dialogue on public platforms with each other and with colleagues and students about ‘what is to be done’ regarding the issue of mass displacement. Authorship of our ideas is therefore rather amorphous and mutually constitutive. In the course of this dialogue we have explored a number of radical proposals and conceived some new ones ourselves. We have been surprised to find participants in various forums asking us rather earnestly ‘what is the problem you are trying to solve?’ In response, we spell out here ‘the problem of mass displacement’ by referring to three statistical measures in the bullet points below:

  • Considerably more people are being forcibly displaced: 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, compared with 59.5 million a year earlier
  • A large number of migrants and refugees are dying en route to safety each year – most dramatically, over 5000 people perished in trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2016
  • Borders are closing to refugees all over the world. Even in the country best known for its generosity to refugees and migrants, Germany, there have been significant changes. During 2016, 280,000 people applied for various forms of legal protection, dropping from 890,000 the year before. The number gaining full refugee status averaged at 37%, with big variations across nationalities (Dearden, 2017).


Nicholas Van Hear & Robin Cohen (2017) 'Visions of Refugia: territorial and transnational solutions to mass displacement', Planning Theory and Practice, 18:3, 494-504, DOI: 10.1080/14649357.2017.1330233