Life in Exile: A comprehensive investigation of the challenges facing and support provided to human rights defenders in long-term relocation

Against the backdrop of a global democratic recession, there has been a concerning escalation in threats faced by human rights defenders (HRDs). This challenging environment has spurred the emergence of mechanisms aimed at providing support to those HRDs forced to flee their countries temporarily. But what of those who can’t return? With the current authoritarian wave showing few signs of receding, the need for robust long-term support structures for HRDs becomes increasingly imperative. 

Today, IPHR presents the results of a year-long study which highlights the unique obstacles faced by HRDs in long-term exile and proposes key recommendations to diverse stakeholders to improve the coverage, quality, and impact of future support. The study combined qualitative and quantitative methods, including 43 in-depth interviews and 98 online questionnaires completed by HRDs in exile, as well as focus groups conducted with 26 key organisations from the protection community.

This final research report covers the following:

  • An overview of currently existing support mechanisms
  • The factors driving HRDs into exile
  • Analysis of the accessibility of state- and NGO-provided support
  • HRDs’ experiences of living and working in exile
  • HRDs’ prospects and willingness to return home
  • Gaps in current support systems and HRDs’ own recommendations

The report concludes with detailed recommendations tailored for diverse stakeholders. Host states are advised to implement measures enhancing the accessibility of support services, simplify visa processes, and foster environments conducive to integration. The EU is urged to reform visa policies to address the unique mobility needs of HRDs. HRDs in exile and at risk receive specific recommendations to support their long-term adaptation and enhance their security and resilience. NGOs are encouraged to improve coordination, tackle key gaps, and prioritise long-term sustainability. Donors are called upon to contribute to the financial stability of HRDs and supporting organisations.

To access the full report, including a detailed and comprehensive list of recommendations to all stakeholders, click here.