There is a disturbing lack of discussion about what the role of the United Nations should be in global refugee situations. It is absolutely outrageous that people today, despite the existence of modern transportation, have to flee by their own means via life threatening journeys to a single country or a region that might or might not grant them asylum. The very idea that refugees even should have to choose one specific country somewhere in the world where to seek asylum, be forced to travel there or even visit embassies belonging to these countries seems to me like an outdated and inefficient procedure.
Instead there should be an organized stage between the escape from an unsafe location, and the arrival in a new country of residence. At this stage the asylum seeking process in one, or if necessary several, countries should be possible to conduct in a safe and efficient way. For countries with a normally generous and well functioning refugee reception systems, this stage would also serve as a buffer in the case of a drastic increase in the number of refugees like the one we now experience in Syria.
This would be accomplished through a vast UN program where every member state would be bound by contract to lend space to one or several locations (level of effort depending on GDP or something like that), which will constitute a temporary but safe and comfortable home during the asylum seeking process.
Refugees should get free transport from an unsafe area to any of these locations, which each would contain standardized accommodation that comfortably can house a number of thousand persons for at least a year (or as long as needed). There should be family quarters as well as apartments for single individuals and a public meeting area with communication center with internet and telephones, restaurant, information center, embassy representation, education possibilities, playground etc. The choice of location a certain family or individual gets to travel to should primarily be dictated by the aim for maximum efficiency in the logistics of this global system and not by the preference of the traveler.
A high level of standardization to ensure similarity between the locations with regards to good comfort and decent standard of living is an important aspect here in order to minimize the dependency on which location a person ends up coming to. The large number of locations and their spread around the world is purely for the purpose of distributing cost, space and resource allocations evenly, not for the sake of individual choice (at least not at this point in the process).
The aim of the program should of course be to find asylum and permanent residency for all refugees in a safe country. It should be possible to seek asylum in several countries simultaneously, and the seeker should have the option to stay at the location during the full length of this process. A global information network for finding permanent job- and accommodation-opportunities around the world, based on the persons education, skills and personal preferences, should be a core effort in the program. Local immigration and employment authorities in all UN member states would naturally be an essential part of this network.
Another core activity of the program would have to be the transportation of people between the conflict areas, refugee locations, and the asylum granting countries. This would be funded by the UN, and could be by means of chartered transports from already existing companies, or a UN owned fleet of various transportation vehicles. Adjacent to this there must also be UN military support to assure safe passage from the conflict area to the closest secure airport or other transportation node.
If possible the paid staff at the locations should consist of refugees willing and able to work during their stay. Special visas could be issued in order for people to be able to move around freely outside the location area. In times of lower number of refugees the houses and apartments can be used as normal housing for the countries inhabitants (cheaper of course in order to compensate for the risk of having to move out with short notice).
- even global distribution of cost combined with global access to resources
- large number of small-ish but closely connected and equally functioning locations where staff can easily move from one to the other depending on work-load
- high level of standardization for efficiency, lower cost and fairness
- extensive and efficient use of modern information technology to create networks in order to find permanent residency for everyone
- efficient pairing of demand for, and supply of labor on a global scale.