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International Migration, 2010, Volume 48, Number 1, pp. 175-198

Freedman, J.

Abstracted by Clara Farr-Rice

In the refugee and asylum realms, the experience of women continues to be overlooked and understudied. Although women total over half of the world’s refugee population, claims made to and accepted by developed countries do not reflect this proportion. In addition to gender inequality, causing women to be less economically and socially secure, international law often strips them of their political contribution and, therefore, their ability to be considered for either asylum or refugee status. Particularly unnerving is the fact that most Western countries do not accept female claims regarding violence against women for fear that this will “open the floodgates.” Some countries have made more strides towards acknowledging oppression and fear that can stem from male domination and control, including Canada, and to a lesser degree Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Sweden. However, even the implementation of refugee and asylum reforms recognizing gender as a factor does not equate to notable action on the part of the receiving countries.

A discussion of how global norms are constructed arises out of the variation in which gender-persecution is viewed and implemented as a legitimate means of garnering the protection of another nation state. Two particularly important observations are the importance of national public interest (or the degree of non-governmental activism), and the opportunity structures already in place that enable changes in refugee and asylum policy. Case examples delineate the distinctive journeys of the UK and France in upholding gender violence as a valid claim for state protection. These European countries receive comparable numbers of asylum claims, both with increasing numbers of claims from women. Whereas British NGOs have rallied with solidarity for gender equality for refugees and asylum seekers, and inspired policymakers towards reform, French organizers have had little success arriving at any substantial agreements. For instance, some in France believe that to acknowledge women as a separate category under asylum law would only disadvantage men. Structure and atmosphere shape the norms of gender-based claims within specific countries.

Additionally, nations distinguish between experiences of gender-persecution, often paying more attention to “exotic” (in the opinion of the West) forms, such as female genital mutilation (FGM). On the other hand, domestic violence is less likely to be categorized as persecution given that it occurs in all countries; as is the case, it cannot as easily be negatively ascribed to non-Western cultures. This in turn questions a universal set of rights that can be applied to all female populations, which is more often than not based on the situations of Western women. The more “exotic” forms of gender violence contextualize women as powerless and as such can be more idealized by countries providing protection. Asylum and refugee claims made by women are scrutinized through a Western lens and thus often deny a claimant’s right to have voice over her experience. This common classification of persecution often prevents women from being able to extricate themselves from gender-based violence.




The Brookings Institute Project on Internal Displacement, March 25, 2010, Online Article:

Cohen, Roberta

Abstracted by Holly Philpot

This article analyzes the ways in which the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine is problematic when applied to situations of internally displaced people (IDPs). R2P is based on a concept known as “sovereignty as responsibility” which arose in the 1990s in response to the dilemma of trying to aid IDPs without violating the sovereignty of their governments. The “sovereignty as responsibility” concept suggests that nations only maintain their sovereignty if they fulfill the responsibilities of providing for and protecting their citizens, inclusive of upholding human rights.

Considering its roots, R2P would appear to be a natural promoter of IDP protection. However, Roberta Cohen stresses in this article that R2P is currently limited in its ability to actually improve IDP situations. Some reasons for this limitation emanate from the narrowness of R2P’s application and its perceived correlation with military intervention, both products from the lack of consensus on how to actually implement R2P in practice. Cohen also cites growing tensions between human rights, which emphasizes physical protection, and humanitarian aims, which in turn emphasizes material provision, in deterring the implementation of R2P in IDP situations.

A number of practical measures are introduced in this article for resolving the potential disconnects between R2P and IDP protection. The primary suggestion is to specifically integrate IDP protection into the overall R2P strategy since IDPs are often the victims in situations that might require the implementation of R2P. Cohen also suggests broadening the application of R2P to extend to more people over longer periods of time during an emergency situation. Better planning and open dialogue should also be utilized to ensure that human rights and humanitarian goals do not contradict one another or prevent the implementation of R2P in situations where it would be ideal. Finally, steps should be taken to offset the misperception that R2P requires military intervention in all situations.




International Journal of Refugee Law, 2009, Volume 21, Edition 4, pp. 742-767

Darling, Kate

Abstracted by Shanae Becker

This article is of interest to those concerned with the interaction between states’ interpretation of their human rights obligations and the rights of stateless persons. The focus of the article is how states, the intended system through which individuals access rights, often skirt their long term moral objectives with regards to human rights by favoring immediate actions. For international law, specifically refugee law, gaining refugee status is a very dense process in which states are the decision makers and often burdened with a “factually dense inquiry”. Darling argues that this is the step in the process in which states are the most likely to overlook international human rights objectives. To complicate the matter, in order to apply for refugee status, stateless persons have to establish persecution (the term itself being disagreed upon) in every country of former habitual residence. Thus, the realities faced by stateless persons are neglected because states exclude the presumption that stateless persons are more predisposed to persecution. Darling implicitly raises the important question of why states do not recognize that statelessness implies a lack of rights and protections. States are not legally bound to certain obligations under Human Rights Conventions, and they often claim this even if they have a moral obligation to do so. This leads to the legitimizing of the low priority of stateless persons with regards to international refugee law. States legitimize this low priority, Darling argues, by fulfilling their international human rights obligations by focusing on emergency situations and therefore lacking the appropriate address of structural and long-term problems. Darling wants the reader to understand that the current trend of international refugee law allows the state’s decision makers to be insulated from reflecting on their state’s human rights obligations, therefore prolonging the vulnerability of stateless persons. States’ interpretations often fall far from the “basic underlying principles” and we must reevaluate a commitment towards refugees and international human rights obligations to realize that stateless people are more vulnerable because they lack any state’s legal and moral obligation to them.




Human Rights Quarterly, 2000, Volume 22, Number 1, pp. 1 – 56

Arulanantham, Ahilan T.

Abstracted by Martha Pigott

Ahilan Arulanantham provides an in-depth look at the current refugee system in regards to safe havens and the role of the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees). Arulanantham’s motivation for this study arose out of his previous and compelling research with the Tamil refugees of Sri Lanka who faced incredible hardship and torture despite the protection that should have been ensured to them within the UNHCR camp. Arulanantham discovered that protection failure in the camp was rampant, leading many of the internally displaced persons to risk their lives in an attempt to leave it. Even worse, no one knew what was happening because the UNHCR was not reporting it. Arulanantham poses the question “Why did the UNHCR fail to report such a horrible situation?” His response offers an invaluable insight into the refugee system and explaining where some of its greatest problem areas can be found. By the end of his article, Arulanantham offers an interesting solution worthy of serious consideration.   To begin to understand some of the fundamental problems within refugee law, Arulanantham highlights the important fact that the international refugee system was not initially designed to address situations of mass influx. Rather, it was developed after the Cold War with the aim to deal with small groups of people from communist countries. As such, Arulanantham writes that the refugee system faces two major problems: its inability to address situations of mass influx, and the inequity of protection between people who have crossed an international border and those who have not, the former being offered substantially more protection.

In considering possible proposals to correct these failing characteristics of the system, Arulanantham looks at two leading proposals for reform referred to as “burden-sharing.” While he offers adequate commendation for some of the successful insights of these proposal reforms, Arulanantham criticizes these approaches stating that they fail to produce an incentive for states’ to comply with the system. He writes that without incentives for the states’ involved, no real reform can succeed. To generate that incentive, Arulanantham proposes a new support for the system. He writes that the key to successful change in the system is to restructure the information network that reports on safe havens. He suggests creating an entirely separate organization whose sole function is to report on refugee protection issues. No longer should the UNHCR be responsible for its own reporting. He answers his own initial question by explaining that the reason for failed adequate reporting on the part of UNHCR is due to the fact that their funding prevents them from being impartial. UNHCR is funded by states that use the safe havens as an excuse to keep IDPs from crossing international borders. State governments can deny refugees asylum in their countries with the excuse that people seeking refuge already have the option of safe havens within their own country. If the UNHCR actually reported on the breakdowns in protection within those safe havens, it would be putting the very states that fund them in significant jeopardy. By forcing those states to admit to the inadequacy of the safe havens, Arulanantham argues, will make them less able to ignore their responsibilities in cases of mass influx. Instead of simply pointing to the existence of safe havens, these states will either have to accept refugees into their countries, or perhaps better yet, work to improve the protection levels of safe havens so that they actually succeed in serving the populations they have set out to help.




International Studies Perspectives, 2006, Volume 7, Number 2, pp. 87-101(15)

Cohen, Roberta

Abstracted by Christine Danton

The international system created after World War II to protect and assist refugees, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the 1951 Refugee Convention, did not extend to internally displaced persons (IDPs), those who had been displaced within their own country. The disparity in treatment between refugees and IDPs proved to be a glaring gap in the international response system. Cohen was invited to work on an in-depth study with Francis Deng, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Cohen and Deng produced a work, Masses in Flight: the Global Crisis of Internal Displacement, published in 1998. They presented several reasons for creating a system to protect IDPs. IDP numbers were swelling dramatically, from 1.2 million in 11 countries in 1982 to 20-25 million in 40 countries by the 1990s. IDPs often suffered the highest mortality rates during humanitarian crises. Also, it was obvious that reconstruction in war-torn societies could not take place without effective reintegration of displaced persons. Addressing the problem of internal displacement was at first stymied by traditional notions of sovereignty. Cohen and Deng argued that sovereignty is not a shield for a state to hide behind, but rather, it is an obligation for the state to provide for the security and well-being of all those under their jurisdiction. If the state is unable to fulfill this responsibility, it is expected to request and accept outside offers of aid. When large numbers of people are at risk of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, international action becomes compelling. The guiding principles on internal displacement were presented to the Commission on Human Rights in 1998. These 30 principles, consistent with existing international law, constitute an international minimum standard for the treatment of IDPs. UN agencies and NGOs have widely disseminated the principles and trained their staff in their provisions, while for IDPs these principles serve as a source of empowerment. Cohen notes the example of displaced persons in Sierra Leone who used the principles to call on UN agencies to provide education for IDP children in camps. However, international institutional arrangements on the ground helping IDPs remain deficient. According to Cohen, the most attractive alternative is to enlarge UNHCR’s mandate, but this does not solve the issue. Collaboration with other NGOs will also be necessary. The most challenging area of responsibility in dealing with IDPs is protection. Few organizations have the skill or experience necessary to carry out protection work in the field. The UNHCR continues to be absent from most emergency situations. In Darfur, Sudan, for example, there are more than 11,000 humanitarian workers on the ground, but fewer than 100 with protection responsibilities. There is still no rapid UN deployment force to send out in emergencies for purposes of prevention and protection. Of course, there is no substitute for political settlements that resolve disputes and inequalities at the heart of the conflicts causing displacement. Cohen and Deng, in their 1998 work also recommend earlier involvement of international development and financial institutions like the World Bank in situations of displacement to help reduce economic inequities and to play a greater role in the sustainable reintegration of IDPs. While there is a normative framework in place and is being used to address the issues of internal displacement, there is still no predictable system to provide aid and protection to IDPs. Cohen reminds us that, “a world in which the privileged among nations ignore the plight of the unfortunate can neither be prosperous nor safe for anyone.”1

1Roberta Cohen and Francis Deng, Masses in Flight: the Global Crisis of Internal Displacement, Washington, DC: Brookings Institution (1998), 304.




Foreign Policy, May/June 2002, Number 130, pp. 80-81(2)

Geisler, Charles

Abstracted by Katherine Courtnage

Protected areas are necessary and invaluable to the future. They encourage the sustainability of ecosystems, biodiversity, and genetic variability. When celebrating the creation of newly protected land, however, people often forget those that become internally displaced. Geisler brings awareness to internally displaced persons and refugees due to global land conservation. An estimated 70% of protected areas have human inhabitants that become internally displaced persons (or as Geisler terms them conservation refugees) once a land is legally mandated as an environmental protected area. This practice dates all the way back to William the Conqueror in 1066 when he evicted Saxons from their land in order to make a hunting ground. Today, the same type of event still occurs. Geisler uses the term global greenlining to explain the increase in numbers and acres of protected land. If global greenlining continues neglecting to account for human rights it will have grave consequences. Africa provides a telling example. In the past twenty years the number of protected lands has grown from 217 million acres in 1985 to 380 million acres today. In itself this is a very impressive and noble feat, but in places such as Tanzania more than 60,000 farmers and pastoralists have been evicted from their ancestral land.

When ecological preservation infringes on indigenous land rights it calls into question “environmental justice.” Although this term is usually used for development that occurs without considering environmental factors, it also acts as an appropriate term to explain the injustice of conservation without reservation. The interests of internally displaced persons in conservation issues are often invisible to the public interest. Geisler relates this to a number of causes. First, authorities often ignore refugee issues until they reach a level of crisis, and conservation refugees do not fit into the official definition of a refugee. Second, policy makers and environmentalists often ignore the cultural and social impacts of protected areas. The third and final cause relates to class bias. When native populations are poor and powerless they do not have a great deal of say in their future. Conservation does have an important role in the world, but it must “broaden its vision of global welfare as it broadens its reach” (p. 81). Too often native people of the land are invisible to those who make the key choices. When government and contractors get together they do not take into account how their decisions will affect native people. Global conservation should not intensify poverty and leave those that will be displaced out of the decision-making process. Instead Geisler believes that conservation should maintain environmental justice, and native populations must have a voice in outcomes that could potentially displace them.




The International Journal of Human Rights, 2006, Volume 10, Number 3, pp. 231-239(9)

Chan, Phil C. W.

Abstracted by Annmarie Barnes

The status and treatment of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) is considered part of international norms. Chan contends that non-refoulement is a part of customary international law in which states cannot expel refugees if their lives or freedom are endangered in the country from which they fled. It is important to distinguish between refugees and IDPs when discussing how they are treated according to international law. The definitions of refugees and IDPs used in this article are from the 1951 Refugee Convention and the UNHCR’s Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, respectively. Article 33 of the Refugees Convention refers to non-refoulement, and approximately 145 states have ratified the convention and/or the Refugees Protocol. After states signed on to the Refugees Convention and the Refugees Protocol, the ideas delineated in these documents became norms of conduct concerning refugees and IDPs. In addition, the norm of non-refoulement became more prominent as a result of ‘consistency of practice,’ whereby continuous exposure to the norm dictated actions and policies. A number of multilateral declarations have supported this norm; these declarations include: the 1967 Declaration on Territorial Asylum, the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees, the 1969 Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, and the 1966 Principles Concerning Treatment of Refugees. The United Nations has other conventions that have buttressed ideas concerning the treatment of populations such as refugees and IDPs. The prohibition against torture is also related to certain ideas in conventions concerning refugees. It is relevant in the sense that if states deny asylum to asylees or refugee status to refugees and put them in harms way by forcing them to return to the country from which they fled in fear of torture or death, the receiving states are guilty of participating in torture indirectly. However, the status and treatment of IDPs is more precarious specifically because there are not as many declarations from the international community focused on IDPs. A possible way to resolve this issue would be for more resources to be devoted to the development of a pervasive protocol for the status and treatment of IDPs. Although there is a need for continued progress in terms of standards for dealing with refugees and IDPs, non-refoulement as customary international law may provide a baseline for addressing some of the major challenges faced by this vulnerable population.




African Affairs, 1985, Volume 84, Number 334, pp. 3-13(11)

Harrell-Bond, B.

Abstracted by Christine Danton

Humanitarian efforts are constrained by a number of factors. Refugees are portrayed as helpless, and are “marketed” by humanitarian agencies in order to receive funding. Aid response and delivery are politicized, and agencies often make compromises when relying on government funds to provide assistance. According to Harrell-Bond, these ominous issues are placing humanitarianism in a ‘straightjacket’. Harrell-Bond first discusses the image of the refugee as helpless or submissive, an image portrayed by media which is guarded by the general public and exploited by humanitarian agencies. That refugees have the power to help themselves is forgotten or dismissed. Agencies move quickly to provide assistance based on the “helpless refugee,” an inaccurate and false prejudgment that clouds perception of the human lives and issues at stake. Harrell-Bond states that, “humanitarian agencies are in a straightjacket with little else than human misery upon which to base their appeals” (p.4). All agencies rely on public response to media portrayal of extreme human suffering. Public response can draw funding, but only until the next disaster strikes. The method of funding refugee programs as short-term emergencies is a major constraint to humanitarian agencies, none of which has a permanent budget for relief activities. All agencies must compete against each other in the ‘market-place’ for funding. Even the UNHCR has had to appeal for funding, while at the same time preparing an emergency program for refugee relief. Competition in this marketplace has forced agencies to ‘package and market’ refugees. UNHCR normally relies on voluntary agencies to implement projects in the field. Contracts for implementing partners are not always awarded on the basis of competence, but by how much influence the voluntary agency has in Geneva. The sum of funding available for programs often correlates with the amount of media attention that has been paid to the emergency. There are inherent dangers in constantly feeding the public images of helpless refugees. Harrell-Bond describes how the ‘packaging’ of refugees has been altered since post World War II. The flight of people from Europe was a confirmation that they had fled a tyranny in the East and it was up to the liberal democracies to embrace them. Harrell-Bond notes that refugees in Europe were both anti-communist and white. Today, most refugees are not white and, “they are hosted by the poorest countries in the world, where assistance raises the standards of refugees above that of their hosts” (p. 9). Governments first sought out churches and voluntary agencies to provide assistance to refugees, perhaps as a means of de-politicizing assistance. Now, however, political considerations are factored in to governments’ attitudes toward refugees. Agency dependence on government funding discourages dissent or neutrality, and the agency may find itself in a position that is contradictory or harmful to the refugee population they are trying to assist. Funding can also obscure effective policymaking. Since 1982, the policy has been to encourage refugees to return to countries which are still ruled by regimes whose policies caused their initial flight. Large sums of money were offered by donor governments through UNHCR for rehabilitating returnees, without any acknowledgement of the reasons why the refugees fled, nor consideration of whether rehabilitation was the best option. Continued agency reliance on donor government funds will demand compromises of the security and human rights of refugees. The second International Conference on Assistance to Refugees in Africa may have signaled an important shift in the dilemma. All funds pledged by the British government were to be given to voluntary agencies, which should reduce the ‘competitive market’ tensions and constraints for agencies providing assistance. Still, it is difficult to see how voluntary agencies will be able to take the stand recommended by Michael Harris of OXFAM, “for justice, and against the ‘inhumanity with which some governments treat their people” (p. 13).




International Migration, 2003, Volume 41, Number 5, pp. 61-91(31)

Colic-Peisker V. and Farida T.

Abstracted by Cindy Bosley

Refugees approach the resettlement process with a wide variety of attitudes. This article attempts to explain how these attitudes are formed and how they affect the lifestyles and level of adjustment among refugees. To answer these questions, the authors conducted interviews and focus groups with refugees in 2001 and 2002 in Western Australia . Based on the research data, the authors conclude that there are four major resettlement styles that describe refugees' approaches to the resettlement process. Active approaches to the resettlement process include “achievers” and “consumers,” while passive approaches include “endurers” and “victims.” After exploring these categories, the authors conclude that a refugee's choice of resettlement style “depends primarily on refugees own resources, but is also significantly influenced by the philosophy and policies that inform the resettlement support refugees receive in Australia” (78). Refugees who espouse active approaches have positive attitudes, are goal-oriented, and look toward the future. They are typically well integrated within the sub-community of refugees from their native country or region, as well as the larger Australian society. Within the broad group of active refugees, the authors identify the sub-approaches of achievers and consumers. Achievers are identified by the authors as the “ideal type,” and are very goal oriented refugees who look to the future. They value education and language training and view their migration experience as a challenge or opportunity. Consumers also are goal-oriented and tend to be involved with their community fellow national or regional refugees. However, their primary motivation is to earn income and legitimize their success through accumulation of material goods. Refugees identified with passive resettlement styles tend to be fatalistic and nostalgic about their pre-migration (and pre-conflict) life. They also tend to be isolated from both mainstream society and from the larger community of refugees. The first of two sub-groups within the passive classification are the endurers, who are very fatalistic and feel that they endured irreparable loss during migration. Men endurers are often extremely affected by a loss of purpose due to a lower-status job or unemployment. Victims, the second sub-group, feel a great lack of control over their situation and often just give up. They are described by the authors as disappointed and bitter. Refugees classified in this group have often been diagnosed with mental and/or physical illnesses and spend much time and energy obtaining treatment. The authors believe that refugees espousing the active style are more successful at gaining social and emotional security, whereas the passive style, which is partially created by resettlement agencies gaining almost complete control of refugees' destinies, causes a feeling of helplessness among refugees. While the authors note the importance of providing treatment for mental and physical health problems, they warn that too much emphasis on treatment can lead to “pathologizing” refugees by emphasizing the problems. Instead, the authors promote emphasis on job placement, training, language tutoring, and the development of support networks for providing more ease through the resettlement process.




International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, 2004, pp 123-131(9)

Maurie Eisenbruch, Joop T.V.M. Jong and Willem Van De Put

Abstracted by Simon Madraru Amajuru

This paper describes how the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO) designed, and is now implementing a multidisciplinary, collaborative, sustainable and culturally sensitive trauma intervention program for refugees and other victims of organized violence. Over the years much focus of support to refugees has been on provision of relief aid with the resultant effect of dependency. Despite evidence of severe torture cases and their negative effects to refugees and victims of violence, no attention has been given to come up with sustainable means of addressing them. The TPO trauma intervention program has a strong component of capacity building that is aimed at ensuring sustainability.

With one case study each from Africa and Asia , this paper describes how the TPO program that integrates traditional and western healing methods work. The starting point in this program involves research into the local understanding of distress and coping mechanisms. A training manual, in both the local and foreign language is then formulated on the basis of the research findings. A core group from the local community is then trained as trainers for sustainability purpose since TPO eventually hands over the program to local people to manage, through an indigenous NGO. The team is beefed up by training community and civil leaders in the field of psychosocial assistance and mental health.

Inline with the strategy of combining local and western methods, the TPO trainers and the local trainees share knowledge and skills about the consequences of trauma. Traditional healers and traditional birth attendants are integrated into the whole program and some of them are trained to become part of the core team. In societies, where traditional healers almost lost their important role of handling traumatized persons, this system of health and stress management enhanced their revival and they worked closely with the medical personnel. Both preventive and curative methods are used in handling mental health problems making it a very compatible community based approach. The article proclaims demand driven interventions from the program because of the participatory approach. Program evaluations are also done with full participation of the local community. The article quotes that over 150,000 refugees and over 500,000 nationals from neighboring refugee camps in northern Uganda have been assisted by the TPO program. While these numbers likely are overstated, the point about refugee pressures still pertains. By use of diverse interest groups as informants, discussions were held, not only on the nature and scope of the problems confronting refugees, but also on their opinions about positive coping strategies, help –seeking behaviors, health care facilities, relief organizations and traditional practitioners. The information collected generated base line data from which priority problems were identified and analyzed. In order to be able to adapt the program to the local situation, an anthropologist independently investigated from traditional healers on problems related to families and children, trauma-related folk illnesses, emotional expressions and idioms of stress, relevant rituals such as healing, purification, reconciliation and mourning rituals. During implementation after the program design, major psychiatric disorders were referred to medical staff who received training in integrating mental health into primary health care. The government of Uganda has already included a mental health component to the national primary health care program. The case study of Cambodia in Asia was similar to the Ugandan case, although it was applied to the rehabilitation process of the different groups of Cambodians- those settled, those repatriated and the internally displaced persons.




Washington University Journal of Law and Policy, The Institute for Global Legal Studies Inaugural Colloquium: The UN and the Protection of Human Rights, 2001

Feller, Erika

Abstracted by Leah Persky

Feller begins on a high note stating that today refugee protection is a human rights issue rather than an act of charity by states. This is a great accomplishment for the fifty year anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The author explores the history of the 1951 Convention, beginning with its origins after World War II. The history of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is also explored. In 1950 the UNHCR was created for a three year period, with a budget $30,000 and a staff of 33 people—the organization has grown a great deal in the past 50 years, as of 2001 their budget was almost $1 billion and a staff of 5000. This is a dramatic increase which speaks to the scope of this global problem. In 1951 refugees were welcomed in many countries because: they were relatively small in numbers, they helped meet labor shortages, and they reinforced Cold War objectives. Today things are different, and refugees are usually not seen in such a positive light. There is often social stigma or discrimination aimed at refugees, who have lost the protection of their native lands, and who are searching for protection on an international level, from the UNHCR. Today the protection of refugees is much more complex than it was in 1951. The author explains the increase in complexity is due to: the changing nature of displacement, the expensive and varied costs of hosting refugees, the increase in migration and trafficking of people, and a gap between instruments we have available and their applicability for helping refugees in the real world.

Even though there has been a dramatic increase in the numbers and complexity of issues relating to refugees since 1951, the author explains how the 1951 Convention: “put in place the enduring foundations of refugee protection by setting out baseline principles on which the protection of refugees was to be built.” The establishment of the 1951 Convention is invaluable because it has set important standards such as: legal standards, cooperation of states with the UNHCR is essential, the idea that forced return is unacceptable (nonrefoulement), and protection of refugees should be extended to all without discrimination. All of these principles are the foundations of refugee protection regime today.

The author traces the development of the 1951 Convention into the 1960's and 1970's. She describes how the basics of the Convention were developed as refugee numbers increased, especially in Africa ; as the repatriation process was undertaken, and regional instruments were developed to cope with the increase in refugees around the world. This article also explores the development of the human rights and refugee regime during the 1980's and 1990's as the number of refugees grew in great numbers (25 million in 1995), as internal and interethnic conflicts increased, and human rights abuses and breaches of humanitarian law were common military tactics. These political and social changes forced the UNHCR to begin to provide long term aid to millions of refugees.

The author traces the evolution of the UNHCR and focuses on the current challenges to the regime, the shortfalls of the Convention, where further development is needed, and the future of the UNHCR in an ever changing world. The author concludes with the idea that the Convention is an invaluable tool which has established the foundations of refugee protection world wide, but is under constant strain to develop and change to take on the new challenges of refugee protection world wide.




International Migration, 2003, Volume 41, Number 1, pp. 75-86(12)

Fagen, P.W.

Abstracted by Natalie Huls

Women and children face special difficulties as refugees. They are more likely than men to be the victims of violence and discrimination. In recognition of these statistics, the UNHCR made protecting refugee women and children a priority. Fagen's article discusses the findings of two independent evaluations of UNHCR operations regarding women and children. Valid International received a UNHCR commission to evaluate UNHCR practices with respect to children. The American and Canadian government commissioned the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children to assess the UNHCR's progress with female refugees. Unsurprisingly the evaluations overlapped in their practices, and achieved consistent conclusions. Fagen begins by highlighting the positive steps undertaken by the UNHCR as revealed by the two evaluations. Positive areas include UNHCR Guidelines standing as a basis of treatment regarding refugee women and children, the expansion and creation of UNHCR specialist posts, enhanced training and capacity building initiatives available to UNHCR staff and partners, and strategic partnerships established by the UNHCR. However, the author also explains that the evaluations found the UNHCR lacking in effective protection methods and in successful organizational structure. The evaluations established a definitive link between protection and assistance and explained that refugee women and children need legal, physical, and social protection. The UNHCR mistakenly limits protection to the legal field. Protection officers work to protect the refugee community from outside attacks, but frequently neglect attacks that take place within the community itself. The author recommends that engaging or creating latent social systems and networks could be an effective means of protecting refugees within camps. Fagen continues her article by taking examples from the evaluations regarding when women and children are especially vulnerable to attack. These examples include that men receive more food than women do and that women and girls have to “trade” sexual favors for food, that women often gather firewood alone, that separated children do not have parents to protect them, and that organizations often deprioritize social protection during the initial crisis. The findings of the evaluations with respect to organizational structure emphasize the importance of improving collaboration and cooperation between organizational divisions, and the importance of improving lines of accountability and clarifying lines of responsibility. The evaluations also found that emphasis on special programs had the potential to be more detrimental than beneficial to the needs of refugee women and children. In the conclusion to her article, Fagen describes the two major UNHCR shortcomings as the narrow approach to protection, and the need for a better balance between general and targeted responses to refugee situations. The author states that leadership is key to protection, that protection is not only legal, and that the needs of refugee women and children exist within the needs of the whole refugee community.




Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, Winter/Spring 2002, Volume 3, Number 1, pp. 37-44 (8)

Young W.

Abstracted by Keely Tongate

Eighty percent of the world refugee population is made up of women and children. However, their protection under the international refugee regime is lacking. This deficiency is seen in the limited legal protections as well as the physical insecurity they face while in refugee settings. This paper addresses the competency of the international refugee regime to address the rights and needs of refugee women and children. The first obstacle the article addresses is the physical protection of refugee women and children. The UNHCR, with the encouragement of women’s and refugee rights advocates, has developed specific guidelines to tackle the particular concerns of refugee women and children. Yet, in field situations, the guidelines are consistently pushed aside in favor of the more vital concerns of food, shelter and sanitation. Thus, the women and children are more often vulnerable to abuses such as rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, abduction, and forced military service. Refugee advocacy groups are increasingly documenting these shortcomings and creating an environment for reform. Then it is left to the UNHCR to institutionalize successfully these reforms. The second obstacle the article addresses is the legal protection of refugee women and children. Gender and age related persecution is received under the “membership in a particular social group” category of the refugee definition. Developed states are increasingly encompassing gender persecution as a basis for refugee protection. UNHCR has monitored gender related persecution claims and made headway toward signifying that women may constitute a social group. However, as of yet there is no basis for universal recognition for women as a social group within the refugee definition. The identification of refugee claims based on age is even less probable. The United States has only recently granted children’s asylum claims under the social group category. Children have been granted asylum in the U.S. of late because they were child brides or subjected to labor or sexual exploitation. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service has established gender and age related persecution guidelines to handle fairly these specific asylum claims. This development causes refugee advocate groups to feel optimistic yet vigilant for the potential progress for refugee women and children’s legal protections in the U.S. The international community and the larger refugee regime cannot ignore the importance of protecting the majority refugee population, women and children. With this fact in mind the article ends with three pieces of advice to the larger international community. First, the guidelines established by the UNHCR regarding the protection of refugee women and children need to evolve from policy into practice. Second, programs should be initiated to evaluate their success. Lastly, refugee women and children should be recognized as identifiable social groups within the refugee definition.




The Political Quarterly, August 2003, Volume 74, i1, pp.75-87(12)

Crisp J.

Abstracted by Elizabeth Ervin

The patterns of global displacement are changing over time with great implications to the international community, the UNHCR, and the displaced peoples themselves. There is an increasing unwillingness to host refugees for various reasons and many, as they are displaced are not solely entering into a neighboring country, but instead, for reasons other than political, look toward entering regions that offer more stability politically and economically. Therefore, displaced peoples primarily move from the developing to the developed world. The author recognizes a number of different causes for these changes in previous displacement patterns, giving the following as examples: 1) a decrease in the number of refugees, but an increase in the number of internally displaced people, 2) a continued rise in armed conflict and communal violence, 3) increased levels and forms of political violence through repression. As these causes lead to displacement, neighboring countries, and countries of second, third, and further asylum, are hesitant to accept refugees across their borders due to economic and security concerns. Some states have gone so far as to create and enforce laws that serve to the detriment of refugees. This means that it has become more difficult for people fleeing persecution to be ensured acceptance by neighboring states. Local jealousies and resentment are common in a refugee displacement setting when international and/or national aid and assistance is handed out. This is especially prevalent in developing states with a population made up of very poor people in highly unequal statuses. For these reasons, many displaced people have remained within their own borders, and hesitate to flee to other states in the vicinity. The other issue can be the lack of accessibility to entry to other states. Since there is a broader group of international migrants that have primarily economic reasons for departure, there are many people looking toward entry into the developed world. However, in response to this phenomenon, some developed states have placed greater restrictions and barriers to entry across their borders in order to regulate the flow of economic refugees. This means that some of those who are most desperate will turn to illegal and highly dangerous means to gain entry into the developed state of their choosing. The author also stresses that the international community must focus on the state producing the refugee flow, not only on the states accepting displaced peoples, even though this might breach some terms of sovereignty and non-intervention protocols. Governments must be held accountable for their actions, instead of hiding behind the cloak of immunity while still in power. The UNHCR is also changing and is working now, more than before, in conflict zones and areas that are creating the displaced people that the organization is mandated to protect, rather than only working within the refugee camps in surrounding states. Thus, the UNHCR has become more of a “humanitarian action” organization than one of “refugee protection.” This is not an unbiased or impartial undertaking. The author discusses alternative approaches to the displacement problem and concludes that a singular attempt to manage refugee flows is perhaps a counterproductive exercise.




Group Analysis, 2003, Volume 36, Number 4, pp. 555-570(16)

Volkan, Vamik D.

Abstracted by Kate Zimmerly

The psycho-social literature dealing with the trauma of displacement describes a process of mourning that takes place for the displaced person. Anxiety and culture shock are accompanied by feelings of guilt over what was left behind. There is a process of separating-individuating one’s identity or concept of self that must take place in the immigrant in order for adaptation to proceed. This process is referred to here as the ‘third individuation’ (being that the first two individuations take place during infancy and adolescence). In this article, Volkan suggests that many refugees subjected to life threatening violence at the time of exile cannot fully adapt, or achieve a third individuation. Instead they become ‘perennial mourners’ who chronically utilize linking objects. These linking objects are objects such as everyday possessions that take on a particular significance to the mourner as a symbol of the deceased.

There are two major phases of mourning: the initial mourning and the ‘work of mourning.’ The ‘work of mourning’ can follow three main avenues: normal mourning, depression, or perennial mourning. The phenomenon of perennial mourning in refugee or IDP communities is the focus here. In perennial mourning the individual tucks away in their mind the mental representation of the deceased, thus never allowing themselves to fully deal with the loss and postponing the process of mourning. Volkan notes that many individuals symbolize certain objects which belonged to the deceased loved one they are morning. Through doing this the mourner is able to control their tie with the deceased. These items are described as linking objects and can be personal possessions such as the deceased’s wristwatch or created objects that are given significance such as a painting or poem produced by the mourner.

The author describes his work with an IDP (internally displaced person) family in Georgia and illustrates aspects of their mourning process, including their creation of linking objects. A brief description is given of the events in Georgia and Abkhazia that led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Georgians from Abkhazia to describe how the family studied here came to be displaced. The family and its members demonstrate various stages of mourning as outlined in the first section of the article. They demonstrate the use of linking objects such as the adoption of a dog resembling the family dog, Charlie, left behind in Abkhazia. (The new dog is also named Charlie.) Another example given of the creation of linking objects is the significance placed on one family member’s poems about Abkhazia and their loss of home, which he wrote daily, and the way in which the daily presentation of these poems was ritualized. Throughout the case study, the author also describes the beneficial potential of these linking objects, describing ways that the family uses them to initiate future mourning – some on the author’s recommendation. By illustrating this family’s progression, Volkan aims to illustrate a methodology for psychoanalysts working in refugee communities. This methodology focuses on working with one or a few families and helping them to become models for other families within their displaced community. By describing the use of linking objects in the mourning process, and illustrating ways for psychoanalysts to utilize their positive aspects, the author is thus also able to demonstrate ways for out-of-office psychoanalysis to be of use in refugee communities.




Risks and Reconstruction: Experiences of Refugees and Settlers, Washington , D.C. : The World Bank: 11-55

Cernea M.

Abstracted by Lisa Kunkel

The author elaborates his model of Impoverishment Risks and Livelihood Reconstruction (IRLR) which was originally formulated in 1997 for communities displaced by large scale development projects. In this discussion, the model is applied to refugee populations as well and evaluated in terms of empirical studies of its application. The model was developed to address the inadequacies of typical cost-benefit analyses. Its premise is that resettlement risks can be identified, addressed, and even reversed through a more rigorous and complete model. The principle impoverishment risks identified for displaced populations include landlessness, joblessness, homelessness, marginalization, food insecurity, increased disease and death rates, loss of access to common property (i.e. a burial ground or nearby forests), and community disarticulation. The author recognizes “differential risk intensities” for the entire displaced population, such as flight during the rainy season, as well as for particular segments of the displaced community including women, children, and the elderly. Although risks to the host population are more peripheral to the model, these are also identified with the understanding that they will impact the level of acceptance and the degree of integration extended to the displaced community. Cernea argues that his model can serve four functions by providing a predictive and diagnostic framework, as well as prescribing interventions, and establishing a research model. He calls the intervention component “problem-resolution” in that each of the risks listed above can be “stood on its head.” For example, if landlessness is a risk, then land-based resettlement becomes the corollary intervention. The objective is to provide a framework for redevelopment—given recognition of the range of risks and consequences involved in displacement—rather than providing inadequate or short-sighted relief.




International Security, Summer 1996, Volume 21, Number 1, pp. 43-71(28)

Dowty A. and Loescher G.

Abstracted by Elizabeth Ervin

The contemporary refugee phenomenon is one of increasing proportion, with domestic issues spilling over into the international arena. This article focuses on making governments more aware of human rights abuses and political upheaval that affect the increase in refugee flows; attempting to make governments more accountable through action and intervention before crises erupt. The authors highlight the dramatic growth in migrants crossing borders, internationalizing national problems. The argument is that such refugee movements have become an international norm in both theory and practice, and are more frequently seen as sound reasoning for both humanitarian and military action. The increasing movement of refugees and the legitimizing of intervention can be linked to: 1) customary law, 2) intervention that is not solely humanitarian driven, and 3) intervention as a de facto norm. The norm of intervention is applicable in order to prevent the occurrence of refugee flows and conflict spillover into the international community and therefore providing a reduction in threat to global security. The burden on the international community is already large and steadily growing; 1996 figures present 14.5 million refugees worldwide and 23 million internally displaced peoples. Because of the satellite age, as well as photos and video clips on local news channels, the international community has become numb with “compassion fatigue” which is therefore reflected in a lack of policies adopted to manage mass refugee movements. While the wealthy countries pay a large cost for relief and assistance, many times the budget of the UNHCR, the poor nations are bearing the greatest cost as they accept thousands of refugees to the detriment of their meager resources, as well as to the detriment of their economies, politics, and security systems. Many experts agree that the root causes of refugee movement and displacement should be the focus. Rather than an attempt to ameliorate a crisis in process, more needs to be done preventively. More focus should also be placed, with regard to customary law, on the shoulders of the states producing the refugee populations, as well as the consequences of domestic policy on the material interests of neighboring states. The 1972 Stockholm Declaration supports this, avowing, “States have…the responsibility to ensure that activities within their area of jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of territorial jurisdiction.” Regarding armed intervention, the 1986 “New Flows” group affirms that refugee populations are a great risk to peace and security, thus making it possible to use action through UN Chapter VII. This conduct of producing refugees leads to the internationalization of a states’ domestic policy and overrides sovereignty. This form of intervention also must focus on changing the root causes of the refugee movement, to not solely rectify the immediate humanitarian crisis, but also the issues that comprised the overall threat to peace and security. In the final hour, humanitarian aid is not what provokes nations to act, rather the reason lies in material state interest and self-defense. A framework is needed to establish a refugee policy that balances intervention with humanitarian aid, as well as solutions to domestic problems, before they become global nightmares reflected in massive refugee flows. More action is needed on behalf of the international community–a solution to refugee movements should be an interest of global security.




American University Law Review, Volume 44, Number 4, April 1995, pp. 1213 – 1252

Gilbert, Lauren

Abstracted by Cara Dilts

Refugee women need special protection and assistance. Refugee women are vulnerable to sexual violence, in particular, because they are destitute, often without documentation, and have no effective access to legal or administrative resources. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) outlines in its Guidelines on the Prevention of and Response to Sexual Violence Against Refugees how refugees, those working with refugees, and host governments can work to prevent sexual violence and respond to incidents of such violence. The Guidelines on Sexual Violence explicitly adopt a rights-based approach on issues of sexual violence, recognizing the applicability of local and international enforcement mechanisms for refugee women. Sexual violence is seen as violating a whole series on nonderogable rights, including, but not limited to: the right to security of person, the right to freedom from slavery, and, when it results in the death of the victim, the right to life. Refugee women’s access to adequate food, shelter, and health care, however, have generally been viewed as assistance issues rather than within a rights-based framework, even though these issues are often directly linked to incidences of sexual violence. For example, women who are unable to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves and their children may be more vulnerable to manipulation and sexual abuse in order to obtain such necessities. Women also need access to specialized healthcare, as STDs, including HIV/AIDS, and unwanted pregnancies, are a direct results of sexual violence against women. Aside from the specialized health care needed for women who are victims of sexual violence, refugee women are also entitled under international law to adequate social services, including health services which encompass family planning services. However, these issues are not viewed as a priority in refugee settings, where relief agencies focus on curative health services where men, such as injured soldiers, are the primary users. Basic needs for women, such as adequate cloth and washing facilities for menstruating women, are overlooked. Refugee women may also not receive treatment for serious conditions such as vaginal infections and cervical cancer. The absence of female health practitioners has been one of the barriers to health care, as has been the opposition of many health workers to providing family planning services. Cultural barriers, and lack of information available to women, also prevent the utilization of existing services. In order to alleviate these barriers to refugee women’s access to healthcare, the author offers a number of recommendations, including: that refugee women be consulted on the implementation of family planning programs; that UNHCR staff focus greater attention on gathering data on both the causes and rates of maternal mortality and morbidity; that UNHCR and member states not allow religious mandates to interfere with adequate provision of reproductive health services; that the international community focus greater attention on violence against women and on the effects of that violence on women’s lives and their reproductive health; that UNHCR issue a strong policy statement reaffirming the broader reproductive health needs of women and update the Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women; and that UNHCR consider the adoption of an independent enforcement or monitoring mechanism.




Journal of Refugee Studies, 1994, Volume 7, Number 2/3, pp. 161-174(14)

Warner, Daniel

Abstracted by Kate Zimmerly

Voluntary repatriation is usually considered to be the ideal durable solution for refugees and displaced people. However, there has been surprisingly little investigation and no agreement as to what it means to return home. There is also a considerable gap between policy makers’ idea of voluntary repatriation and the actual experience of refugees. The author attempts to show here that there are a number of assumptions that link the ideas of protection, voluntary repatriation and return to home. These linkages and assumptions are illustrated here as a sort of mathematics, which the author terms liberal mathematics. The logic which connects refugee return to home is presented here as a sort of linear equation. Within this equation, the home that refugees return to is more than a territorial place, it is a return to a community. This concept of community and therefore home, is related to two elements: a homogeneous group to which the refugee belongs and the association of that group with a specific place or territory. Furthermore, this community in this place is assumed to be tied to a specific government that is in turn tied to this community. These connections give us the following equation: individual = homogeneous group = community = government = state = territory = home = democracy. This equation, or set of alignments, is part of the nostalgia for home that develops with displacement and where we find the idealization of voluntary repatriation.

The static nature of this equation can be challenged in several ways. We can question the individual’s association with a static homogeneous group rather than a mobile social network, and we can question the connection of this network to a territorial space. To challenge the linear mathematics of return home is to imply that the world is asymmetrical and non-linear. W.E. Connolly’s description of rifts is central to clarifying this non-linear world. Connolly describes a rift as a non-alignment that exists in our fundamental being and cannot be eliminated. This rift is constant and exists in every moment and at the “conjunction of chance and fate.” The nostalgia of home is in part due to the desire of people to reconcile this rift in being. Furthermore, these rifts cannot be closed; we cannot go back because (that to which we may wish to return) is no longer there. In this way the refugee shows us the rifts in ourselves that we wish to deny. Our desire to prioritize the return home of refugees is, in a way, a reflection of our own desires to return to a world of alignment and symmetry. Voluntary repatriation seen simply as a durable solution denies the temporal reality of our lives and is inclined to overlook the extreme complexity of what happens to refugees once they find themselves in their country of origin. Furthermore by encouraging false memory these linear equations seek to impose borders and boundaries and stifle the creativity of refugees by fostering simplistic identities.




Ethics, Place, and Environment, October 2000, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 313-318 (5)

Gibney, M. J.

Abstracted by Sabra Barnett

Although during high-profile refugee cases, such as Elian Gonzalez, the West has mustered great public support for refugees, Western states have simultaneously begun to erect high entrance barriers for refugees and asylees. The author posits that the refugees are now treated as illegal immigrants, with Western states preferring that they be contained in the troubled regions from which they come. The author believes that there is no ethical basis for showing partiality to certain refugee groups if all humans matter equally. However, to Westerners, the suffering of foreigners often appears to be distant except when something connects the West to a refugee group, such as cultural affinity or responsibility for the refugees’ flight. Although some see adherence to international refugee law as a remedy for this partiality, the author believes that international refugee law, especially the principle of non-refoulement, uses a morally arbitrary criterion for determining the responsibility of states: the refugee’s proximity to an international boundary. Although historically, protection of those fleeing persecution is a well-founded principle, such as in the Judeo-Christian tradition and in the writings of Grotius, it was not until the 1951 Convention that the principle was codified in the international rule of non-refoulement. Through this international law, states are not required to provide aid to any refugees that are not inside that state’s borders; the animating principle that obligates the state is need plus proximity. Non-refoulement has its advantages in that it speaks to our common moral sense that we must help those in need in close proximity to us while it still limits and simplifies the state’s responsibilities and obligations and protects the state’s sovereignty. The author posits that the current crisis in the international refugee regime exists because there are limitations in a system based on proximity that cause injustice since only the elite among refugees have the ability reach the borders of wealthy, democratic states. Non-refoulement also creates a disparity in the burdens states share; those that are situated close to refugee-producing areas must assume the most responsibility regardless of their capability. These inequalities have led to some poorer states closing their borders to refugees and to some Western states imposing restrictions such as preventive visas. As a result, many refugees are now “confined to the world’s poorest states, sapping legitimacy from the international regime” (p. 317). The author concludes that we must move to a system of impartiality where all humans matter equally. There are three aspects to this move. First, it must be decided whether proximity makes a moral difference in states’ obligations. Second, it must be decided what proximity should mean in a world of advanced technology; there will be implications to basing responses on human equality. Finally, an alternative view of justice will need to be formulated if proximity is to be no longer used as the basis for assigning obligations to states regarding refugees.




Ethnic and Racial Studies, September 2002, Volume 25, Number 5, pp. 707-727

Richmond, A. H.

Abstracted by Sabra Barnett

Neither globalization or migration are new phenomena; what is new is the acceleration of these phenomena facilitated by air transportation and communication technologies that have transformed the global system into a postmodernist “network society.” As authoritarian regimes fail, we see a new freedom of movement as borders open as well as reactive, forced migration as governments and groups seek to “cleanse” their societies and/or reunite ethnic groups separated by arbitrary political borders. There is almost no distinction between proactive and reactive migrants as borders erode but rather a continuum integrating elements of choice and elements of circumstance. As these factors come into play, technology is transforming the perception of individual and collective identities, social networks and even human consciousness itself, leading to nationalistic movements and the abdicating of power to non-governmental organizations. As the global system transitions, this cultural nationalism, fueled by the global arms market, has risen and created internally displaced persons and refugees while NGOs are powerless to help these people because of their inability to use coercion. Through globalization, temporary and permanent migrants are no longer distinguishable and migration has taken on a structure that utilizes worldwide network linkages with family, friends and the international labor market. This has given rise to “transilience,” or the ability to move back and forth between cultures. Proactive economic migration is the lubricant that keeps the wheels of the global capitalist system turning because, though some occupations require the worker to be present and permanent, many others depend upon labor mobility. Richmond argues that this system of globalization precludes the enforcement of nation-states’ immigration policies. The result for asylum seekers and refugees is that they have been turned into “vagabonds:” they are not allowed to stay where they are, nor can they search for a better place. The dark side of this global capitalist system is human trafficking and worker exploitation, as well as immigration control policies that often split families or harm deportees. Richmond argues that globalization, coupled with degradation of the natural environment, has contributed to inequality and ethnic conflict, thus creating more displaced persons. He believes that the UN Convention on Refugees was outdated once the Cold War ended and needs to be replaced with international laws that will protect all migrants against discrimination and include universal recognition of multicultural policies. The author concludes that globalization will only be successful if transnational corporations step up to their role as global leaders, individuals and governments resist the urge to impose uniformity on an ethnically diverse world and institutions embrace the ideals of equality, self-actualization and the positive response to the needs of communities. The analysis concludes with five policy implications. First, the economic benefits of globalization must be spread equitably between the communities of the world. Second, the exploitation of resources must be contained. Third, the ILO draft ‘Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families’ must be ratified by all industrialized countries in order to facilitate population movement that encompasses all dimensions of human rights. Fourth, international migration should be managed multilaterally, according to the recommendations of the Commission on Global Governance. Fifth, a “global neighborhood” should be created by governments promoting both civic pride and an understanding of the rest of the world.




Practicing Social Justice, 2003 (edited by Stretch, J J, Burkemper, E M, Hutchison, W J, Wilson, J), pp. 135-158(24)

Schmitz C L, Jacobus M V, Stakeman C, Valenzuela G A, Sprankel J

Abstracted by Jaime Rall

The unprecedented numbers of refugees migrating to the United States call for a reassessment of community responses to refugee needs. This chapter opens with an overview of the stressors and obstacles facing refugee families and children throughout the displacement process, and that must inform community responses. Refugees experience extreme stress and trauma at various points in displacement: when fleeing their homeland under conditions of persecution, violence, or oppression; when networks, income, social status, security, and support are lost during the migration process; and when enduring substandard living conditions and acculturating to new cultural norms and practices in the host country. Acculturation is particularly stressful inasmuch as interaction with the new culture may disrupt traditional social, familial, and gender roles. The authors also cite restrictive immigration policies in the United States as having made the latter acculturation process even more difficult for many newcomers (e.g. the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), and the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDP) in 1996). Models are then outlined that can be used in host communities (and specifically by social work professionals in these communities) when crafting creative responses to the challenges facing these populations. According to the authors, “[s]ocially just social services are needed to assist…refugee communities in coping with not only past traumas and conflicts, but also stresses associated with adjusting to their new environments” (p. 145). Social work practice frameworks that underlie “socially just” work with refugees are emphasized, with special reference to strengths-focused perspectives, cross-cultural competence, and empowerment practice. With reference to these frameworks, the range of intervention techniques and settings that can serve refugees is broad, including: counseling services, mental health interventions (especially for PTSD, depression, grief and trauma), policy and advocacy activities, community-building activities, mediation between the refugee and needed services, and the development of refugee organizations. Finally, a community exemplar is presented. The small metropolitan area of Portland, Maine, offers a clear demonstration of how refugee resettlement services, the school system, city departments, and other non-profit services can ideally coordinate their work for the benefit and empowerment of refugee families. Available services include trauma recovery, health clinics, grief counseling, language and job training/placement, inclusive policies and programs in the public school system, and advocacy and empowerment services that address larger policy issues and promote the formation of refugee-focused community organizations. This community exemplifies how a holistic community response, typified by well-coordinated networks and multidisciplinary approaches that combine advocacy with community building, empowerment, and recovery/healing services, best serve refugees. The authors close with a call to social work professionals to strengthen their dedication to the needs and rights of immigrants and refugees to the United States, particularly those who may be negatively affected by the political repercussions of the events of September 11, 2001.




Global Society, June 2003, Volume 17, Number 3, pp. 297-322 (26)

Haddad, E.

Abstracted by Michael Neil

In addition to being the consequence of persecution, the refugee phenomenon is part and parcel of a wider system of states that developed before the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and evolved during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The development of sovereign states with territorial boundaries, according to Emma Haddad in “The Refugee: The Individual between Sovereigns”, creates refugees when these nations fail to ensure adequate protection for all of their citizens. Instead of being protected by states bounded by certain territorial limits, refugees fall into the cracks. They cannot fit nicely into the citizen-state-territory grouping and are often unable to take advantage of international protection schemes that rely upon individual states to surrender certain prerogatives in order for international aid projects to succeed. These aid projects may move forward if the sovereign prerogatives of states are re-envisioned.

Recent interventions in Kosovo and Somalia suggest that the international community may be slowly undermining the process of national sovereignty, or, at least, redefining its sphere of application. Just as with refugees, international efforts with IDPs (internally displaced persons) challenge the “citizen-state-territory hierarchy” inherent in the traditional system of states. Like refugees, IDPs are trapped between sovereigns despite their inability to cross national boundaries. In both the case of a refugee and an IDP, sovereignty reveals a dynamic of inclusion and exclusion. The system of sovereign states requires that boundaries be defined by their relationship to outsiders, according to Haddad. Refugees serve this purpose. Sovereign states can demand ethnic or religious homogeneity, thereby providing absolute exclusion for members of the community who do not conform. Expulsions throughout history have shown the different responses possible for the international community as a reaction to the problematic reality of national sovereignty.

In 1685, the exile of Huguenots from Catholic France provided the first example of refugee flight. In contrast to many future refugees, these French Protestants were hardly a strain on the international community, especially Britain, since they brought resources, labor, and money into their new host countries. For France and Britain, refugees and the formation of a sovereign state reinforced one another. In France, the development of religious homogeneity “necessary” for a centralized state leant a hand in refugee production. In Britain, French Huguenots contributed to the development of the process of naturalization of immigrants, thereby establishing a key function of statehood.

During the French Revolution and beyond, both refugees and citizens began to be defined by their allegiances to their nation-state. Ideologies developed around ethnic and national considerations, which would become even more acute with the nationalism of the 19th and 20th centuries. As states validated themselves as national-ethnic units, refugees, who were not imagined as belonging, became perceived enemies and attempted to join together with fellow minorities. In response, nations developed elaborate laws designed to restrict the flow of immigrants and refugees, relegating the latter status only to those who exhibited extreme persecution.

As long as states were the primary agents of relief for refugees, conflict between the ordering principle of states and refugee populations continued. While minority protection regimes, developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in the guise of the Berlin Declaration and the League of Nations , aided refugees to some degree, stateless people proliferated. After World War II, intergovernmental cooperation began to supersede state efforts in refugee protection. This did not change the statist predominance in international relations, nor will it in the near future, despite international interventions in Somalia and elsewhere, as Haddad notes. Though a change to the hegemonic states system that would force the creation of a, cosmopolitan system of governance is almost impossible to imagine, increasing humanitarian interventionism in Somalia, Liberia, and elsewhere, does offer some consolation for refugee relief, at least a regional level.




Journal of Social Service Research, 2003, Volume 20, Number 2, pp. 67-92(26)

Drumm R D, Pittman S W, Perry S

Abstracted by Jaime Rall

Little empirical research has been conducted with the purpose of lessening the negative effects of the camp experience on refugees, and yet social workers have a professional obligation to offer empirically and theoretically sound interventions at all times. Appropriate interventions in refugee camps are especially important, given the well-documented influence of environmental factors in determining outcomes for refugees. However, interventions and research have focused on the provision of basic humanitarian aid such as food, water, and shelter, rather than considering refugee needs more holistically. To redress the balance, this study offers both empirical and theoretical bases for a range of social work interventions in refugee camps. Empirical data about the concerns and emotional needs of refugees in camps were drawn from a qualitative needs assessment with Kosovar refugees one month after arrival in Albanian refugee camps. In-depth interviews, focus groups, and observations were utilized at four different Albanian camps with children and adults. Data was analyzed using conventional qualitative methodology, e.g. concurrent collection and analysis, peer debriefing, and thematic coding. Despite potential inaccuracies based on the use of interpreters, ethnic variations, gender bias, and time and technological limitations, nevertheless clear and consistent themes emerged. These themes, in order of the refugees' sense of urgency, were: 1) the experience of trauma and the need for emotional help 2) lack of information about family and events in Kosovo, and subsequent anxiety, and 3) boredom and the need for meaningful activities and involvement in tasks of everyday life. Recommendations for social work interventions addressing these themes are theoretically grounded within the framework of Bronfenbrenner's (1979) well-known ecological model of human development. Bronfenbrenner's model presents four levels of analysis and intervention. The first level is the microsystem, characterized by the face-to-face contexts in which people interact daily (e.g. home, school, the workplace). On this level, recommendations include on-going quality social work mental health care, use of technology (e.g. databases, radios, televisions) to connect refugees with information about family and current events, involvement of refugees in tasks of daily living, and providing education and play for children. The second level of analysis and intervention is the mesosystem, the relationships that connect the microsystems. Interventions on this level could include increasing communication among front-line workers and providers and facilitating relationships between the camp managers and relief organizations. The third level is the exosystem, comprised of larger institutions and policies that influence the individual but with which the individual has no direct contact. Exosystem recommendations include on-going research and innovation by relief organizations, and incorporating cultural context into service delivery. The final level of intervention is the macrosystem, where the invisible influences of culture and ideology on all other systems are assessed. Interventions here include building host country capacity and decreasing corruption, establishing governmental policies for improved communication and access to utilities, and promoting peace at all levels. It is hoped that implementing this theoretically-driven model for intervention may provide a basis for further empirical research and empirically-driven intervention models for handling mass human need.



Global IDP Project, July 8, 2005, Online Article

Abstracted by Logan Boon

This Global IDP Project report sought to give light to the problems facing internally displaced peoples in the Ruhengeri and Gisenyi areas of Rwanda due to government implementation of the National Habitat Policy. While more than 650,000 refugees were in makeshift camps in these areas in 1998 and 1999, by 2000, the United Nations declared that they were no longer considered internally displaced peoples due to the “efforts to stabilize the situation through durable solutions” by the Rwandan government (4). This article argues that the situation on the ground is much more dire than some analysts had thought and that the conditions of the camps had deteriorated just four years after the UN made its declaration. The article focuses on the forced displacement of individuals, the inability of these individuals to return home even after security is no longer considered a threat and the failure of the government to provide quality living conditions.

Following the genocide, as many as two million Hutus fled the country, fearing revenge from the now Tutsi-dominated government. The National Habitat Policy, or the villagization program, implemented in December of 1996 by the government, provided for the relocation of all Rwandans living in make-shift homesteads into government created villages. This was particularly needed in regions of Rwanda where old case-load refugees from the 1950s and 1960s had returned and illegally occupied the land and homes of Hutus who had recently fled. The article explains, however, that in the Ruhengeri and Gisenyi regions of Rwanda, there were not a large number of these cases and those who had fled after the genocide could legally reclaim their land. The government, however, argued for moving the population into makeshift camps to facilitate security in the area and to separate the Hutu insurgents from civilians. Even when the region was declared secure, the government refrained individuals from returning to their homes and instead relocated them from the camps into group settlements under the villagization program.

The article touches on the struggle that these individuals have gone through, citing Human Rights Watch in stating that tens of thousands of these individuals have been resettled against their will. The new settlements have limited access to water and sanitation, land shortages and often no schools. Many of the families are only given 20x25m plots, while the recommended minimum for a household is one hectare and many of the families could viably return to their homes where they had access to more land. The article condemns the UN and the Rwandan government for closing the chapter on Rwandan IDPs, since the government is using its power to forcibly resettle individuals and allowing them to remain in poorer conditions than those in which they started. It provides an important picture of the problems facing returning Rwandan refugees, particularly those Hutus who fled after the genocide and their struggle with returning home.




Public Administration and Development, 2001, 21, pp. 159-170

Geisler, Charles, and Ragendra de Sousa

Abstracted by Dina Buck

Authors Geisler and de Sousa discuss the circumstances of a little known but growing category of refugees they call “other environmental refugees” (OER). OERs are persons displaced by a phenomenon termed “exclusionary conservatism.” Exclusionary conservatism is the enacting of environmental protection measures, frequently realized in the form of government-established national parks, which result in the forced eviction of individuals and communities inhabiting the protected areas. After eviction, these individuals are rendered homeless, landless, and stripped of their traditional livelihoods. The governments and NGOs advocating for and implementing these conservation measures seldom acknowledge how exclusionary conservatism creates OERs, or the negative consequences OERs face after eviction. Additionally, OERs themselves are frequently unable to advocate for compensatory measures because they lack political representation, have minimal resources, and are socially marginalized. Geisler and de Sousa point out that, while environmental conservation and human security are normally understood to be complementary, in the case of Africa at least, the situation appears to be reversed: as protected land area increases, poverty levels also increase. The authors note that estimating the number of OERs is difficult at best but, by using different types of population and land conservation data, estimates can still be made. Geisler and de Sousa analyze four different tables of data to aid in assessing the number of OERs in relation to the amount of protected land in different African countries. Among other things, the tables provide data on land area, population by cohort, population densities, and total protected area; estimated numbers of OERs resulting from the establishment of national parks; and poverty level rank relative to the amount of protected land in each respective country. As touched on earlier, one of the most interesting findings is that countries with higher percentages of protected land also have higher rates of poverty. The data also show that, depending on certain factors used like density assumptions, and the analytic approach employed, anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of individuals are estimated to have been displaced by exclusionary conservation worldwide. To rectify potential negative impacts future conservation measures could have on populations living in yet to be protected areas, Geisler and de Sousa argue that conservation efforts must be aligned with human security, and individuals residing in areas slated for protection must be given viable alternatives. They point out that, around the world, numerous examples of cooperation between land conservation and agrarian reform exist, demonstrating that alliances between the two sectors are possible.




Film: 2006

Director: Christopher Quinn

Producor: Molly Bradford Pace, Christopher Quinn, and Tom Walker

Distributor: New Market Films

Abstracted by Holly Philpot

God Grew Tired of Us chronicles the journey of three young Sudanese men, part of the refugee group known as the “Lost Boys of Sudan”, as they leave their homes in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya and begin new lives in the United States. In the early 1990s, many young Sudanese boys survived attacks on their villages by government troops in Southern Sudan. Orphaned or separated from their families, they banded together by the hundreds to make extensive treks across Sudan to escape the war. These “Lost Boys” found refuge first in Ethiopia, and eventually in Kenya, where the majority of the boys – now young men – still reside today. The United States began resettling some of the boys in 2001.

The documentary follows three of the Lost Boys – John, who is resettled in Syracuse, New York; and Daniel and Panther, who are resettled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – as they attempt to navigate through the strange culture of their new country. However, more than just focusing on the material changes in their lives, the film captures the very insightful struggles of these young men as they wrestle to reconcile their past with their present. For them, life in America is both trying and joyous, and very different from anything they had ever imagined.

Despite their limited education and humble roots, the “boys” provide a poignant commentary on American culture and their own situations that reveals both an innocence and a deep maturity about life. They struggle to overcome a sense of isolation and loneliness after having been separated from a community and traditional support system that had buttressed each of them their entire lives. Yet they also feel a burning responsibility to make something of themselves in America. The motivation to succeed does not stem from material desires, but rather from the hope that they will be able to help those they left behind and do something to aid their war-stricken country. Their stories are indicative of the great pain suffered in this world and the strength of the human spirit to overcome.




Human Rights Brief, 2000, Volume 7, Issue 2

Hanchinamani, Bina

Abstracted by Martha Pigott

Among the many difficulties facing refugees and internally displaced persons is the issue of land tenure. As displaced persons transition back to their home country, these returnees often find themselves without the home or the land they had once inhabited. In many cases, their previous land has been resettled or otherwise occupied. In Hanchinamani’s article, we find that such was the situation for many Mozambique refugees. A total of 5.7 million of their country’s 16 million people were displaced by the end of their 15 year civil war in 1992.

The issue of land rights has been characteristic of Mozambique since the time of the Portuguese colonial rule. Local peasants lost their land to commercial farms under the Portuguese, only to be bereft of that stability again when a new government took control and forced rural people to give up their homes. Hanchinamani takes us on a historical journey beginning with the FRELIMO government, who took control at the time of independence in 1875. FRELIMO initiated a socialist development strategy which involved the displacement of 1.8 million people into communal villages that were poorly maintained and managed. Hanchinamani touches on the violent emergence of the RENAMO opposition group whose clash with the government only furthered the displacement. In 1992, however, FRELIMO and RENAMO signed peace agreements, but the issue of land tenure was still highly contested. Finally, in 1997, the Land Law was passed. Hanchinamani discusses the many advantageous provisions of this law, one of the most important being the increased role of local communities and traditional leaders. In order to improve the land rights of those lacking documentation, Hanchinamani writes, the law requires that courts accept verbal evidence from surrounding community members as proof of ownership.

Hanchinamani’s article provides a comprehensive look at both the origins and the response to the 1997 Land Law. Many consider the law to be a huge step in the right direction as it vastly expands the rights and bargaining power of peasants in determining land tenure. For Hanchinamani, however, some problems still exist at the local level. Some NGOs are working to translate the 1997 Land Law into various local languages so that the people can understand their rights. Also, more needs to be done towards reversing the history of discrimination against women so that their rights may also be upheld. Despite the remaining concerns however, Hanchinamani writes that the efforts of the Mozambican government are commendable and exemplify a policy model for other countries to follow.




Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, March 2009, Volume 30, Number 2, pp.127-44

Hatoss, A. and T. Sheely

Abstracted by Nirvana Bhatia

A linguistically vulnerable population, refugees tend to either reject their first language and culture, or to cling strongly to their mother tongue and traditional values. The first method stems from a desire to achieve socio-economic status in their host country, which usually entails separation from their heritage; the latter occurs when refugees refuse to accept their new situation and to mentally “relocate.” Both paths are coping mechanisms which impede successful integration into the host country society. Linguists thus prefer a dual outcome, where the mother tongue is maintained, but where the dominant language is also acquired. Sudanese refugees in Australia have demonstrated this healthy linguistic balance, and are therefore the embodiment of a dual mandate in linguistic human rights (i.e., respecting the native language while also encouraging use of the host language).

In this survey, Hatoss and Sheely examine language maintenance and shift (LM&S) amongst Sudanese youths with refugee backgrounds in Australia. The large size of the Sudanese community makes linguistic and cultural conservation feasible; as of 2006, 19,049 people in Australia had been born in Sudan and 17,848 people reported Sudanese ancestry. Furthermore, the Sudanese are often placed in regional settlements on the outskirts of cities, which provide favorable conditions for the maintenance of heritage languages and ensure that the refugee community remains close-knit. As a result of the Adult Migrant English program, however, these individuals communicate in English; Dinka—the dominant ethnic language in South Sudan; Arabic—the country’s official language; and Kiswahili—the language of the interim refugee camps. For this case study, 67 high school-age Sudanese-origin children in Toowoomba, Queensland were asked a series of questions (in English) about their language preferences. In general, the researchers found that the children feel their strongest language is Dinka, and that they were not as confident in their English abilities. If everyone involved is a Dinka speaker they are inclined to use Dinka to communicate, but in the company of other language speakers, they immediately switch to English. Additionally, the students recognize that different situations require different languages, such as English on the soccer field, or Dinka in church.

Thus, while the children expressed the growing role of English in their lives, they remained devoted to their mother tongue, saying it was an essential part of their cultural heritage and identity. From a human rights perspective, immigrants often have very few language rights; they are not protected by any minority language acts or by universal declarations such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Consequently, they often sacrifice— or are forced to sacrifice— their mother tongue in order to survive in a new environment; Sudanese-Australians, however, seem to realize the importance of being able to function in both Dinka and English. In their discussion of the survey, the authors conclude that it is important for community leaders to “harness these positive attitudes and implement effective language planning for the continued maintenance of the tribal languages,” thereby ensuring that traditional domains such as church and family are not taken over by the dominant language, while also continuing to provide the refugees with English language support.




Journalism, 2003, 4(1), pp. 29-49

Robins, Melinda B.

Abstracted by Shailer Vatsa

Newspaper coverage in the United States of the Sudanese refugees popularly referred to as the “Lost Boys” is woefully superficial, playing out as feel-good human-interest stories yet neglecting to flesh out the complex situation in the Sudan. The author notes that Africa and its citizens are continually represented as backward and primitive; few reporters make the effort to enlighten readers to the historical and socio-political environment of the diverse continent. Additionally, America is represented as the civilized savior of the downtrodden Sudanese refugees, with little credence given to the negative aspects of life in the United States, such as racism. While the “Lost Boys” are regarded as quaint in their ignorance of modern amenities, American ignorance of international affairs, including those which instigated the “Lost Boys’” journey to the US, is rarely addressed. A ribbon of ethnocentrism, both implicit and explicit, winds through the stories that depict the arrival of Sudanese refugees in America, making the underlying message more about American supremacy and less about the plight of those fleeing desperate situations. Much of the news, be it covering the “Lost Boys” or otherwise, lacks the contextual background which would enrich American understanding of the world outside its borders.




Directors: Megan Mylan and John Shenk

Producers: Megan Mylan and John Shenk

Distributor: Shadow Distribution

Runtime: 87 minutes

Abstracted by Morgan Marks

The Lost Boys of Sudan tells the real life story of Peter and Santino, two “Lost Boys” who escaped the tragedies in their home country, and who were eventually resettled in the United States. The coined term “lost” when referring to the “Lost Boys” was originally given to the group of Sudanese boys due to the fact that they had traveled together fleeing the violence and war in their home country of Sudan and arrived in Kenya without parents, seemingly just a large group of boys who had survived and were displaced victims of war.

The film begins in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, and follows the boys on their journey to the United States. The film does not focus a great deal on their past, but concentrates on how incredibly difficult adjusting to life in a new country is. Learning how to use an electric stove, shopping for groceries, paying rent, and getting an education are just a few of the challenges faced by Peter and Santino. When they enter the United States, while there are many people and organizations that welcome and help them, the film also portrays the ignorance, ethnocentrism, and displays of superiority shown to Peter and Santino by the American people.

The viewers will learn of Peter and Santino’s daily struggles, inside and out, including their feelings of financial responsibility to their families still in Africa. Each boy is incredibly strong, and the film depicts how each copes and tries to fit in to American culture. This film is sure to put any viewer on a rollercoaster of emotions, and truly touch many hearts; the viewer is able to “bear witness” to the resettlement and adjustment process, as well as the heartache that many refugees face as a result of their displacement. The goal of the film was to not only educate viewers, but to also make it apparent that the overarching goal for the “Lost Boys,” is to not consider them lost at all, but found, as they each try to make America their new home.




Development and Change, Volume 37, Number 4, 2006, pp. 759-778

Turner, Simon

Abstracted by Vivienne Chew

Turner examines the ways in which refugees negotiate and establish public authority in refugee camps, with a specific focus on young Burundian males in Lukole camp, Tanzania. In Lukole, governance structures implemented by the camp commandant, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and other international relief agencies create a sense of order and control “from above”. In reality however, public authority is far from established; constant attempts are made by refugees to negotiate and establish a form of legitimate authority in the face of unstable social relations and a breakdown of moral order in the camp.

Turner highlights the struggle in Lukole between “orthodox and heterodox opinion, between longing for the moral order of yesterday and striving for the opportunities created in the camp.” (p.776) Traits such as mobility, language skills, education, and openness are regarded as necessary for success, and emphasis is placed upon youth and change while old hierarchies have been swept away. At the same time, there still exists a yearning for the “good old days” and the desire to preserve Burundian values and ideals in a newly configured, camp-based society.

It is in this environment that young men in Lukole have successfully carved out three positions of influence: as street and village leaders; as employees of non-profit organizations operating in the camp; and as owners of income-generating businesses. Turner explores the ways in which these groups of men have used their youth and mobility to out-maneuver the old patriarchy and become “big men” within their communities. He contrasts the ways in which each group has navigated and manipulated systems of governance instituted by UNHCR and other agencies to achieve legitimacy and authority both in the eyes of the camp authorities and the refugee community. In particular, each group has drawn upon ideas of a Burundian moral order, while at the same time learning the “development-speak” of the international agencies. Although Turner’s focus is on Lukole (which is now closed), his analysis provides valuable insight into the ways in which young refugee men have adapted to, and made the best of, new rules and sources of power in a camp setting.




Film: 2007

Abstracted by Tessa Powell

This documentary chronicles the journeys of two Bantu families who fled Somalia in the early 1990s as violence broke out near their homes. They fled to Kenya, where they lived in the Kakuma Refugee Camp until they immigrated to the United States as refugees.

The adults state that when the violence broke out in Somalia, it was sudden and unexpected. Gunmen entered their homes and families fled on foot. For both of these families, it resulted in the deaths of some family members and separation from others. Some reunited at the refugee camps, while others were lost indefinitely. Living in the Kakuma camp for over a decade, the families adjusted to the transitional life they were living, although resources—especially food—were limited.

Many of the children have little memory of Somalia or the escape to Kenya; still others were born in the refugee camp and know little else of life. As the two families prepared to move to the United States, they were required to attend orientation sessions in which they learned basic skills including reading and writing English, major differences in custom, and how to count and use American money. The families were shown videos of what to expect in the United States and appear very excited and certain that anything would be possible after they arrive. When they are told the official date they will be leaving for the United States, one family throws a party for those left behind.

The families have two very different experiences after arriving in the United States. Some struggle to learn English and because of that, cannot secure employment. One large family, unaccustomed to regular bills and the cost of food, became extremely disheartened. Both parents struggled with depression and stress over basic living—being able to heat their home and feed their children on the limited assistance offered by the U.S. government. The children adapted more quickly, though still at different paces. The younger children learned English much more quickly than the older children. While some were excited about the prospect of an education, others found difficulty in catching up to their peers (especially with the language barrier).

The film follows the families for the first eighteen months they are refugees in the United States. Through the eyes of the refugees, the viewer becomes aware of the challenges presented to immigrants who come to the United States. The country provides an amazing opportunity, but it does not come easily and as these families learn, it takes a great deal of dedication and work.




Family Relations, 2008, Volume 57, Number 4, pp. 431-443

Johnson, Phyllis J., and Kathrin Stoll

Abstracted by Laura Egan

As refugees flee to new countries seeking asylum, the ties that bind keep them connected to their home countries and those they know – such as family members who have remained there. Johnson and Stoll look at the role Southern Sudanese men residing in Western Canada play as the “Global Breadwinner” (term used to denote individuals who provide financial support for family members in other countries) and the strain associated with it. The study focused on the remittance behaviors and attitudes of the Sudanese men, the level of financial and emotional strain for those serving as global breadwinners, and assessed the variables that affect the men’s perceptions. Remittances in 2003 added up to $79.5 billion through official channels, with the money contributing to the livelihoods and economic sustainability of the receiving parties. This is especially important in African countries such as Sudan that are affected by a multitude of factors including internal conflict and widespread poverty. Remittances serve as an important connection for family ties across borders, acting as an implicit loan agreement between members. Role strain theory plays a significant part in understanding the effects of enacting the global breadwinner role because it expands upon the emotional strain that emerges out of the anxiety of trying to fulfill financial obligations and the financial strain when it comes to diverting income from sender to receiver. In relation to this theory, the authors examined a variety of variables including social support within the community, religiosity, length of time in Western Canada, age, English proficiency, marital status and financial indicators (such as amount of remittances).

A total of 172 questionnaires were completed, with the focus on men since they are seen traditionally as the main wage earners in the Sudanese family. The data revealed that the men were relatively young and had spent an average of 3.6 years in Canada, with 34.1% having citizenship status. Within the group, 89.5% were currently sending remittances back to family still residing in Africa and though the frequency and amount varied, the majority reported that sending money was considered very important. A surprising result was that the men with higher incomes (more than $20,000) faced greater financial strain since those at that income level anticipated being able to afford more luxuries associated with the Canadian lifestyle compared to that of newcomers.

The implications of this study, along with its potential contributions, are far-reaching when it comes to understanding the role of a global breadwinner and the responsibilities that accompany this role. Social service workers in the receiving countries must understand the significant commitments of these men to continue supporting family members outside the host country. Ties within the Sudanese community helped reinforce the remittance obligations, creating emotional strain while also providing coping resources that in turn reduced the financial strain. Government resettlement agencies in all countries should make themselves aware of the context in which a global breadwinner thinks and lives to better understand the difficulties and trade-offs that might be encountered when taking these individuals’ future into consideration. The study, though small in scope, is useful for understanding the needs and considerations of refugees that are starting a new life while at the same time maintaining ties to their home and family members abroad, as well as the roles of the agencies that work with them.




Journal of Comparative Study of Society and History, 2005, pp. 252-285

Newbury, David

Abstracted by Dina Buck

Africa has long been a continent of both voluntary and forced mobility. In this article, author David Newbury discusses the importance of understanding how historical contexts that compelled both voluntary and forced mobility of Rwandans shaped the way they conceived of and felt about “home.” Newbury identifies and discusses four historical mobility patterns of Rwandans, and the diverse ways in which individuals in each group identified and characterized “home.” He notes that much focus is given to the processes by which individuals become displaced, while little attention is paid to the effects “coming home” has on both returnees and the communities receiving them. Normally, home is thought of as something static and unchanging, something “circumscribed” by state boundaries, something defined by nationality, or something “positional.” While these conceptions may indeed be how some individuals conceive of home, there are ways in which these conceptions may be too restricted. Individuals returning to a homeland with which they have a previous history will feel differently about the return than will their children who may have never actually been to the “homeland.” People who have chosen to leave home will feel differently about returning than those who were forced out; emigrants who have been away from their homeland for many years will feel differently about returning than will those who have been gone only a short while; and home for some may be defined more by relationships or “social space,” rather than place of origin. For this latter group of individuals, “home” is defined less by place, and more through the people they know, the places they work, and the networks within which they operate. Newbury points out that, prior to colonialism and the implementation of artificial boundaries, “home” for Rwandans was not necessarily set by geography. People moved about fluidly to seek better land, escape dynastic rule, flee famine, and follow business prospects. This fluid movement, however, was altered by the imposition of colonial-instigated boundaries that changed both the face and culture of Rwanda. Pre-colonial trade patterns were interrupted and politics were changed, causing a number of Rwandans to flee the country. Newbury’s four historical “movement clusters” span pre-colonial and post-colonial influence. The first group consisted of pre-colonial cultural Rwandans who were quite nomadic. They frequently encountered other groups and shared cultural traditions, creating a widespread cohesiveness of cultural norms. This “shared general identity” meant that “home” was thought of in terms of culture and social systems, as described earlier, rather than in terms of a static location. In the second group were economic migrants. Within this group were those who hoped to return to Rwanda after emigrating, thereby developing a strong sense of Rwanda as “home,” and those who decided to settle permanently in their new location, who focused on shedding their strictly Rwandan identities. The third movement cluster consisted of those who fled decolonization in the 1950s and 1960s. These individuals, says Newbury, most closely fit contemporary notions of “classic refugees.” Having left Rwanda against their will for political reasons, individuals in this cluster idealized Rwanda as home, maintaining a strong desire to return there. These exiles often found themselves at the mercy of their host governments, facing either political inclusion or exclusion, depending on what was most advantageous for the government at the time. Refugees living in Uganda, for example, faced politically mercurial behavior on behalf of the Ugandan Government until local hostilities finally compelled many of them to return to Rwanda in the 1980s. Those denied return by a cash-strapped Rwandan government formed the Rwandese Patriotic Front and demanded their right to return. Both war and political negotiation ensued, helping set the ground for the 1994 genocide. Thus, the final group Newbury identifies were those fleeing the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Members of this group, says Newbury, were ostracized by host communities and unable to integrate into their new locations. Many faced such violence abroad that, by 1996, they were forced to return to Rwanda. By that time, their homeland had been drastically altered by the genocide and their social ties destroyed, making these refugees’ return to Rwanda much different from how one imagines “returning home” might be. Newbury’s analysis of these four movement clusters in Rwanda demonstrates there are many factors that play into how people identify and conceive of “home.” He contributes to emplacement theory. Historical context and definitions that go beyond the conventional are important factors to take into account when attempting to understand displaced persons’ notions and feelings about “home.”




Film: 2007

Directors: Zach Niles and Banker White

Producers: Sean Fine and Andrea Nix

Fine Distributor: SodaSoap Productions LLC

Runtime: 79 minutes

Abstracted by Alexis Kopakowski

This documentary depicts the struggles and coping strategies of Sierra Leonian refugees in Guinea fleeing the 1991 civil war that ravaged their home country. One group of refugees banded together and bonded through music as a way to cope with traumatic memories and the loss of relationships, familiar social networks, respect and dignity within the community. “Sometimes we play, we forget away,” said Franco, the guitarist. Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars is more than just a reggae band--it’s a family, a support system, an outlet for frustration and suffering as well as a source of entertainment, joy and inspiration. Mohamed Bangura, one band member whose hand was amputated by the rebels, said he cannot work because of his disability. The only way he can survive in the refugee camp is by playing his music. The music gives him confidence, a sense of belonging, and allows him to escape his suffering during the playing of a few musical notes. The UNHCR sponsored the Refugee All Stars to visit other refugee camps, where they used music to connect with fellow refugees and attempted to impart a moment of respite from the burdens of trauma, worries and suffering--if only temporarily. During a landmark journey back to Freetown for the first time since the civil war, the Refugee All Stars reconnected with old acquaintances and musician friends and recorded their first album, “Living Like a Refugee.”




Swain, Lauren

Abstracted by Jonathan Page

This documentary examines the life of Ali Daud, a current Colorado resident and also a Somalia Bantu refugee. The short story details how he has escaped persecution to become one of approximately thirteen thousand Somali Bantu refugees who began to resettle in the US in 2003. The narrative provides an informative historical account of the persecution that members of the Somali Bantu tribe have experienced. In the 1800s, Arab slave traders invaded South East Africa, territory which is now under jurisdiction of Mozambique and Malawi. Those captured were taken and forced into slavery in Somalia. After escaping slavery, they were able to establish farms in Southern Somali, yet still endured severe discrimination at the hands of the Somali majority. They have systematically been denied jobs, education, and land ownership based primarily upon cultural and physical differences. Ali Daud describes the severe discrimination his people were subject to, noting the bar placed upon the opportunity to achieve an education. He explains that members of his tribe could not afford to go to school because they are required to pay double the tuition that others are expected to pay. This ethnic discrimination contributed to the Somali civil wars in early 1990s. Bands of gunmen invaded the Somalian communities, stealing crops and killing the population by the thousands. Those who survived fled. Ali Daud fled to Kenya, where he lived for twelve years in the Kakuma Refugee Camp prior to reuniting with his family. During that time, his parents thought that he had been killed. As Ali Daud describes life in the camp, he is reminded of the sickness prevalent throughout the camp, including rampant cases of malaria and AIDS. The documentary concludes by taking a look at Ali Daud’s process of integration into life in the United States, and the center charged with assisting in his adaptation, the African Community Center. As of September 2005, approximately one thousand Somali Bantu still inhabited the Kakuma refugee camp.




Film: 2008

Directors: Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine

Producers: Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine

Distributor: Velocity/Thinkfilm

Runtime: 107 minutes

Abstracted by Ellen Jorgensen

“Our story is difficult to hear, but if we don’t tell you, you won’t know it.” This is the sentiment presented by three orphans in Patongo, Uganda. Patongo is a war displacement camp where over 50,000 people live under twenty-four hour military protection from the Lords Resistance Rebel Army that hides in the bush. In this documentary, the cameras follow the lives of three remarkable teenage children of the Acholi tribe: Rose, Dominic, and Nancy. Their tribe has been suffering from over 20 years of violence in which thousands of children have been abducted, orphaned, and forced to live in government camps. To make matters worse, these children are constantly reminded of the horrors they have experienced and human rights abuses they have witnessed. They live in a constant state of fear as refugees in the camp.

As the story progresses, filmmakers Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine find hope in a National Music Competition, which Patongo Primary School will compete in for the first time. This Olympic style competition, set in the capital city of Kampala, features over 5,000 Ugandan students from across the country. Students are judged in eight arenas including western choir, creative dance, original composition, traditional folk song, dramatic composition, instrumental performance, and traditional dance. The documentary follows these three children, and the many others voices of Patongo, as they struggle to find hope in a refugee camp and their future, through voice, dance, and a xylophone.




Journal of Refugee Studies, 2004, Volume 17, Number 4, pp. 420-436(17)

Moro, Leben N.

Abstracted by Teresa Braun

This paper examines the role that interethnic relations have played upon both the conflict in Sudan and the lives of refugees living in Cairo, Egypt and camps in Adjumani, Uganda. It is based upon field research conducted in both locations, with data collected from refugees and displaced persons, aid workers and government officials via questionnaires and focus groups, as well as the observations and experiences of author Leben Nelson Moro, who was a refugee in Uganda and lived in Egypt as both a student and refugee. He starts by looking at the tendency to see refugees as one mass of helpless people, ignoring the historical, social, and political contexts that they come from, as well as the new situations that they are a part of, whether through camp life or an urban environment. The importance of ethnicity and cultural identity is evident in looking at the refugee situations that stemmed from two civil wars in Sudan and the roles that the diverse populations played.

Sixty-five percent of Sudanese are African, thirty-five percent Arab, with over seventy percent being Muslim. There are over 500 different ethnic groups, most of them in the south and west. This diverse population makes looking at the civil wars as “a rebellion from the south against the government based in the north” far too simplistic. In fact, events in neighboring Ethiopia increased already existing discord, among smaller ethnic groups and the larger Dinka population, leading the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) to split into Dinka- and Nuer-based factions, which then split even further. This fighting, more reminiscent of dozens of local tribal conflicts than an organized war, led to about 4 million internally displaced and 440,000 refugees by the end of 2001. Among the refugees were those who went to Uganda and Cairo where their ethnicity continued to play a role both in the development of the conflicts in Sudan and further conflicts (or unusual bonds) formed in their new homes.

The refugee structure in Uganda has been one of mutual refugee movements between the two countries, depending upon local situations. There is a tendency for different refugee groups to be associated with the actions of the SPLM/A, especially the Dinka, leading to insecurity for these groups or denial of permanent settlement due to local hostility. These vulnerabilities are not always recognized by aid agencies, which do not necessarily comprehend the highly politicized relationships that exist among the Sudanese. There are also camp-specific circumstances that break down along lines of ethnicity, especially given the need to compete for a limited amount of available resources and aid. This often leads to competition between groups like the Madi and the Kuku, who in Sudan, as minorities, would have cooperated with one another. Any conflicts that arise in the camps have the potential to affect resettlement in Sudan as lingering mistrust and competition can serve to refuel political anger and resentment.

The situation in Cairo reveals similar tensions among ethnic groups, including running street battles between the Dinka and Nuer fought in revenge for violence occurring in southern Sudan. This led to the dissolution of SOSSA, the southern Sudanese student organization, which was then replaced by ethnically-based associations that also occasionally served a political role in Egypt in concert with the SPLM/A office in Cairo. The role of Sudanese in Cairo is also influenced by a long-standing relationship between the two nations. Northern Sudanese have blood and cultural ties with Egyptians, while those from the south share few cultural and familial ties, making their lives in Cairo more difficult. They have often been the targets of racism, especially the African Sudanese, or have been targets for Egyptian suspicion or anger over Sudanese policies. Since they settled in urban areas they often do not receive services from NGOs, forcing them to rely more upon themselves to survive, which often means turning to locally run Sudanese organizations that are organized along political and ethnic lines. The problems of refugees in Sudan are compounded even further by the historical relationship between Egypt and Sudan in which Egypt did not reward refugee status to Sudanese and limitations were placed upon their legal rights, making it hard for them to survive. In both Uganda and Cairo, examining the tensions and political relationships between the various Sudanese refugee groups challenges the assumption that refugees are a homogenous group, a “single mass,” that is passive and de-politicized simply through the act of fleeing conflict. Rather ethnicity and politics play a role in camp life and new urban settings, often making groups more vulnerable or bringing other groups together in ways that would not previously have been imagined.




Development, 2003, Volume 46, Number 3, pp. 37-41(5)

Adepoju A.

Abstracted by Elizabeth Stands

Adepoju discusses the changes in historical trends in migration in West Africa, looking at factors which are influencing these changes and noting states’ responses. Adepoju begins with an account of traditional migration in West Africa, noting that West Africans have consistently moved around the sub-region for a variety of reasons, including opportunities for better employment and escape from environmental disasters and armed conflicts. Until recently, inter-regional migration followed certain patterns, with some countries being understood as generally labor-exporting and others labor-importing. Changes in economic and political stability as well as job opportunities are shifting these traditional patterns, so that, for example, more women are engaging in the short- to long- term seasonal job migrations in which men had typically dominated. This applies not only to women engaged in commercial trade, but high-skilled, professional women as well. Trafficking in illegal immigrants has increased as people seek to reach Europe and further abroad to fulfill dreams of economic prosperity. Trafficking in children for forced labor and prostitution is prolific, based in part on traffickers taking advantage of the traditional child-fostering system. Adepoju highlights the underlying force behind migration changes, including women’s greater participation and increased trafficking: poverty. The author emphasizes the effects of resource and environmental constraints, including desertification; decline in real incomes; limitations in rural growth, resulting in urbanization; and macroeconomic restructuring. He also notes that some of the traditional labor importing countries, such as Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria, have experienced political and economic upheaval, limiting employment opportunities, while other countries, such as South Africa, have more opportunities, influencing the choices migrants make when moving, particularly highly-skilled professionals. Changing economic and political realities have generated various responses by state governments, many protectionist in nature. Adepoju discusses particular countries’ strategies to regulate the flow of persons such as identity cards; using ethnicity and religion to define nationality; registration of aliens; and compulsory exit visas for all residents. Immigrants are being used as scape-goats for countries’ economic and political woes, potentially exacerbating tensions which could become explosive. The armed conflicts spreading throughout West Africa have created an enormous flow of refugees throughout the region, challenging the capacity of the refugee regime to respond adequately and reinforcing states’ defensive attitudes. Despite the formation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to handle, in part, migration issues, states continue to use expulsions and deportations to rid their territory of immigrants seen as threats. Yet, ECOWAS is simultaneously the mechanism that has provided some potentially controversial solutions to the changing migration patterns and related impacts which the author supports. ECOWAS promotes the free movement of persons without visas, has introduced ECOWAS traveler’s checks as well as the creation of an ECOWAS passport. Adepoju also recommends advocacy and public education to off-set negative stereotypes of immigrants and to promote an understanding of the potential for changing migration patterns to aid all countries in the region in development.




Journal of Asian and African Studies, 2003, Volume 38, Number 2-3, pp. 211-231 (21)

Whitaker B.

Abstracted by Keely Tongate

This article addresses how refugee movements exacerbate the spread of conflict using the Rwandan refugees fleeing to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania in the 1990s as a case study. It argues that while refugees do generally change the landscape of a receiving country this transformation does not always result in conflict. There is limited research on refugee flows and the spread of conflict. However, research addressing the internationalization of conflict is being developed. The research has given two main examples of refugee flows advancing the spread of conflict. The first is when refugee flows affect the balance of power by either shifting the ethnic make-up of a society or limiting access to resources. The second example is when refugee flows bring new belligerents into the host country thus escalating the political context. The Rwandan refugees did spread conflict into Congo (formerly Zaire ) but not to Tanzania. The article gives three reasons for the divergent outcomes: regime legitimacy, extent of politicization of ethnicity, and the domestic political decisions of the leader. The Rwandan refugees that fled to Zaire found a failing state, highly politicized ethnic groups, and a dictator willing to exploit the refugee situation in order to maintain his power base. The refugees fleeing to Tanzania found a country in the process of politico-economic liberalization, a lack of tension along ethnic lines, and incentives to promote peace and stability. The examples of Tanzania and Congo depict the factors that could potentially exacerbate the domestic situation in a host country and increase the likelihood of conflict spillover. The usefulness of these indicators is not limited to Tanzania and Congo. An analysis of Angolan refugees in Zambia and Mozambique refugees in Malawi strengthen the author’s argument. The two relatively stable states were able to absorb the refugees without the spread of conflict. The situation surrounding the Greater Horn of African refugee populations do not directly correlate with the author’s contention. Cote d’Ivoire presents the strongest argument for the author’s argument. Cote d’Ivoire was a model of stability and a long-time refugee acceptor. However, a changing domestic political environment created the scenario for conflict spillover. Thus, the author seeks to address the point that conflict is not always spread by refugee flows. What is clear is that refugees are both affected by and affect established political environments. If the essential destabilizing factors already exist in a given state, conflict could arise. In the interest of both the receiving country and the refugee population it is important to analyze a host country’s specific politico-economic dynamics to predict if the spread of conflict is likely. Then, governments and the international community can take the proper steps to mediate escalating situations.




Refugees Magazine, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Volume 1, Number 134, 2004, pp. 3-10

Abstracted by Keesha Egebrecht

This article addresses the important subject of repatriation for refugees. There are always many emotions and motivations for returning to one’s homeland and this article aims to articulate them. One particular case discussed was about a girl who fled from Mozambique because she was fearful of both government troops and guerillas. She claims she would have been killed had she stayed home. Mozambique has been through much turmoil, beginning with the colonial struggle against the Portuguese and then a brutal civil war. Around 6 million people abandoned their homes; in this girl’s case she fled to neighboring Zimbabwe . As with many other refugees, the thought of returning home kept her sane through the long years of pain and hardship. When that day finally came, she felt immediate euphoria followed quickly by feelings of doubt and apprehension. Over the years she had come to feel safe in the refugee camp where she was able to feed her children and make many friends. Often refugees are scared to abandon what they know to return to a situation that is unstable and unknown. During a 30-month period in the early 1990’s 1.7 million refugees returned back to their homes in Mozambique. Then another 4 million came out of hiding in nearby villages and “the bush” and returned home, making it one of the most successful repatriations in modern history. During and after WWII, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) helped an estimated 7 million people repatriate. However, the global political climate has changed and now the preferred solution is voluntary repatriation. Many refugees face the decision of returning to a region that is peaceful, while there is fighting in a neighboring one. Often the desire to go home is stronger in older refugees because of the memory of home, compared with younger refugees who are not tied to the land like their elders. Approximately 50-60% of refugees fall into this category because many have been in exile for so long the young tend to outnumber the old. Not every homecoming is pleasant though; one man returned to a situation where he found his father dead, his friends had left and his village completely destroyed. The UNHCR has played an integral part in many refugee repatriations. It has come to recognize the importance of including local communities as well as returnees in key economic, social and cultural projects.




Refugee Manipulation – War, Politics, and the Abuse of Human Suffering, Stedman S., Tanner F. (eds.), 2003, pp. 95-134

Adelman H.

Abstracted by Marie E. Ott

Following the defeat of Rwanda’s genocidaires by the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), over 1,600,000 Rwandese Hutu fled the country. Most of them were routed by the surviving genocidaires into neighboring Zaire (Democratic Republic of the Congo). The international community mobilized to help those fleeing Rwanda and established refugee camps along the Zairian border. But much of the international community, including the Western public, continued to remain ignorant about the history and circumstances surrounding the Rwandan conflict. The media coverage of the fleeing refugees led many observers to falsely believe that all of the refugees were innocent. This article presents the crisis that ensued in the Zairian refugee camps, where the extremist Hutu groups were able to regroup, recruit, and plan to carry out the unfinished genocide of the Tutsi. By building and funding refugee camps that unexpectedly came to harbor extremists, the international humanitarian community was a key player in assisting the genocidaires’ “quasi states” and their manipulation of the Hutu refugees. In addition, Rwanda’s civil war and ethnic cleansing spilled over into Zaire. The Zairian government and army assisted extremist Hutus and allowed them to attack Zairian Tutsis. This article looks at the circumstances surrounding the flight of the refugees in 1994, the creation of the refugee camps and the factors that allowed them to be a safe haven for the genocidaires, repatriation issues, and the operations launched by militants from within the camps. It also describes the roles of Rwanda, Zaire, other regional states, the international community, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from the start of the refugee flight in 1994 to their initial repatriation in 1996. Western states, the United Nations, international humanitarian agencies, NGOs, and the media coverage all contributed to the cause of the genocidaires, as they witnessed but did very little to stop the abuse of refugees in Zaire. In conclusion, the essential issues in this crisis had to do with the way that the international community implemented its assistance to the refugees. Genuine refugees were not separated from the refugee genocidaires and nothing was done to stop the genocidaires from using the camps as a home base for further manipulation and slaughter. Despite incidences of tragic aftermath, the refugee problem was eventually resolved after the militants in the camps were defeated and the refugees were free to return home.



Refugees International, Washington D.C., 2005

Charny, Joel R.

Abstracted by Brian Diffley

This report provides an overview of the situation that exists for North Korean refugees in China. Interviews conducted by the organization Refugees International of North Koreans in Yanbian, China are featured and depict the difficult and dangerous lives that these refugees face both in North Korea and in China. North Koreans leave their country and enter China in order to survive. Those interviewed in the report cited food deprivation, loss of employment, and death of family members in the famine as the main reasons for choosing to escape their county. The exact number of North Korean migrants and asylum seekers in China is unknown, but current estimates run anywhere from 250,000 to 300,000. China considers all North Koreans who enter the country to be economic migrants, and not refugees. When Chinese authorities discover North Koreans, most are sent back to North Korea where they face imprisonment or even death, depending on the nature of their actions while in China. Those who are known to have met with foreigners while in China, or who have converted to Christianity, are subject to execution. The report lays out the various policy options that the four major parties have in changing this situation. China, South Korea, the United States, and the UNHCR must all take action to help save the lives of North Koreans who make their way into China. From the author’s perspective, China is the most influential party and must therefore take the lead role in policy change. Refugees International believes that China must both “honor its obligation under the 1951 Refugee Convention,” and “allow UNHCR unimpeded access to North Koreans in China,” which it currently prohibits. UNHCR staff in Beijing are not permitted to travel to Yanbian to assess the situation of North Koreans in the area. For its part, China’s security concerns include criminal acts committed by North Koreans in China, as well as the possibility of a mass movement of North Koreans across the border. Despite these concerns, China must abide by the Convention to which it is signatory and make it easier and safer for North Koreans to remain in China as refugees.




Australian Historical Studies, 120, 2002, pp. 359 – 372

Neumna, Klaus

Abstracted by Sarah Jessup

Between 1963 and 1969, several thousand West Papuans from the Indonesian-occupied province of Irian Jaya fled to the Australian territory of Papua and New Guinea. Much of this was related to the “Act of Free Choice,” which officially made the linguistically, ethnically, and religiously distinct western half of New Guinea a province of Indonesia. Most of these asylum seekers were sent back to Irian Jaya, while a few who Australia considered “legitimate” refugees were given temporary visas and housed in detention centers. In this paper, Klaus Neuman seeks to explore the associative links between the past policies and the present, particularly with today’s new group of refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran. Historical and colonial roots of the Dutch in West New Guinea, as well as colonial links with Australia in what is today the independent nation of Papua New Guinea, are examined, including the pressure on the Dutch to relinquish control to Indonesia by the United States and Australia, given the significant geopolitical location it held during the Cold War. The treatment of the so called “boat people” from West Papua and that of today’s refugees is looked at in the context of driving forces, detention centers, and Australia’s obligations as a signatory to the 1951 Refugees Convention. From the framework of detention centers, Neuman exhibits a belief that the West Papuan refugees detained in Manus Island share no common links with the Iraqi, Iranian, and Afghan refugees of today, and thus, the new wave of refugees should not be handled in the same way as those from West Papua. Neuman believes that this detailed historical discussion is missing, and that while the missing historical element in today’s discourse would not necessarily explain the current situation, it would shed a seemingly analogous light.




Journal of Refugee Studies, 2005, Volume 19, Number 2, pp. 151-164

Muggah, Robert

Abstracted by Trishna Shah

In this article, Muggah presents a critique of the UNHCR’s Community Development approach (CDA) being utilized in the Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal. CDA is a development-centered approach that seeks to encourage “self-reliance and ownership” among the refugees while also being a cost-effective strategy for the UNHCR to provide better and equitable services to the refugees. Muggah acknowledges that such approaches might be necessary in protracted refugee situations like in Nepal but is also wary that such a Western “liberal and rights-laden” developmental approach may prove detrimental for the refugees in the long run. He purports that a major flaw of the CDA is that it lacks “clear standards, indicators, and benchmarks” to measure its efficacy in helping the refugees when they leave the refugee camps, as a result of intended durable settlement in the host country, repatriation, or third-country resettlement.

In the article, Muggah examines how the approach is seen as an end in itself rather than as a means, in a temporary situation, to provide durable solutions to the Bhutanese refugee problems. Although the utilization of the approach shows increases in well-being and self-reliance among the refugees in the camps, it does not indicate its applicability after the refugees leave the camps. Some critics believe that the approach has led the Bhutanese Government to be less responsible and encouraged reliance on international aid. Muggah also mentions how the approach has created socio-economic problems and resentment among the host population due to the disproportionate levels of development among the refugees as compared to their own. He also emphasizes that the approach has led to widespread disillusionment among the refugees, and there have been mounting reports of mental illness, suicide, alcoholism, trafficking of women, and prostitution in the camps.

In conclusion, Muggah notes that although the Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal are hailed as “model” refugee camps, it is necessary to consider the pitfalls and long-term adverse consequences of utilizing development-centered approaches such as CDA without setting clear standards.




Social Analysis, Volume 48, Issue 3, Fall 2004, p. 24-39

Wise, Amanda

Abstracted by Alexis Kopakowski

During the violent and oppressive Indonesian occupation of East Timor beginning in 1975, tens of thousands of Timorese fled to Australia. This article explores how the exiled Timorese relieved a sense of “migration guilt” and grappled with traumatic memories and experiences by banding together as a community and fighting for homeland and independence from the Australian front. Timorese refugees became physically engaged in protests, using a sort of affective coping strategy, in order to feel closer to events at home and relieve the guilt at having left their fellow Timorese behind. They also identified an increased sense of belonging and a feeling of being more Timorese when participating in support and protest activities and traditional song and dance.

As many of the Timorese refugees had experienced some sort of trauma in the past, active involvement with others in the community as a means to express suffering and frustrations helped develop a “community of suffering.” Individual memories of trauma were shared and heard, becoming part of the wider struggle for independence. The meaningless became meaningful, helping Timorese deal with traumatic memories. However, such resurfacing of testimonies and photographs of torture victims also served to retraumatize some Timorese refugees.

Despite support for independence, many refugees in Australia did not return home when East Timor finally shed its oppressive Indonesian shackles. This created a sort of “settling guilt.” Various strategies were implemented to relieve this guilt, including becoming “translocal” and dividing time between East Timor and Australia, contributing to charities or sending remittances, or using a “deferral” strategy in which return in the future was maintained as an ideal but never acted upon. Still, some refugees returned, only to be disappointed at unfulfilled fantasies and expectations, and at a homeland that had changed beyond recognition.




New York: Human Rights Watch, 2004

Human Rights Watch

Abstracted by Sarah Jessup

Over 140,000 documented Burmese refugees and asylum seekers live along the Thai-Burma border, due to the brutal political, social, and economic pressures they face by the Myanmar military regime, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). In 2004, Human Rights Watch (HRW) produced a report reviewing the conditions that these refugees live under. Reports of militia-controlled camps and gender-based violence were rampant, yet a shift in Thai policy towards these refugees occurred since the forging of closer relationships between the two governments. The report illustrates how these policies could impact the hundreds of thousands of refugees, migrant workers, and asylum seekers currently living in Thailand and those who are seeking to flee the brutal military regime that the SPDC has established. One policy includes the forced migration of recognized refugees living in Bangkok to camps along the border. While this may have been beneficial to those urban refugees who continually lived in fear, many felt that this was a tool to silence rather than help those refugees. Another major shift in policy was the suspension of a core function of the UNHCR Thai-Refugee Status Determination process. This suspension meant that there was no longer an objective and effective way to screen and admit new refugees and asylum seekers. In addition to examining past and present policies, the report looks at how Burmese nationals became refugees under either expulsion from Burma, under growing socio-political or economic-political pressures from the SPDC. The expulsion of political dissidents was and is common practice in Burma as the SPDC seeks to continue its policy of isolation and non-dissent. Furthermore, HRW highlighted the important role of the activist-refugees, who have been repeatedly brutalized and persecuted in Thailand since the forging of new policies within the country. While Thailand has an obligation to uphold the right to free speech, it failed to protect this right, even going so far as to push activist-refugees out of camps and silencing them under fear of arrest or detention.




Film: 2005

Runtime: 54 Minutes

Directed by: Jim Butterworth, Aaron Lubarsky and Lisa Sleeth

Produced by: Lisa Sleeth and Jim Butterworth

Distribution: Films Transit International

Abstracted by Brian Diffley

This film aims to expose the realities faced by North Korean refugees during their journey along the “underground railroad,” which takes them out of North Korea, through China, and eventually into a country where they can obtain refugee status. The goal, for many escapees, is to travel through China in order to reach countries such as Mongolia or Thailand. The Chinese government does not recognize North Koreans as refugees, and will thus arrest and forcibly repatriate any North Koreans who manage to make it to China. According to Article 47 of North Korea’s Criminal Code, defecting is punishable by death. Unsuccessful defectors and their families, at minimum are subject to imprisonment in labor camps. Despite these risks, it is estimated there are between 250,000 and 300,000 North Korean refugees presently residing in China. The film highlights the work done by “underground railroad” activists such as Chun Ki-won, Kim Sang-hun, and Moon Kook-han, who each have different roles in helping North Koreans escape their country. These individuals help refugees during their journey by providing food, safe houses, and escape plans and routes. North Korean refugees interviewed for the film describe the desperate lives they endure in North Korea, trying to survive without enough food, gainful employment, or any chance for a decent life. Defecting is a difficult endeavor for the refugees. They have little chance of successfully escaping North Korea for good due to the restrictive policies of the Chinese government. The film also describes the failure of the UNHCR to formally recognize that this problem exists, and its failure to pressure the Chinese government to change their policy towards North Koreans in China. In the eyes of the filmmakers, little to nothing is being done by either the UNHCR or China to help North Korean citizens who seek to escape. A crisis is at hand, and more attention needs to be paid to the plight of these people.




Social Science and Medicine, 2007, Volume 65, Number 8, pp. 1654-1665(12)

Aggarwal, Neil K.

Abstracted by Ellie Azoff

Refugees and internally displaced peoples face the issue of how their identity is altered and shaped through their experiences. In his article, Neil Krishan Aggarwal attempts to explore this identity shift within the context of those who have suffered persecution in the past and are now living in a contained structure such as a refugee camp. Aggarwal also aims to explore how researchers and service providers, such as anthropologists and psychologists, can ensure the accuracy of the interviews they undertake by abstaining from tainting those interviews with their own personal biases. Aggarwal draws his conclusions based upon one interview with a displaced Kashmiri Sikh living in a migrant camp outside of the city of Jammu. Aggarwal begins by explaining the political structure and social problems that have existed in the states of Jammu and Kashmir. He then goes on to reference the abhorrent conditions of many of the migrant camps located outside of Jammu. The author creates through his descriptions what he calls “local worlds.” He describes these “local worlds” as camps that maintain certain cultures of their own because they are so isolated from the mainstream culture. In this case the “local world” is a refugee camp just fifteen kilometers outside the city of Jammu.

It is within one of these camps that Aggarwal interviews a man he nicknames Singh Sahib. During this interview Aggarwal makes an interesting discovery; Singh Sahib identifies himself both as a Sikh and a Hindu. The author notices that the man obviously identifies as a Sikh first, Hindu second. This is strange, the author explains, because most Sikhs would reject the idea that they are part of a Hindu sect. Singh Sahib continues to speak of his duel religions and invokes a religious story that involves Hindu, Sikh and Muslim identities to explain his current situation. Aggarwal finds this alarming, as the tensions that caused Singh Sahib’s displacement are products of religious and cultural differences.

In an effort to understand the statements of Singh Sahib Aggarwal assumes that part of Sahib’s identification with both Hindus and Sikhs stems from living in his unique “local world.” Sahib can identify with the persecution of both the Hindus and the Sikhs as they live communally within the camp. Therefore, in his “local world” Sahib is exposed to diverse religious practices and is thus able to identify with both Sikhism and Hinduism.

To contend with the issue of biases that may exist in the work of anthropologists and psychologists Aggarwal uses his own personal identity as an example. He is an Indian-American Hindu with Sikh heritage in his background. He explains that his own inability to contend with these issues may have stopped him from asking more in-depth questions or exploring the issue further. The author describes these types of biases as “transference” and “intersubjectivity.” Within these themes he also explores how his own background may have made Sahib more reluctant to answer truthfully and extensively, thus altering Aggarwal’s own perception of Sahib’s religious beliefs.

Finally Aggarwal comes to the conclusion that culture and religion are tools for coping and that people use their religion as a comfort zone when times are bad or they have experienced suffering. Aggarwal uses Singh Sahibs religious story to demonstrate that religions provide Sahib with a sense of order, which is why he invoked all three major religions of the area within his story. Sahib has formed his own culture within his own unique world and Aggarwal postulates that this may be a phenomenon within refugee camps worldwide. Refugees and IDPs are removed from their homelands and surrounded by new cultures and religions. As a way of coping with these new experiences people may begin to bend and mesh these cultures to provide themselves with a sense of order and identity. Aggarwal maintains that service providers must acknowledge this identity phenomenon without entering into relationships with clients with preconceived notions of religion and culture. We must understand that each refugee camp experience may be different in key ways.




Australian Journal of Psychology, 2007, Volume 59, Number 1, pp.1-12

O'Doherty, K. and A. Lecouteur

Abstracted by Nirvana Bhatia

In this article, O’Doherty and Lecouteur analyze the media’s ambiguous descriptions of asylum seekers, boat people, and illegal immigrants in Australia. Journalists portray the asylum situation either as incredibly positive, with Australia being at the forefront of refugee service, or as horrific, with local policies toward “illegal” people bordering on human rights abuse. These conflicting views are the result of the social connotations certain identifying labels carry, such as calling someone a “refugee” versus an “illegal migrant.” Furthermore, the negative social undertones suggested by some of these terms may implicitly justify oppressive and discriminatory behavior towards “unexpected arrivals” from media audiences. The authors scoured over 2,000 print articles published between 1996 and 2001 by the mainstream media, including those written by the government and other interested groups like the UNHCR and refugee support organizations, in order to determine how “unexpected arrivals” are categorized; they also examine how the inconsistent language influences Australian attitudes towards this particular social group.

Mass media traditionally possesses great power of influence, which is heightened in ethnic affairs articles; since much of the population has little access to cultural minorities, people rely on news stories to inform their opinions on related social issues. Therefore, when the media interchangeably uses terms that have a range of associations, such as “refugee,” “asylum seeker,” “detainee,” “boat people,” and “illegal immigrant,” it sends mixed messages about the tolerance of an unexpected arrival. Considering that each individual has a different nationality, political status, legal status, and alleged intention for coming to Australia, it is unjust to refer to them by any haphazard synonym. For example, “refugee” denotes the legal status of someone fleeing to a safe haven under international conventions, while “illegal immigrant” indicates problematic individuals who should return home because they have not acquired proper legal status. Similarly, some articles contain multiple classifications of unexpected arrivals— without properly recognizing other identifying factors. One particular article mentions both “illegal boat people” and “visa overstayers;” the first category apparently refers to the large communities of Iraqi, Afghan, and Iranian refuges in Australia, but the second category is not clearly defined by nationality. According to Australian government statistics, the term “visa overstayer” is most frequently applied to citizens of the United Kingdom and the United States. Without proper context, it appeared that the journalist was only singling out the Middle Eastern refugees and not elaborating on a more familiar demographic. The lack of description consequently fuels a “them-versus-us” mentality among the Australian readers, who are less likely to identify with the Middle Eastern “foreigners.” Accordingly, this misleading information helps justify a reader’s personal intolerance as well as his support for broader government actions, such as mandatory detention for “illegal boat arrivals.” Ensuring that these unexpected arrivals are not subject to harsh practices as a result of a vague term is integral to guaranteeing their human rights and to maintaining human dignity.

Using a discursive approach to social categorization, the authors cite several examples illustrating the ignorant nature of news articles concerning unexpected arrivals. The media thus emerges as a powerful mechanism for transmitting negative sentiments about Australia’s minority populations, which often serves to legitimize certain social actions (e.g., sending them home and mandatory detention) in the public eye. The authors note, however, that the problem lies with the social categories themselves and not with oppressive journalists attempting to share biased views. Although these broad generalizations may not be valid in every case, the article concludes that providing more appropriate context for social categorizations in media platforms will help safeguard the human rights of these unexpected arrivals by discouraging discrimination and other marginalization practices.



European Journal of Migration & Law, August 2010, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp. 273-297

Staffans, Ida

Abstracted by Katie Corradini

The member states of the European Union control their own refugee status determination (RSD) but the EU understands it is necessary for all member states to reach a consensus regarding laws of judicial protection. In 1999 the common European asylum system (CEAS) and common European asylum procedure (CEAP) were created to further develop the European Commission and harmonize the member states. The author asks two questions regarding international cooperation of the refugee issue in the EU: can judicial protection at the national level be guaranteed at the international level, and are the procedures of the member states a result of their collaboration.

Looking at the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and the United Nations Torture Convention (CAT), Staffans examines each signatory’s RSD at the national level. Though states need to protect their sovereignty, their actions play an important role in determining refugee law at the international level. Perhaps the most important reason for cohesiveness among EU member states is so all people granted asylum will enjoy the same rights throughout the European Union, in addition to member states being able to easily share information about country-of-origin.

Staffans addresses both criticisms and commendations of a unified European court for asylum seekers and refugees. In order for a successful court to be created, the resources and knowledge must provide a high level of protection within the court. If this is not achieved then the system will be unsuccessful. Her criticisms towards a unified court are: member states may be unwilling to relinquish some of their power to the European Union, including giving up their veto power. The Asylum Procedures Directive (APD) has not changed since its adoption and member states would likely be unwilling to change current legislation that gives more power to the EU and takes power away from them. She believes that an inclusive court can be effective in the EU because it has the necessary evaluation and enhancement techniques. Additionally, the prospect of a new court has been talked about for quite some time, therefore member states are familiar with the proposed changes and new rules and regulations that would be imposed.

Regardless of the member states’ decision to adopt a new court and RSD procedures, the bottom line is that the rights and protection of an individual asylum seeker cannot be sacrificed for another individual. An inclusive court will be attainable if courts at regional and national levels work together to ensure protection for each individual, and through harmonization among member states, this is certainly possible.




Journal of Refugee Studies, 2002, Volume 15, Number 1, pp. 71-80

Ager, Alastair, Margaret Malcolm, Sana Sadollah, and Fiona O’May

Abstracted by Kim Bell

Mental Health is a field that until recently was not commonly implemented or integrated into international aid practice when working with refugees and asylum seekers. When mental health professionals work with refugees and asylum seekers, the focus tends to be on their history, such as how past events in their countries of origin as well as their experiences of flight impacted them. However, the focus in this article is on refugees’ post-migration experience after resettlement, specifically with social isolation. The study was a needs assessment in advance of a project and through the study, participants’ priorities were ascertained in regard to supportive actions from the planned service. The study specifically examined the relationship between community contact and mental health as an indicator of post-migratory adjustment. There were twenty-six refugee participants and all lived in the Edinburgh area and were identified by the Scottish Refugee Council as experiencing social isolation. Fourteen of the participants originated from other European countries, eight were from Africa, and four were from Asia. They were between the ages of 20 to 45, had been living in the UK for various amounts of time, and had various marriage statuses and living situations. Although the participants had many diverse characteristics, almost half could be clinically diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and depression, and nearly one third of them had trouble sleeping. The small sample size of this study means that the statistics are unlikely to be representative of the broader population and the power of such statistics is limited. However, the high levels of anxiety and depression experienced by this group support previous studies showing that certain mental health problems are higher among refugees than the general population. What is interesting about this study is that the refugees considered adoptive activities that helped as a bridge into a host community’s culture to be more important than the provision of counseling services. This finding is supported by a study showing that psychological well-being is better among volunteer-assisted refugees because of the broader social networks connected with them. These social networks help them bridge into the host community at the mainstream, not at the margins where they are likely to feel more isolated.




Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 2005, Volume 31, Number 4, pp. 615-638(24)

Colic-Peisker, V.

Abstracted by Katherine Courtnage

Bosnians, displaced by the civil war, currently make up the largest number of post-World War II refugees living in Australia. They have received more money and more visas than any other refugee group. Colic-Peisker believes that the reason behind this phenomenon deals with the invisibility of Bosnians in Australian culture. In other words, Bosnians have the ability to blend into Australian society because they are not initially distinguished as an outsider. They look white in a white country and therefore do not face the same discrimination in the first stages of resettlement as other non-white refugees. The original acculturation does not last, however, and in the second stage of resettlement, when Bosnians must enter the competitive labor force, prejudice and discrimination reappear.

In the 1990s Bosnians received the highest number of permanent protection visas leading to an influx of Bosnians into Australia. Some researchers say that the acceptance of large numbers of Bosnians occurred in part because of the governmental belief that they could adjust into Australian society more successfully than other refugee groups. Colic-Peisker also states that the government and Australian citizens see Bosnians as part of the self. They are Anglo-Europeans and Australians felt a connection when hearing of the violence and rape that occurred during the Bosnian civil war, more so then in other refugee cases. In the initial stages of resettlement a Bosnian’s “whiteness” prevents them from having a role as the “Other”. People can not tell by looking at them that they are refugees, and indeed many Bosnians attempt to separate themselves from other refugee groups. They identify and construct their identity around their perceived feeling as European and therefore they believe that they will easily adapt into Australian society. Acceptance, however, does not last and Bosnians find themselves forced to deal with discriminatory situations. Language, class, economic status, and social interactions all cause the exclusion of Bosnians from Australian society, especially when moving from stage one of resettlement into stage two. As Bosnian refugees move from using government subsidies into the economic labor market discrimination reappears. Most Bosnians have 12 years of school and had skilled jobs in Bosnia. In Australia, however, a majority of Bosnians have jobs below their qualifications. This can cause social unrest and resentment in Bosnian populations, as well as added tensions between Bosnians and native Australians. Beyond working conditions, the idea of Bosnians as an Other is perpetuated by the formation of social networks. Often Bosnian refugees do not move outside of their ethnic community and in turn lose opportunities to gain contacts into Australian society. Isolation from the larger community “decreases the opportunities to achieve social rewards such as good income and high-status jobs, and to experience social promotion” (p. 631).

In summary, “the advantage of whiteness is political, discursive and perhaps psychological in the early stages of resettlement, but largely insubstantial in the everyday reality of resettlement past this early sheltered stage” (p. 635). Bosnians may face less discrimination initially, but in long term resettlement they still get labeled as the Other. At the end of the article Colic-Peisker advises the Australian government and resettlement agencies to promote policies that address the problems that Bosnians and other refugees have. Policies must focus on teaching English to refugees, finding them jobs, and promoting social and economic inclusion within the Australian society.




Journal of Refugee Studies, 1999, Volume 12, Number 1, pp. 1-22(22)

Zetter, Roger

Abstracted by Kate Zimmerly

Large scale repatriation of refugees has been a remarkable legal and logistical accomplishment for the UNHRC and other organizations. However, the viability of repatriation as a construct is more questionable as far as refugees are concerned. Repatriation often involves re-uprooting social structures that have developed in exile and the reintegration of refugees with a “home” that is not simply a physical space, but a mythologized social construct as well. Using data collected from Greek-Cypriot refugees who were displaced during the 1974 Turkish invasion, this paper seeks to refine our conceptualization of how refugees respond to protracted exile, to examine how this response influences their perception of return, and to both question and refine the current understanding of the “myth of return,” which refers to the phenomenon observed in refugee and immigrant communities where the act of returning home becomes an idea that is mythologized and reified.

The myth of return not only encapsulates a fictitious, idealized, or reinvented past, but also a fictitious future: in the case of Greek-Cypriots, return is unfortunately becoming an increasingly remote possibility. In such a majority–identified community as the Greek Cypriot refugees in Southern Cyprus, the myth of return is a dominant theme in culture and politics for all Greek Cypriots, not just refugees. These phenomena help to shape our understanding of how refugees may simultaneously adapt and integrate while continuing to hold on to convictions of return.

However, “myth of return” may be a misconceived shorthand for the “myth of return to home,” as what is mythologized is not the act of return but the restoration of home. What is mythologized is what has been left behind and what, it is hoped, the act of return will accomplish: namely the restoration of what was lost both materially and symbolically. The three parameters of past, future, and present are conceptualized here as a triangle. If one of the points on this triangle is fractured or removed, or a connection between points is severed, then the all-important element of continuity is destroyed. This fractured triangle of past, future, and present is precisely the situation of the refugee after displacement. In the refugee triangle the parameter of the past is fractured, and the past-present and past-future connections are damaged or jeopardized. As such, contradictory behaviors of adaptation to place and the mythologizing of return home can be understood as parallel efforts to repair or restore the fragmented triangle. In this way, variation in the nature and degree to which this conceptual triangle is damaged can help explain the variation in refugees’ responses to protracted displacement. For example, the degree to which an individual is able to repair or strengthen the present-future link can help explain why the myth of return serves as a hope in some cases and a deep-seated conviction or belief in others. It illuminates the issue of why some refugees are able to replace the lost “home” with the new one created in exile, while others seek to reproduce the “home” that was lost. Notions of emplacement therefore are supported. Finally, the concept of the fragmented triangle as presented here helps illuminate issues such as displacement-induced stress, non-linear transition and adaptation, and why some second generation refugees maintain the intensity of their parents’ conviction to return, while other second generation refugees turn towards integration.




Refugees Magazine, United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees, Volume 2, Number 135, 2004, pp. 14-17

Abstracted by Keesha Egebrecht

Central Europe is again “rising to the top” of European affairs, this time on the challenging issue of refugees. There are three countries, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus , which do not have resources to aid the refugees or to monitor the borders to Western Europe. This article aims to bring awareness and to create the necessity to take action by addressing some of the existing challenges in Central Europe ’s refugee situation. During WWII, Ukraine and the surrounding area turned into Europe ’s killing fields. Over the last century, towns and villages have traded their names and/or allegiances at least thirteen times. Also, during the last decade, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus have fallen on the “outside” of the European Union, which is causing some severe hardships for the citizens of those nations and the refugees trying to escape to Europe. Over the last few years the EU has given its new members more than 1 billion dollars to strengthen their borders, immigration and asylum systems. However, these three countries have received almost nothing in comparison. The EU’s eastern neighbors are among the continent’s most impoverished countries. It is obvious that in order to improve the situation and to have everyone win, resources need to be spread throughout the continent. However, the opposite is happening; the imbalance of resources continues to influence the number of people reaching Western Europe illegally or not at all. The situations in Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus affect every nation in the European region. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is heavily involved in asylum and refugee issues there, but is pushing for stronger moves to increase the necessary resources. However, this causes complications because there are too many conflicting initiatives. Their efforts overlap, resulting in waste and inefficiency. Despite the challenges facing them, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus have made progress in meeting the immigration and asylum challenges facing them. They have all acceded to the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention. However, there are many problems that still exist. At least forty-five local laws still need to be synchronized with the 1951 Convention and subsequent international instruments if asylum seekers are going to be allowed to stay and enjoy their full rights. For the many that do get caught, the conditions are terrible. The guards claim, as soon as they get paid off, the refugees will be deported back, which is a breach of international and national law. In 2002 and 2003, because of the isolation, lack of news and horrendous conditions, riots broke out and there were mass escapes from detaining sites. These incidents were played up in the news, adding to the latent xenophobia. Many perceive foreigners to be troublemakers and that they receive better medical facilities and food than the poor locals. A gentleman in the article was quoted as saying, “You can build as many walls as you like, but this will not stop people trying to reach Europe. Walls are no match for poverty and desperation.” The article wraps up by reaffirming the region is again at the center of European affairs, but with a new set of problems to overcome.




Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, January 2003, Volume 29, Number 1, pp. 5-26 (21)

Franz B.

Abstracted by Carol Vernon

When refugee and asylum applications accelerated in post-1989 Western Europe, states responded by lowering admission ceilings. A shift occurred from prior emphasis on resettlement and political asylum to temporary protection and repatriation as the most desirable “durable solutions.” This article addresses some of the legal and political changes and their effects on the refugee population by comparing two vastly different resettlement schemes: that of the US and Austria. This study was based on in-depth interviews in 1999 with 26 Bosnian refugees resettled in Vienna and 20 in New York City, plus interviews with key personnel in both governmental and non-governmental organizations. In spring and summer of 1992, more than 30,000 Bosnians entered Austria. Due to its geographic location, it was the first Western European state inundated with a large influx of Bosnian refugees. Fearing that foreigners would swamp their country, the Austrian government set the precedent in Europe by giving temporary protected status (TPS) to refugees from the Balkans area, instead of classifying them as refugees under Article 1 of the 1951 Refugee Convention. The Federal Asylum Office made the criteria for applying for asylum so difficult that most Bosnians were prohibited from applying. Of those that did apply, over two-thirds were rejected. Since Austria denied Bosnian refugees the Convention asylum status, they held an uncertain residence status for a number of years and most could not seek legal employment or travel freely throughout the country. A majority found work, however, through the black market. Those Bosnians who came to the US prior to August 10, 1992 were also given TPS status, which allowed them to seek employment and travel freely throughout the country. TPS status ended on February 10, 2001. Most Bosnians who came to the US, however, came under the refugee resettlement program and, as such, were treated as Convention refugees. With a US policy that provided a wide array of services through public-private partnerships, it could be surmised that the Bosnian refugees would fare much better in terms of economic success and upward mobility. Conversely, the two groups showed similar patterns of upward mobility. Both groups took similar types of jobs initially; Bosnian women in Austria, however, disproportionately shouldered the initial socio-economic adjustment due to the particular demands of the black labor market. Through their individual determination, many were eventually able to convert these jobs to permanent guest worker positions. As guest workers, they gained social service benefits for themselves and their families. In the US, settlement agencies encouraged early employment for the heads of household in mostly entry-level jobs. An analysis showed that the two groups adapted socio-economically quite similarly, leading to the conclusion that this was due more to individual initiative and persistence than to state policy.




Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, October 2002, Volume 28, Number 4, pp. 701-721 (21)

Lavenex S.

Abstracted by Carol Vernon

With the post-1989 transition to democracy, the ten candidate countries for EU membership from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have largely acceded to international refugee and asylum conventions and treaties, including the signing of the Geneva Refugee Convention. They are also rapidly evolving from sending to receiving countries. Given these monumental changes, as well as increased refugee flows from the East and the South, there is a growing need to develop the necessary social, legal, and administrative infrastructure to handle such challenges. In this article, all ten candidate countries are shown to exhibit a similar pattern of refugee policy reform, although each has had very different experiences with asylum. Since each had to adopt general asylum and immigration legislation in order to acquire EU membership, the first reforms were seen as liberalizing, in that they guaranteed fleeing persons the right to the asylum process. The second stage of reform showed increased restrictions as borders became tighter. The principals of “safe third country rule”, “safe countries of origin”, expedited expulsions and returns, and the tightening of visa requirements were also implemented. The third stage has involved a balancing of each country’s reforms based on its reaction to deficits exposed by an annual EU report. While it has been generally accepted that refugee policy transfer among EU candidate countries is due to pressure and coercion from the EU, upon further review, however, it appears that these domestic changes are chiefly due to the impact of policy reforms by neighboring EU member states. Interestingly, the UNHCR has had very limited impact on legislative developments in CEE countries. Instead, the candidate states have largely been influenced by the (often uncoordinated) efforts and activities of individual neighboring states, extending to bilateral readmission agreements and arrangements between these states. Another interesting development is the Twinnings’ Program, the practice of pairing established asylum agencies in Western states with their counterparts in the CEE. The program’s aim is to help candidate countries establish the structures, human resources, management, and leadership skills in the refugee arena so that they can achieve the same standards as member states. Given that the CEE countries did not participate in the international refugee regime before, their inexperience and uncertainty in the refugee field may lead to eventual conflicts of interest about what kind of protection should be offered and for whom.




Ethnic and Racial Studies, 1 July 2001, Volume 24, Number 1, pp. 578-600 (23)

Al-Ali N., Black R. and Koser K.

Abstracted by Sabra Barnett

The study of transnationalism emerged in the late 1990’s and at once began to challenge the ideas of nationalism and has been used to explore multiple disciplinary fields. The authors state that transnationalism is considered to be the way in which migrants’ economic, political and social relations create social fields and networks across political borders that are maintained over time. This article explores the limits of this term as it applies to the experience of migrants in areas of the world besides the Americas . The three elements considered here are: the role of historical contexts in transnationalism, the role of the state and the role of social and political factors that stimulate transnational actions. The case studies explored in this article are Bosnian refugees in the UK and the Netherlands and Eritrean refugees in the UK and Germany. The authors consider both communities in light of the three elements, historical context, the role of the state and of social and political factors, analyzing both extensions and limitations of transnationalism. For example, Bosnian refugees tended to avoid transnational activities because doing so was perceived as possibly jeopardizing their legal status in their new country. Significantly, Bosnians also saw their “home” country as having disappeared since Yugoslavia had disappeared. On the other hand, Eritreans had less legal troubles and therefore were free to pursue transnational behaviors, especially by maintaining strong ties with those back in Eritrea. Additionally, the Eritrean State has encouraged such behaviors. The authors also show that social pressures have created “forced transnationalism,” as different kinship, bureaucratic and political pressures force refugees to remain involved in their home countries even if they do not wish to return. For example, those who did not flee often regard Bosnian refugees with resentment as being “traitors,” and as a result, refugees will hide their hardships while consistently sending home remittances. Similarly, Eritrean refugees respond to social and bureaucratic pressures by continuing to pay a “tax” to the Eritrean State that has become closely linked to social status and acceptance. The article stresses the importance of these elements in producing highly uneven patterns of transnational activities both within and between these two groups of refugees. The authors conclude that neither the Bosnians nor the Eritreans studied constituted clear examples of “transnational communities;” they were in a dynamic, evolving process, not a “state of being” and were not “locked into fixed social fields or practices” (p. 17). They further conclude that there is a distinct difference between the Bosnian and Eritrean forms of transnationalism, most related to the way in which the Eritrean State has dealt more effectively with its diaspora. Related to this, many factors including the state and cultural positions combine to push transnationalism in a certain way and create “enforced transnationalism.” Finally, conditions including the refugees’ time frames, education and social background do exist that foster one type of transnational interaction over others.




International Journal of Urban & Regional Research, 1996, Volume 20, Number 1, pp. 83-98 (16)

Faist, Thomas and Haußermann, Hartmutt

Abstracted by Michael Neil

During the twentieth century, a vast influx of immigrants of varying legal and social status has led to unrest concerning the ability and willingness of states to provide them with the social service entitlements of the past. In the 1990s, contentious political battles developed over the feasibility of nation-states continuing provision of social services, designed for their citizenry, to unanticipated and often unwelcome immigrants, while maintaining desired cultural identity. Within the context of a relatively strong welfare state, such as Germany, how is this problem addressed?

According to Faist and Häußermann, the unified German state has struggled with resource allocation through the 1990s and beyond. Today, immigrants of various types constitute at least 8% of the total German population. With the increase in immigration during the late 1980s and 1990s resulting from the fall of the German Democratic Republic, other ex-Communist nations in Eastern Europe , and the Former Soviet Union, the German government tightened immigration policy and began the systematic, yet informal, exclusion of “unwelcome” groups. It tightened criteria for asylum. Restrictions limited movement into the nation, as well as made qualifications for residency and work permits more stringent, while they curtailed housing and work provisions, as well as some political rights. Immigrants, in general, including guest workers, refugees from East Germany , migrant laborers, seasonal workers, and asylum seekers and receivers, vied and continue to compete for pieces of the shrinking German social service budget.

De facto German provision of social services as well as qualifications for citizenship were, and continue to be, largely based on ethno-cultural criteria. As such, ethnic Germans from formerly communist Eastern Europe achieved full benefits under resident non-citizen legal status upon arrival, a benefit shared by recognized refugees, though the latter must remain for at least five years to acquire citizenship while ethnic Germans qualified immediately. Settled guest workers, including Turks and Yugoslavs, can receive services immediately and qualify for citizenship after ten years, but temporary workers cannot receive either entitlement, and their employment conditions are tenuous. Asylum-seekers who do not obtain prior official legal recognition can receive education and unemployment insurance but no social security or housing.

This denial of access to both the private housing market (because of poverty) and subsidized housing often produces alienation. Even when asylum seekers achieve legally recognized status as refugees, they experience isolation and separation from the social fabric and governmental process of Germany . Even though these recognized refugees might acquire subsidized housing, this entitlement, which often places them in crowded, poverty-stricken, urban centers, manifests in tension and violence with German neighbors. Hostility has also increased with the insertion of new immigrants from East Germany and other European nations during the 1990s and the post-Cold War immigration crisis remains one of the most contentious political issues within Germany and Europe as a whole. Xenophobic right-wing political parties have used the issue of cultural homogeneity and the undesirable dilution of social services for citizens in acceptor nations to gain support for increasingly stringent anti-immigrant budgetary and social policies across much of Europe, especially in France, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Italy. These measures are popular with many in a heretofore social-democratic European society that now seeks to build “economic prosperity,” at the cost of social programs, for successful participation in the European Union. Thus, a chain reaction has significantly reduced the expectation of an economically viable and certain future for both immigrants, and nationals. The catalyst of historical political upheaval with its attendant resettlement of displaced peoples has created hardship on the part of nations accustomed to largely homogeneous cultures. Overburdened social services budgets have collided with attempted international political federation in the European Union, resulting in states denying the poor within their borders a social safety net in order to consolidate monies for economic ventures.



The University of Miami, Inter-American Law Review, 31 (3) pp. 439-62

De La Asuncion, A.

Abstracted by Jonathan Page

This article advocates for the provision of Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for Colombians; in doing so, it imparts a thorough description of the present situation and examination of court rulings regarding asylum seekers. The author finds that while the United States claims to have an open door policy for those fleeing persecution and even describes itself as a safe harbor, the current legal situation fails to provide adequate protection for Colombian asylees. Due to the lack of media coverage and international attention, the current state of affairs is not widely known worldwide and continues to remain ignored. This is despite the fact that Colombia is the only country within the region which is still affected by a civil war, and that its population of internally displaced people was estimated at one million in 1997 (with only the IDP populations of Sudan, Angola, and Afghanistan surpassing theirs). The author finds that the United States has a severe general misunderstanding concerning the crisis in Colombia. This is evidenced by the Supreme Court case of INS v. Elias-Zacarias in 1992, which ruled that coercion by a guerilla organization does not necessarily constitute persecution for asylum purposes because an alien’s decision to remain neutral during civil strife does not satisfy their interpretation of a political opinion. De La Asuncion details Colombia’s history of civil war, providing a description of the parties involved, including guerilla groups, the Colombian armed forces, and paramilitary groups as well as the alleged human rights abuses each group has been accused of. She goes on to state that refugee policy in the United States is heavily influenced by foreign policy, as the US is hesitant to imply that a nation with whom the government has a favorable relationship is persecuting its citizens. The author finds that the provision of TPS to persecuted Colombians is the ideal solution. TPS was introduced under the Immigration Act of 1990 and allows the United States to provide protection to individuals whose native countries are experiencing civil strife and who do not meet the criteria for being granted refugee status. In addition, De La Asuncion points out that TPS would allow the US government a way in which to provide protection to individuals without making negative judgments in regards to foreign governments. Until the US government realizes that the decision to remain neutral in Colombia’s armed conflict is, in fact, a political decision that often results in persecution, thousands of Colombians will be denied political asylum, which is a critical need.




Migration World Magazine, Volume XXVII No. 3, 1999, pp. 26-28

Abstracted by Christy Jeziorski

Bella Vista is one of 18 resettlement areas for refugees in Belize. The area “accepted” mestizo refugees from Central America, beginning with refugees from El Salvador entering the country in the 1970s, due to growing violence and overcrowding. In the mid-1980s, Guatemalans fled their country due to the civil war. These migrations shifted the ethnic population structure of Belize, where today, mestizos make up about 40% of Belize’s population, 75% of whom are refugees. This article focuses on conflicting land lease claims in Southern Belize and the Bella Vista resettlement area in particular, among the mestizo refugees and Belizean nationals, including the Creole, Garifuna, and Maya populations. Expanding Mayan populations and refugees were competing against each other in leasing land in the settlement areas. The settlement area of Bella Vista was mainly comprised of refugees who initially resided in illegal squatter settlements on unused land on large farms, and in particular, on a neighboring banana plantation for nearly 5 years. Most of the refugees worked there. In response to complaints by the Belize Banana Growers Association, the Refugee Department and Lands Office in conjunction with the UNHCR procured land from an absentee Honduran lease holder and moved the refugees to Bella Vista in 1996. Since then, many of those who worked on the banana plantations continue to do so, although they do so under extenuating circumstances. The walk to and from Bella Vista is 3 hours each way. In addition, residents of Bella Vista are not given access to electricity and water, and do not receive police protection. Bella Vista was “partnered” with San Juan, a neighboring village some 15 kilometers away to handle civic matters, yet residents of Bella Vista do not receive the benefits or protections that have been promised to them. The residents of Bella Vista desired to establish a junta to raise issues with the ministry, yet the government refused to recognize this process. The article describes additional issues regarding rights and protection such as the Government of Belize refusing to grant asylum to refugees, stating that the fear of probable persecution on return to home countries has disappeared in Central America due to a variety of regional negotiated peace settlements. Yet, despite such ill treatment and lack of rights, some refugees still believe that their lives are better in regard to wages and standards of living.




Human Organization, 1993, Volume 52, Number 2, p. 186-193

Moss, Nancy, Michael C. Stone, and Jason B. Smith

Abstracted by Debbie Martinez

This article, written in the early 1990s, carefully examines the influx of Salvadoran and Guatemalan immigrants into Belize throughout the 1980s. At the time, civil wars were taking place in both El Salvador and Guatemala; therefore, a large number of migrants sought refuge in neighboring countries. The authors investigate three settlements in Belize and develop a study that examines the correlation between displaced women, their legal status, and the rates at which they had children. Women were placed in one of three classified groups – refugees, displaced persons without legal status, or permanent residents. Their study explored the women’s desired family size, their views on family planning, and methods of contraception they were aware of. The authors found that the women without legal residency status were the most interested in family planning with the least amount of knowledge on contraceptive methods. Therefore, the authors chose to further examine the health services and education available to the women living in these settlements. Three key components of the Belizean health services at the time were the availability of free primary and hospital care for residents, readily available contraception, and free family planning assistance. Evidently, the reproduction rights of displaced women were being considered. However, it was not a requirement to refer all displaced persons (including those without legal residency status) to these family health services. According to the authors, it should not only be an obligation to provide these services, specifically health education, to all the women living in these settlements, but they should also be presented in a way that is sensitive to their cultural and linguistic needs. These Salvadoran and Guatemalan displaced women were concerned with family planning, but suffered from an inequitable distribution of contraception and health education. The authors conclude their article by offering a compelling argument towards the importance of introducing these health services to all displaced women, regardless of their legal status.




Development & Change, 2001, Volume 32, Number 4, pp. 769-791(22)

Stepputat, F. and Sorensen, N.

Abstracted by Hayden Gore

In the 1980s, the Peruvian Central Highlands saw a dramatic increase in terrorist activity as the Maoist guerilla group Sendero Luminoso (SL) engaged the Peruvian military in armed conflict. As a result, the region experienced a significant rise in the number of massacres, assassinations, rapes, and destruction of property, which displaced many thousands of people from rural areas under the control of the SL to urban centers still controlled by the government. Beginning in the early 1990s, the category of ‘internally displaced person’ or IDP, was introduced into the lexicon of transnational NGOs and government agencies in order to describe those individuals that had fled the violence in the Central Andes. Though this appellation helped to publicize the plight of the displaced by endowing them with a group identity and, therefore, enhancing their bargaining power for assistance from the state and international NGOs, the authors of the article argue that the term was sometimes wrongly applied. Due to historic patterns of migration, many of the more prosperous peasants of Central Peru’s Montaro Valley had developed dual sources of income from both rural agriculture and urban commerce. However, when they fled the violence in the rural areas of the Valley and relocated in the departmental capital of Huancayo in the 1980s, they were forced to shift from their rural/urban mobile livelihoods to an exclusively urban existence. In many ways, this shift imperiled the economic stability that agricultural production had always offered them. According to the authors, the ‘internally displaced’ label applied to these individuals discounted the degree to which they had oscillated back and forth between rural and urban settings and wrongly categorized them as an exclusively static, rural population. International NGOs tended to deemphasize the fact of their livelihoods because it made the “displaced” people’s story less compelling – presumably international donors would not respond to the story of people who fled their homes in the country for their homes in the city. Additionally, government negotiators embraced this concept and insisted that any resettlement would have to be permanent and exclusive to rural areas, reducing the mobility these people had previously enjoyed between the two settings. As a result, the authors argue that this mis-categorization hindered the resettled communities by limiting their ability to resume their mobile urban/rural livelihoods, leaving them economically vulnerable and dependent on aid programs that more closely resembled emergency assistance than long-term development strategies.




Identities, 2001, Volume 7, Number 4, pp. 461-500(40)

Pessar, Patricia R.

Abstracted by Hayden Gore

In the early 1980s, the Guatemalan military initiated a ‘scorched earth’ campaign that attempted to annihilate the country’s guerilla insurgency by targeting its base of support among indigenous people of the Guatemalan western highlands. The resulting violence caused an estimated 200,000 Guatemalans to flee into neighboring Mexico, where they settled in refugee camps and received support from the Mexican government, the UNHCR, and international NGOs. In these camps, indigenous Guatemalan women encountered an international refugee regime that was just beginning to take the special needs of refugee women into consideration in the provision of protection, economic assistance, and human rights education. This new approach reflected an emerging acknowledgement within the UNHCR and among international NGOs of the importance of empowering women to engage in the camps’ decision-making process and the search for durable solutions to their predicament. Encouraged by their new contacts with these transnational organizations, indigenous refugee women began to organize and assert themselves under a new feminist consciousness that emphasized women’s autonomy and inherent equality to men. As a result, indigenous women began to recognize and claim citizenship rights within the transnational context of the refugee camp in ways that had not been possible in the gender-biased local or national context of Guatemala. The author, therefore, describes the refugee camps in Mexico as sites of a liberating “feminist conscientization” that challenged the predominate view of women refugees as despondent, downtrodden and marginalized victims. This burgeoning feminist consciousness among refugee women was best reflected in the emergence of Mamá Maquín, a women’s organization that at its height boasted about 8,000 members within the Mexican camps.

Despite the achievements of Guatemalan refugee women in organizing themselves and asserting broad-based citizen rights for the first time, the author offers their story as a cautionary tale of what happens when refugee women are resettled to their country of origin, abandoned by the transnational organizations that once supported them as refugees, and newly subjugated by a state that is hostile to ideas of female empowerment. Though certain gains remain, the author concludes that much of the progress that women made in the refugee camps has eroded due to deceitful male leadership that happily returned to its hegemonic position once resettled within Guatemala, a gender-biased Guatemalan state, and the relative abandonment of refugee women by the UNHCR and the international NGOs that once vigorously supported their empowerment.




Journal of Refugee Studies, 1997, Volume 10, Number 1, pp. 61-78(18)

Krznaric, Roman

Abstracted by Hayden Gore

In the late 1980s, Guatemalan refugees living in camps in the three Mexican states (Chiapas, Campeche and Quintana Roo) established Permanent Commissions of Guatemalan Refugees (CCPP) in order to negotiate with the Guatemalan government for the right of a collective return. On October 8, 1992, the Guatemalan government and the CCPP agreed to allow the refugees to return and guaranteed them freedom of association, freedom of movement, right to life and personal security, as well as access to land. At the time of the returns Guatemalan refugees were thought to share a unifying sense of common identity, shaped from their experience in the camps and their struggle for recognition from the Guatemalan government. This article, however, suggests that any attempts to see the Guatemalan refugees as a monolithic, cohesive community are inaccurate and asserts that the high level of political mobilization achieved among refugees in the camps (once seen as a source of their extraordinary unity) actually created internal conflicts that negatively impacted their ability to negotiate for development projects and rights protections in the resettled communities. According to the author, the political mobilization of previously undetermined groups (such as women in the case of Mamá Maquín) and their appropriation of human rights language (which was acquired in the transnational space of the camps) created a complex system of competing power centers that eventually challenged the authority of the CCPP. The resulting discord has manifested itself in disputes over control of local resources and a general disagreement about the extent to which the returned communities should cooperate with the government and private industry in local development projects. While the author acknowledges that such conflicts could be interpreted as indications of a flourishing, participatory democracy in returned communities, he asserts that these divisions and the resulting political fragmentation has almost certainly impaired their ability to present a unified front in the struggle with the government to gain full implementation of the rights contained in the October 1992 refugee accord.




Disasters, 2000, Volume 24, Number 3, pp. 198-216

Muggah, H.C.

Abstracted by Lisa Kunkel

The author explores the utility and applicability of a model designed for development induced displacement (DID) for conflict induced displacement (CID). Cernea’s Impoverishment Risks and Livelihood Reconstruction model (IRLR) is applied to the experiences of internally displaced people in Colombia. The author argues that Cernea’s model is an improvement over cost-benefit frameworks but is perhaps too narrowly focused on economic issues. Some risk dimensions are added to the model in order to account for the impact of conflict induced displacement including access to education, opportunities to participate in the political process, and the ongoing risk of violence. According to the author, a more fundamental limitation of the model is that it is “effects based” and does not address the human rights violations that precipitate displacement. Application of the IRLR model is also less problematic in DID than CID because the state can prepare for resettlement and may have more of a political incentive to do so in order to enhance the popularity of large-scale development projects. Conflict displacement is much less predictable and poses greater challenges to planning and intervention. The author also highlights important features of the Colombian case to illustrate both the advantages and shortcoming of the IRLR model. Government, guerilla and paramilitary forces all play a role in conflict induced displacement in Colombia . As such, both the blame and responsibility are dispersed and the state feels less pressured to address the needs of IDPs. The pattern of conflict displacement in Colombia also poses challenges for comprehensive resettlement and redevelopment. Families often initially move to a nearby town or community so that they can periodically check on their land and property with the hope that they may be able to return when the conflict de-escalates. The result is that IDPs make multiple moves before reaching a resettlement community. By then it is quite possible that certain impoverishment risks have taken their toll. The author evaluates impoverishment risks for both rural and semi-urban IDP resettlements to empirically evaluate the model. She concludes that the IRLR model provides a useful set of criteria for assessing problems that arose for IDP communities, particularly when modifications for CID were included. Increased impoverishment according to IRLR variables is documented in both communities. Within the communities, perceptions of risk differed according to age and gender. For example, adult men worried primarily about the lack of employment, whereas women were often concerned with their children’s access to education (which also impacts whether women can work during the day). Adolescents sited violence as their primary concern in addition to worries about their future. Though the model provides a fairly comprehensive assessment and analysis tool, the intervention component is quite difficult to utilize in the case of Colombian IDPs. The idea of being able to turn factors “on their head” is less plausible in the Colombian conflict than in the context of DID given the state’s inability to plan for CID, as well as the state’s complicity with causes of displacement and its lack of political will to address an overwhelming problem.




Sierra Magazine, November/December 2000, pp. 73-75

McConahay M.

Abstracted by Christine VanDerwill

This article gives an overview of the forced migration that took place in the highlands of Guatemala as a result of a World Bank-subsidized development project and the subsequent plight of the environmental refugees displaced from 15 villages in the Rio Negro Valley. The author presents an ecological dimension to the conflict in Guatemala, while drawing upon issues of refugee protection and resource allocation. In 1975 the Guatemalan government began plans for the construction of the Chixoy hydroelectric dam in the Rio Negro Valley. The project completed in the early 1980s has displaced 5,000 Achi Maya Indians from their ancestral lands and villages. The author suggests that the relative scale of movement as a result of the Chixoy dam compared to other contemporary dam projects in China and India is minimal; however, the consequences for the Achi Maya Indians have been as equally fatal. The land was a source of livelihood for the villagers, as well as a link to their Mayan past and culture. The ancestors of the Achi Maya had lived in the Rio Negro Valley for at least a thousand years and sacred ceremonial and burial sites were flooded. The Achi Maya were never consulted on the project nor was any dialogue facilitated between the government and the villagers to discuss the project. Initial protests on the part of the Maya led to the promise of relocation and possible compensation from the government. However, between 1980 and 1982, the efforts to negotiate and organize dissipated as civil patrollers and soldiers raped, kidnapped and killed the protestors. The author illustrates that environmental refugees can easily fall victim to acts of violence during times of conflict and certainly require the same legal and physical protection as political refugees. Civilian populations are increasingly the targets of military action as was the case in Guatemala's violent civil war. Initially, the massacre at Rio Negro became another tragedy in the war and the government was quick to brand the Achi Maya as guerillas or subversives essentially legitimizing the killings. By 1983 the dam project was completed and the remaining Achi Maya were displaced to sites closer to major towns and military bases. Living in resettlement schemes hours from their ancestral lands, the reorganized Achi Maya have pursued legal action - three of the civil patrollers from the 1982 massacre have been brought to trial and a forensic anthropology team has been assigned to research remains found in the Rio Negro Valley. In concluding, the author points to the irony of the displaced Achi living in towns where electricity is scarce and firewood is found hours away by foot. This further underscores the impact that access to resources – in particular land and water – has on both environmental and political refugees in forming durable solutions in resettlement and integration.




Geographical Review, Latin American Geography, July 1996, Volume 86, Number 3, pp. 398-407

Lovell G., Lutz C.

Abstracted by Christine VanDerwill

From the time of the Spanish conquest the Maya Indians of Guatemala have endured warfare, slavery, disease, exploitation, forced migration and resettlement. In spite of these atrocities, the Maya have sustained a population growth rarely recorded in Native American cultures. This article examines democratic trends of the Maya in Guatemala dating from the time of the Spanish conquest (1520) to present-day (1994) with emphasis on the percentage of Maya in relation to the total population of Guatemala. It provides a historical and geographical context in which to analyze the marginalization of the Maya by the state of Guatemala despite their ability to maintain a decreased but significant population inside of and out of Guatemala. The data outlined in the article indicates a significant decline in population during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries–owing in large part to disease - followed by significant recovery and growth until the end of the nineteenth century. By the 1880s the Maya constituted nearly 70% of the total population of Guatemala; however, growth would decline in subsequent decades and by the 1960's the Maya constituted only 42% of the total population. From this point on the Maya would officially be a minority within Guatemala and an ethnic and numerical inferiority would now coincide. The decreases in population are attributed to labor reform and consequent forced migration and later seasonal migration from the Highlands to the Pacific piedmont under Guatemala's developing commercial agricultural programs. It is argued that the massive movements out of their ancestral lands in the Highlands and the subsequent disruption to sedentary life contributed to lower fertility rates. The authors also point to the possibility of inadequate documentation and “statistical manipulation” on the part of the Guatemalan government in an attempt to illustrate a “whitening” of the overall population. The civil wars of the 1970s and 1980s further uprooted the Maya and led to massive flight and resettlement into Mexico , the United States and Canada which further obscures official census counts. Looking at present-day figures, the authors estimate that 5 to 6 million Maya have survived the recent civil war, and although many are internally displaced and nearly 1 million have migrated to the U.S. and Canada , they still account for a significant portion of Guatemala s population. The authors conclude that Maya population history and trends are significant in a socio-political context when looking at how the Maya fit into the modern day nation-state of Guatemala and their future prospects to gain cultural and political equality. As the Maya resettle in exile and repatriate to their ancestral lands in Guatemala their capacity to sustain population levels will be a critical factor in shaping modern Guatemala.




Center for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean, Working Papers Series, York University, May 1997, Number 11

Nolin Hanlon C.

Abstracted by Christine VanDerwill

The present-day Maya of Guatemala are one of the most geographically dispersed indigenous societies in the Americas . This article examines Maya patterns of flight, exile and return during and after the violent civil war of the 1980s and how the process of resettlement and return has shaped the identity of the Maya. Focusing on the Maya who fled into the Southern Mexican state of Chiapas , the author contends that the decision of flight was a political response to counterinsurgency military operations in the highlands of Northwestern Guatemala . Historical-roots with Chiapas coupled with proximity and a familiar landscape made flight from their ancestral lands into Chiapas a logical geographical response. An overview of exile in Mexico and the avenues of return follow with a focus on the advent of collective voluntary return developed by the Maya in an attempt to return to their lands under starkly different conditions from those which they fled. Voluntary repatriation and resettlement into refugees camps located on the Yucatan Peninsula were met with resistance and the Maya began an unprecedented effort to organize themselves and engage in negotiations. Continued land reform schemes and lack of political will on the part of the Guatemalan government factored in to a slow repatriation process. Impediments to return included low intensity violence, intimidation by the military, denial of access to former lands and denial of land credits. Bowing under pressure from the military and economic elite, the Guatemalan government failed to guarantee the safe return of the exiled. Regardless, the desire to return home to their places of birth even under perilous conditions underscores the strong bond the Maya have to their ancestral lands. In the latter part of the article a link between geography and cultural identity is presented. Two key elements of exile and displacement – the shifting of place and the passing of time – are presented as contributing to a metamorphosis in the identity of the Maya. An identity formally based on connections to land and birth place is transformed by the creation of new communities formed in refugee camps and in exile over the course of a decade. Communities of association and a unified political voice are illustrated as complementing “birthplace” and municipal ties in forming identity. The changing perceptions and powers of the Guatemalan government and dominating class challenge the Maya identity as well. In conclusion, the author maintains that culture and ethnic identity is dynamic particularly for those Maya that have been in exile and struggle to return to their homeland. The resultant transformation of the Maya will also contribute to the restructuring of Guatemala, future geographic movements and prospects for returning populations.



Sociology of Health and Illness, 2007, Volume 29, Number 4, pp. 515-535(21)

Feldmann, T., Bensing, J., de Ruijter, A. and Boeije, H.

Abstracted by Katherine Courtnage

Health can positively or negatively affect the overall experience that refugees have post flight in their country of settlement. Feldmann et al research the effect that general practitioners have on resettlement and health in the population of Afghan refugees in the Netherlands. In a study encompassing 32 people, using semi-structured interviews, Feldmann et al gauged whether refugees had a positive or negative experience with their general practitioners and how this affected their individual health and integration into society. The authors look at two types of resources that aid refugees in resettling successfully: personal resources and social resources. Personal resources include a “sense of control, ethnic pride, time perspective, and level of acculturation” (p.516). Social resources encompass the relationships that people have either within their ethnic group or in the community as a whole. General practitioners fall into the category of social resources.

The main component that affects a refugee’s experience of health care is their level of trust in their general practitioner. The study found that refugees that had a positive experience with their general practitioner gained trust in the health system while those that had a negative experience had a negative opinion of the health system, lacked trust, and often had more health problems. Examples of positive experiences included a general practitioner that was perceived as friendly, listened, and quickly gave referrals that addressed the illness. Incidents that caused a negative reaction included perceived rudeness, slow diagnoses, a feeling of not being taken seriously, and unjustified psychological explanations. Narratives of Afghan refugees showed a trend regarding experiences, in which a relationship with the general practitioner could end in one of four ways: the experience could be only positive, only negative, positive in the past but now negative, or negative in the past but now positive.

Beyond trust, the social resources of a refugee also influences whether they have a positive or negative experience. In the study, Afghans that had connections to Dutch society were more likely to receive appropriate care. Likewise, if the general practitioner acted as a positive social resource then the refugee often felt more acculturated into society. The perception of health care in general also has an affect on the experience of the refugee. When Afghans heard stories from their friends and family it biased their view of the health system. If the stories were positive it could promote trust and positive views, but when the stories were negative it reiterated already pessimistic views.

Feldman et al. stress that health plays a crucial role in the resettlement process of refugees. Therefore when negative experiences occur it is cause for great apprehension and concern. Refugees must trust the health system enough to believe that if medical care were needed they could get it. When that trust is not there or prejudice occurs it causes problems in resettlement and can undermine the health system as a whole. It is necessary for health care workers to treat their patients in a humane and friendly manner where shared decision-making is part of treatment.




Refugee Manipulation - War, Politics, and the Abuse of Human Suffering

Stedman S., Tanner F. (eds.), 2003, pp. 57-94

Grare F.

Abstracted by Marie E. Ott

Manipulation of refugee populations by the host country’s government and/or other groups is not uncommon during conflicts. President Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan took advantage of the large Afghan refugee presence in his country in order to improve the economic and political security in Pakistan. The refugees’ participation in resistance against the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan was a vital part of this plan to serve Pakistan’s geopolitical objectives. This article explores how the Afghan refugees became a vital part of the resistance against the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan while strengthening the geopolitical position of Pakistan. Unlike other cases of refugee manipulation and refugee camp militarization such as Rwanda and Cambodia, the Afghan refugees had a greater freedom to choose to participate in the resistance. Additionally, the refugees’ resistance was seen as legitimate by the international community. The article presents the causes of Afghan refugee flight into Pakistan as well as the environmental, economic, domestic security and geopolitical threats that Pakistan faced by hosting the refugees. Pakistan’s policy toward refugees was a key factor in the political manipulation of the Afghan refugees by President Zia-ul-Haq. The Pakistani government did not want the primarily Islamic Afghan resistance in exile to unite and become too powerful. The government recognized seven separate Islamic Afghan resistance political parties within Pakistan and required all Afghan refugees to join one of the parties. International public opinion considered the presence of these parties as a legitimate form of Afghan resistance against the Soviet occupation, especially since it seemed that the parties had the support of the Afghan population. The international community sent financial assistance to Pakistan in support of its Afghanistan policy and its humanitarian treatment of refugees. The Pakistani government, however, was not able to pursue much longer the manipulation of the Afghan refugees without some consequences. When the resistance parties began to attack each other, Pakistan supported the Taliban and aided the group’s recruitment of refugees to fight for them in Afghanistan. As it became more clear that the Taliban identified with Islamic fundamentalism and had a poor women’s rights record, international public opinion, led by the United States, became critical of Pakistan’s link to the Taliban. In conclusion the article states that it would be ideal to create new refugee regimes that eliminate political manipulation of refugees by states and conflicting parties. However, this would not get to the root of the political problem. As is shown by the case of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, Pakistan’s objective was not only politically self-serving, it was also accepted by the international community.




Population Review, 2004, Volume 43, Number 1, pp. 37-49(12)

Sirkeci, Ibrahim

Abstracted by Ellie Azoff

Written at a time when the future of the Iraq war and the potential for peace were unknown due to a premature declaration that the Iraq war was over, Sirkeci’s article examines the all too current theme of Iraqi out-migration and its causes. In 2004, as well as present day 2007, little definitive information exists on Iraqi migration, the numbers coming only from the number of documented Iraqi immigrants seeking new homes in “safe countries.” Sirkeci’s article not only aims to add to the small amount of existing documentation but also to provide an analysis of what will happen in Iraq once the U.S. led invasion is over through his theory of environments of insecurity and opportunity frameworks.

Sirkeci begins by following the pattern of refugee and asylum seekers from Iraq in safe countries over the past twenty years. Although data are limited Sirkeci provides a thorough analysis of Iraqi immigration trends in the most preferred countries to which Iraqis flee. These countries include Germany, Turkey, Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark. By following these data Sirkeci proves that Iraqis were most likely to seek refugee and asylum status in times of conflict. He states that out-migration was highest during the gulf war, the economic embargo and currently with the US led invasion.

Although it is not startling, nor even helpful, to state that people are most likely to flee in times of conflict, Sirkeci uses his simple findings to promote his theory of the “environment of insecurity” or EOI. Within the constructs of this theory Sirkeci explores major concepts within the field of migration. He states that within the EOI people are given two choices, to either exit or to maintain the status quo. Using his expertise with the migration of Kurds out of Turkey he explains that those wishing to leave Turkey were the exiters, those who stayed maintained the status quo and essentially adopted a Turkish identity.

Sirkeci also supplements his theory of the EOI with the idea of opportunity frameworks. Sirkeci states that these opportunity frameworks are created through EOI. The EOI does not necessarily need to be caused by conflict but could be caused through socioeconomic pressures, political deprivation or ethnic tensions. When these aforementioned insecurities exist opportunity frameworks are created for those who flee. What is most interesting about Sirkeci’s theory is that he goes so far as to say these frameworks allow people to leave when they have already been planning to do so. He also states that those who take advantage of these “opportunity frameworks” are usually enjoying a high standard of living in the country they wish to leave. By using the term “opportunity frameworks” and suggesting the majority who leave are the well-off, he is minimizing the idea of “forced migration,” a term so commonly used by migration experts who study in the same field. By using this alternative syntax Sirkeci is suggesting that those fleeing Iraq are not primarily doing so out of desperation or fear but rather that they are taking advantage of this opportunity to leave Iraq because they have always wished to do so.

Sirkeci closes his article by stating that as long as ethnic conflict, violence and poverty exist in Iraq, even after the war is over, Iraqis will leave the country. He predicts that after the U.S. pulls out tensions will worsen among the different ethnicities and safe countries will again see a rise in Iraqi refugee and asylum seekers, as they will continue to take advantage of the opportunity frameworks provided by the environment of insecurity. This leaves the reader with the question of whether Sirkeci sees the refugee as a victim or a profiteer.




Forced Migration Review, June 2007 (Special Issue), pp. 24-26 (3)

Frelick, Bill

Abstracted by Christine Danton

Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, more than 2.5 million Iraqis have left for neighboring countries, while another 2 million have been forcibly displaced within Iraq. The IDPs are trapped and are being denied the fundamental right to seek asylum. Iraq’s neighbors have all but closed off borders, and the U.S. and the U.K. are not providing substantive support to the refugees or the countries hosting them. Saudi Arabia is building a $7 billion high-tech barrier on its border to keep Iraqis out, Kuwait is rejecting Iraqi refugees and Egyptian authorities are imposing highly restrictive procedures. Jordan, initially receptive to refugees, is now preventing the entry of single Iraqi men between the ages of 17 and 35, as well as severely restricting temporary residency permits. Iraqis who had legal residence in Jordan and valid travel documents who returned to Iraq have been prevented from returning to Jordan, a practice that is resulting in the separation of families. Jordan has no refugee law, is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, and has no asylum procedures. Jordan needs international support to care for refugees on its territory, but must also play by the rules in protecting refugees in its territory. The countries that are bearing the brunt of the Iraqi refugee crisis are not the ones responsible for creating it. The U.S. and the U.K. have provided an inexcusable bare minimum of attention or support to the Iraqi refugee crisis. U.S. President George Bush has even yet to acknowledge the plight of the refugees, let alone direct any U.S. support to providing support or protection. In a recent article, Samantha Powers was highly critical of the Bush Administration’s failure to acknowledge the Iraqi refugee crisis, stating that, “the U.S. debate about withdrawal from Iraq seems remarkably indifferent to those whose lives have been upended. The Bush Administration talks of staying the course without expending nearly enough political or financial capital to mitigate the humanitarian catastrophe that it pretends does not exist.” 1 Frelick notes that in 2005 the U.S. allowed only 202 Iraqi refugees to enter the country. In 2007, the State Department announced that it was willing to resettle up to 7,000 Iraqi refugees during the year. As of June, with the 2007 fiscal year half over, fewer than 100 Iraqi refugees had been admitted to the U.S. The U.K. had not made any announcement as to whether it would admit Iraqi refugees who are under threat after having worked for British forces in Iraq, and has not provided any material support to meet the needs of refugees in the region. Frelick reminds us that with any refugee crisis, the international community has the responsibility to share the burden, which should not simply fall to the countries bordering the crisis area. Human Rights Watch, where Frelick is the Refugee Policy Director, has called on neighboring states to observe the fundamental principle of non-refoulement, to admit at least temporarily all Iraqi asylum seekers, to cooperate with the UNHCR in the registration of asylum seekers and refugees, to provide renewable residency permits for Iraqis registered with the UNHCR and to ensure the right of all children, regardless of residency status, to free and compulsory primary education. He believes Jordan, Kuwait and Syria should accede to the 1951 Refugee Convention, and all countries in the region should establish domestic refugee laws and build infrastructure for processing asylum claims and providing protection for refugees. The U.S. and the U.K. should acknowledge responsibilities for Iraqi refugees and IDPs by making contributions, including provision of substantial financial support for schools, shelter, health care in Jordan and Syria, by instituting significant refugee resettlement programs, by facilitating the evacuation of Palestinian refugees from Iraq, and by urging the governments of neighboring states to keep their borders open and to not deport refugees and asylees fleeing from violence and persecution.

1Samantha Power, “Access Denied,” Time Magazine 179 (October 8, 2007): Commentary.




Refugees Magazine, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Volume 1, Number 134, 2004, pp. 11-13

Marie-Helen Verney

Abstracted by Keesha Egebrecht

People all over the world have been persecuted for their beliefs, values, culture, identity, nationality and much more for eons. The problem persists to the present day, as evident in articles such as ones published in Refugees magazine. This article aims to bring awareness to the general public about refugees and their tragic stories. The Faili Kurds are a group of people that have a long history of persecution due to their nationality. The offenders are Saddam Hussain, the former dictator of Iraq, and his followers. Before discussing the article, it is important to familiarize the reader with the Faili Kurds. They are a group that has come to embrace Islam since the beginning of the Islamic conquest of Iraq and Iran. They originally lived in the area between Iraq and Iran , but many moved to Bagdad in the early 20 th century. Currently there are around 2.5 million in Iraq and around 3 million in Iran. Since their move to Bagdad , they have been actively involved in the economic and political arena. Because of this, Saddam felt his power threatened and decided to, unsurprisingly, confiscate their capital and property and banish them to Iran. He declared them to be Iranians and not genuine Iraqis, even though many generations of people were born in Iraq. The article discusses an account of one Faili Kurd who was exiled to Iraq 24 years ago. When this refugee was dispelled, there were thousands of other civilians of all nationalities who were also forced to flee. Not only were they forced out, but officially stripped of their nationality, having their documentation papers ripped up in front of their faces. This one particular man had evidence that his grandfather, father and he were all born in Iraq, but were still exiled. However, his brother, who was ordered to serve in the army, was excused from being a Faili Kurd, and was said to still be Iraqi. This man and his family have been in the Azna refugee camp for 24 years and have not gone one day without thinking about returning home, just as many of the world’s refugees. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) prefers voluntary repatriation, but it is often a true challenge because of the need to rebuild schools and clinics in destroyed areas, remove land mines covering their homeland, and try to integrate with the people who had stayed behind. The UNHCR says that overcoming the problem of nationality is challenging. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has a right to a nationality” but there are as many as 9 million stateless persons worldwide. Despite these abundant obstacles, the UN refugee agency has recently been working with the 192 member countries to get the “big picture” and help governments solve the problem. For the Faili Kurds, the picture looks a little better as there was a meeting last year with the new Iraqi authorities to address their statelessness. The new government claimed that the Faili would indeed be allowed to return.




International Migration, 2005, Volume 43, Number 4, pp. 197-214(18)

Sirkeci, Ibrahim

Abstracted by Teresa Braun

This paper examines the clear relationship in Iraq between war and international migration. It focuses upon the concept of an “environment of insecurity” (EOI), which has been created in Iraq by decades of conflicts and ethnic tensions, as well as by the migration trends that have existed there between 1980 and 2003, and the role these trends will be playing in the wake of the U.S. invasion and war. The current instability in Iraq is not just a product of the recent war rather longstanding ethnic tensions are a root cause, largely due to the Sunni minority running the government for the last half century leading to problems with the Shiite majority and the Kurdish minority. The January, 2005 elections, however, indicated Shiites and Kurds were holding more than their population share, while Sunnis and Turkmen were not, leaving them without adequate representation and further adding to the societal instability.

According to Sirkeci, international migration involves a variety of different types of migrants, including refugees, asylum seekers, families, illegal migrants, and migrant workers, most of whom have mixed and overlapping motivations. EOI offers one tool for understanding international migration behavior via “opportunity frameworks” of migration. His work uses the example of Turkish Kurds, who were not directly involved in ethnic conflict and already had a migration plan that was not related to the ethnic conflict, yet they used the EOI to bring these migration plans to bear. Thus, the EOI in Turkey, triggered by ethnic conflict, served as the opportunity (i.e., driver) for the Kurds to migrate. In this sense, actual conflict is not a necessary condition for migration, rather the potential for conflict can be enough to prompt international migration to take place, especially among those who are not in the greatest danger from conflict.

Central to EOI in Iraq are the existing tensions among ethnic groups and the Arabization policies of Iraqi governments. Iraq has been in a state of continuous conflict that has included the Iran-Iraq war, the invasion of Kuwait and the Gulf War, UN sanctions and an embargo that were marked by US and British attacks, all culminating with the war in 2003. These conflicts combined with widespread poverty, an uneven distribution of wealth, and ongoing human rights abuses. Killings and bombings occur daily in the wake of the 2003 war, adding to the probability that the reconstruction process will mean long-term instability, likely to encourage migration to more stable countries. These factors have led to large numbers of international migrants from Iraq (although very few formal studies of these have been completed). Most of these immigrants to industrialized countries, as well as neighboring Gulf states, were refugees and asylum seekers. Many, especially in the later periods of migration, flowed to countries in Western Europe, usually Sweden, Germany, the UK, Denmark and the Netherlands; however, geographical and cultural proximity of Turkey made it a prime destination in the immediate aftermath of the Gulf War. Many of these countries have limited the flow of immigrants, tightening admission, making it harder for Iraqis to gain legal entry.

These migration networks, which have been established throughout the decades of EOI in Iraq coupled with economic “pull factors” such as job opportunities, in concert with continued heightened ethnic tensions, point to the probability that Iraqis will follow in the footsteps of those who migrated before them. EOI offers an opportunity framework for those individuals who have a migration tendency, with refugees and asylum seekers from the immediate, intense, conflict area seeking the nearest safe haven while those utilizing the opportunity framework, who come from the periphery of the conflict seeking more favorable destinations, like western Europe. Those seeking security are likely to target countries that already have an existing Iraqi immigrant population. Sirkeci has identified EOI as a conceptual tool to study international migration in relation to ethnic conflict to further the understanding of this phenomenon, and in the Iraqi context should best incorporate ethnic conflict, international affairs, and socioeconomic underdevelopment.



Film: 2010

Director: Rory Kennedy

Producer: Rory Kennedy

Distributor: HBO Documentary Films

Runtime: 36 minutes

Abstracted by Christy Jeziorski

It is estimated that about half of a million undocumented immigrants cross the U.S. border every year. In response to the tragedy of 9/11, the Bush administration, in response to political pressure to reduce the ease of border crossings, implemented a plan to construct a fence to divide the U.S. from its southern neighbor. The effort, called the Secure Fence Act of 2006, was passed by over 70% of the congressmen voting. Construction of the initial fence cost over $3 billion and continues to incur added costs for repairs and maintenance. This film, directed by Rory Kennedy, probes the story and controversy behind the southern U.S. border. Specifically, the documentary explores the southwest border fence, from its conception to construction, and uses a satirical perspective on what Kennedy describes as the “absurd ideological contradictions and misinformation that have dogged the fence from its inception.” Kennedy travels the wilderness, protected ranches, border towns, and deserts, and interviews individuals on both sides of the border who are directly involved in the controversy- from border protection guards, politicians, environmentalists, and human rights activists to coyotes and those that have crossed or plan to take the risk of crossing the border fence. Kennedy makes several arguments pointing to the absurdity of the fence, e.g. there are numerous gaps, where those that are restricted by the barrier in one area, can walk down a mile and find a long gap in the fence and cross there. Kennedy also points out that of the 29 individuals that have committed terrorist acts on U.S. soil during the last quarter century, 24 arrived by plane, the other 5 were born in the U.S., and the number of terrorist acts attempted by those who have crossed the U.S./Mexico border are zero. The film provides an arousing analysis of the actual costs of the fence, most important being the human costs.




Film: 2003

Directors: Bosch, C., and J.M. Domenech

Producer: Omedes, L.

Distributor: Bausan Films and TVC

Runtime: 120 minutes

Abstracted by Clara Farr-Rice

During the early 1990s, many Cubans fled their home country in pursuit of the American dream. The politically and economically restrictive environment of Cuba forced people to take desperate measures to escape. People built boats and rafts out of a variety of materials, including dismantled household structures and inner tubes; the lack of buoyancy of many rafts combined with the volatility of the ocean resulted in cases of rafts overturning and people drowning. The U.S. Coast Guard was employed to intercept individuals before arrival, utilizing the Guantánamo Bay detention center as a place to hold refugees or “entrants” as some were labeled. Individuals in this film stayed for a minimum of nine months before meeting with immigration officials and receiving notification of whether their claims for refugee status had been accepted. Unfortunately, approval for refugee claims was not the end of the journey; it was the beginning of adaptation to and integration with a new society.

Balseros documents five families and their quest for a better life; a life that they perceived was not available to them in Cuba. Personal testaments and harrowing visual evidence tell the tales of loss, perseverance, hope, and disappointment. Attention is given to the portrayal of life during all three refugee stages: pre-flight, flight, and post-flight. However, emphasis is placed on the post-flight experience. Although life in Cuba was restraining and economics were unquestionably insufficient, life in the United States was also taxing in new and different ways. The film portrays long-standing challenges faced by Cuban refugees; their low socio-economic statuses affected their livelihoods in both countries.

Most of the family members documented in the film expressed a level of disappointment that life in the U.S. was not how they imagined it would be. Not only was there an array of challenges in meeting basic needs, overcoming language barriers, and adjusting to cultural differences, but individuals were also forced to accomplish and/or endure these difficulties without their familiar social support systems. Embedded within the refugee experience is a deep sense of loss, and as noted here, often refugees are not given the time or space to deal with these intense emotions of grief. The main characters’ unfiltered expressions expose the intensity of migration and for some without the longed-for “happy endings” receiving countries seemingly present to them. In the case of the five Cuban refugee families, violations of the human rights that guarantee freedom from fear and protection of basic essentials (food, shelter, etc) extended into flight and resettlement stages. The longevity of the refugee experience surpassed the dangers of the home country and deeply impacted the challenges these Cubans faced in the United States.




University of Botswana, Office of International Education and Partnerships

Sowa, Graham R.

Abstracted by Shailer Vatsa

The essentialization of both the definition and expectations of a refugee have created limits to the advancement of refugees in the United States. In the article the author, then a volunteer refugee mentor, describes his interactions with his assigned refugee family over the course of one afternoon. While doing so, he analyzes how the bureaucratic refugee system in the US generalizes the needs of and expectations for all incoming refugees, which is driven in large part by fear of “dependency syndrome.” The labeling of refugees as “clients” is a misnomer implying that the refugee has a large degree of agency and control over the process, especially in determining the obligations of the refugee agency. Instead, it is the system that predetermines the needs of the essentialized refugee, often neglecting to take into account individual needs. The author exemplifies this by noting that many of the refugee women with whom he worked did not speak the major language of their region (Swahili), and thus could not take ESL classes, which are taught solely in major languages. Lastly, the author touches on the fact that American conceptions of displacement are tied to notions of foreignness and political conflict, neglecting the existence of IDPs within the United States, including the thousands of people displaced by natural disasters such as hurricane Katrina.




Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 2009, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp. 115-142

Zeigler, Sarah L. and Kendra B. Stewart

Abstracted by Katie Corradini

Female refugees face enormous hardships not encountered by most other refugees. Simply because of their gender, women asylees are further victimized once in the United States, often at the hands of the United States government. This paper explores why female asylees are inherently disadvantaged once they enter the United States. Refugees can seek asylum if they fear persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Gender is not a qualification for seeking asylum yet women are systematically placed in a position to flee their country, often times with children, to escape violence or death. Some of these women, however, enter the United States without proper documentation, or any documentation at all, and cannot claim asylum based on their gender so they are placed in detention centers or jails with criminals. Additionally, they are interrogated by males and do not feel safe to recount rape and other sexual abuse or female genital mutilation (FGM). Some of the male authorities do not have the proper training to work with women who have been traumatized. Also, these women often live in male-dominated societies where talking about anything sexual will bring shame to themselves and their families and they are embarrassed to talk to authorities about their abuse. Immigration judges likely deny female asylees because their claims do not fall under one of the five categories for asylum. When that happens, they are deported back to their home country and face even more violence and risk rape and death. While the judges may sympathize with the women, they cannot legally grant them asylum. In a landmark case, however, a woman argued that FGM was grounds for political asylum which is now recognized by United States law. Women who have not been subjected to FGM have a better chance of being granted asylum than women who have suffered. Women who have already been subjected to FGM are often sent back to their home countries, the controversial reasoning being that they cannot be subjected to further torture because the FGM already occurred. The attacks of 9/11 forced Congress to tighten immigration laws and expand the definition of a terrorist to include anyone who supports a terrorist group, even if they are forced to against their will. The enactment of the Patriot Act and REAL ID further exacerbate the issues already faced by women.

Gender-based differences written into immigration law need to change immediately. Women are one of the most vulnerable populations yet the most underrepresented in asylum cases. The United States government must continue to work to recognize gender-based violence as a credible qualification for asylum status and protect women from rape, abuse, torture and death.




Virginia Journal of Social Policy & the Law, 2006-2007, Volume 14, Number 2, pp. 119-143

Musalo, Karen

Abstracted by Debbie Martinez

Basing her research around the case of Rodi Alvarado, a Guatemalan woman who survived an abusive marriage, the author addresses the controversy involved with granting asylum to women with gender-based claims. Rodi Alvarado sought asylum in the United States and made her claim to the courts in 1995. Ten years later, the Alvarado case had still not been settled and several others involving domestic violence, sexual trafficking, and female genital cutting have since emerged. Musalo argues that we should not fear a potential increase in gender asylum claims, but should focus on addressing the root causes of these violent acts committed towards women. A primary reason gender-based claims have become controversial is because of the gender-neutral nature of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. A leading concern is the cultural factor involved with many of these acts. For example, female genital cutting is a cultural norm in many societies; therefore, some argue that a revision of the 1951 Convention and its Protocol would challenge these communities and their long-standing traditions. Those who oppose the recognition of gender-based claims take their argument even further by stating that granting women like Rodi Alvarado asylum would open the floodgates to similar cases. The author disputes these arguments and supports the UNHCR’s stance on granting asylum to these women for the sole reason that their human rights have been violated. Musalo disagrees with the theory that a drastic increase in the number of gender-based cases is inevitable. As seen in Canada, the recognition of gender asylum did not lead to the floodgates of gender-related cases, primarily because these women have little means or safe opportunities to emigrate, or may have children they cannot leave behind. The author explains that instead of focusing solely on creating a legal standard for all gender-based claims, the U.S. should concentrate on addressing the root causes of the reasons these women are fleeing their home countries. In Guatemala, 3,000 female homicides were reported between 2001 and 2007. Less than 10% of these cases were investigated. Musalo argues that as a major economic provider to Guatemala, the United States has the authority and should feel obligated to demand transparency and accountability from the Guatemalan government. The author concludes her critique by holding the United States government responsible for the femicides in Guatemala and the failure to adequately address the underlying causes of the gender-based asylum cases within the U.S. This article is a great resource for those interested in learning more about the large number of women who have fled violent abuse in their home countries and whose gender rights continue to be dismissed by being denied asylum after arriving in the United States.




American Quarterly, 2005, Volume 57, Number 3, pp. 727-749(22)

Kerber, Linda K.

Abstracted by Ellie Azoff

When dealing with the issue of statelessness, many Americans tend to categorize the issue as something that happens to the “Other.” A stateless person is a product of the fallen Soviet Union, certainly not someone born to the United States. In Kerber’s article she refutes this notion by contextualizing modern-day examples of statelessness caused by U.S. laws and regulations within a thorough account of the history of statelessness in the United States. Her objective is to provide a modern-day analysis of statelessness in the context of current American fears of terrorism and the “Other,” an analysis that she states is long overdue. Kerber begins by citing the fictional story of Phillip Nolan written by Edward Everett Hale and loosely based on the real life story of Aaron Burr. Published during the civil war, the story tells the tale of a man convicted of treason who subsequently has his U.S. citizenship revoked. Being a citizen of no other nation, Nolan is forced to sail the oceans for the rest of his life. This may be the first written account of statelessness in United States’ history. Kerber continues to reach into the history of the United States by exploring the notion of citizenship as it has pertained to women and been effected by gender roles. She cites the infamous laws of the early 1900s that stated women who married foreign men automatically surrendered their citizenship. Interestingly, these laws were abolished during the women’s rights movement but current laws reflecting constrained gender roles still exist. For example when an unwed couple conceives and gives birth to a child outside of the United States and only one parent is a U.S. citizen, that parent must be the mother in order for the child to receive U.S. citizenship. This may conflict with country laws in which the child was born and may ultimately render the child stateless. Kerber attests that these laws and determinations were made purposefully as military men often conceive children they would rather not care for after their stay in the country is over. Kerber nests all of her discussion within the historical writings of Hannah Arendt. She uses Arendt’s descriptions of statelessness as these were conceived in the 1940s to bolster her argument that the United States is still condemning persons to statelessness but in different ways. Arendt was clear in her writings that once a person left their country for good they had no country to protect them; Arendt saw this take place through women marrying foreign men and the Jews being turned away from the United States during World War II. As Kerber explains, present day citizens see statelessness happening through the fear of terrorism and the economic disadvantage of foreigners coming to the United States. To bolster this argument Kerber uses the example of those held at Guatanamo Bay with no access to a fair trial or a lawyer. She states that these people, who once may have been U.S. citizens, are now deemed “enemies of the state” and are no longer eligible to obtain the same rights as they once were. Now these people have no country to protect their rights and no country to make an appeal to, fitting the definition of statelessness that Arendt had put forth in the 1940s. Furthermore, Kerber cites the undocumented workers of the United States and the women who are trafficked here. In this somewhat weaker example of statelessness Kerber argues that undocumented workers have left their countries for the United States and now have no government to protect them; what Kerber leaves out is that these workers can return to their countries of origin if need be. The stronger side of the argument involves those women who are trafficked, who fear return to their homeland but are treated as criminals here and often deported. These women cannot return home but they also cannot stay in the United States, they are thus, like so many others mentioned in Kerber’s article, rendered stateless.




A Commissioned Study by the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, 5 July 2004

Martin D.A.

Abstracted by Carol Vernon

The US Refugee Program has been at a crossroads since FY 2002. At that time, the steady and predictable programs of resettlement for the Indochinese, the Soviets, and those fleeing former Yugoslavia had largely come to an end. The September 11 terrorist attacks led to enhanced security measures and a decrease in refugee flows. As the US enters a new era of refugee admissions, it is predicted that these admissions will involve smaller-scale programs in difficult locations that will shift from year-to-year. This commissioned report draws on the experiences of US government agencies, NGOs, IGOs, and refugees, whose suggestions and observations will help shape the future of the US Refugee Program through the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM). This new era will require quicker, more flexible decision-making on resettling specific groups. One recommendation is the formation of a Refugee Admissions Committee that meets biweekly to develop common standards and procedures for group designations. This committee would consider potential groups, select candidate groups to further investigate, and eventually designate groups for whom resettlement processing would be initiated. The report also details suggested improvements in refugee adjudications by including better training for officers on country conditions, the commitment of a developing expert Refugee Officer Corps to be deployed as circuit riders, enhanced interview-site security, and technological innovations such as video hookups to permit interviewing in remote locations. Fraud has become a larger problem in recent years with modern technologies and communications, as well as the growth of organized fraud scheme enterprises. Enhanced UNHCR registration can minimize fraud with the use of biometric identifiers, mobile fingerprint labs, and DNA testing. Other recommendations for the US Refugee Program include viewing the presidential proposed annual refugee admissions as a goal, not a ceiling, repealing the ceiling on annual asylee adjustments, and admitting overseas refugees as lawful permanent residents, rather than having them wait a year to adjust their status. Proponents of a wider view of refugee resettlement argue the US program should consider resettlement as a durable solution to a wider set of dangers, not just imminent harm. This view includes the “rescuing” of those languishing in protracted refugee camp situations. As the US seeks to clarify its aims and thrust in this new refugee era, clear channels of feedback from participating NGOs, oversees processing entities, the UNHCR, and governmental agencies, will enhance responsive changes to a newly-developing vision of refugee resettlement.




Journal of Health and Science Behavior, September 1999, Volume 40, Number 3, pp. 193-207

Noh, Samuel; Beiser, Morton; Kaspar, Violet; Hou, Feng and Rummers, Joanna

Abstracted by Leah Persky

This article explains results from research and interviews with 647 Southeast Asian refugees in Canada . The authors explore the effects of perceived racial discrimination, access to resources, and social status on personal identity, health and well-being. This area of study was taken up because many past studies on the effects of discrimination on diverse populations have demonstrated that the experience of discrimination was associated with high levels of stress and psychological distress.

The authors focus on individual experiences of refugees and how they cope with racial discrimination. They believe the coping mechanisms that individuals exhibit allow them a degree of power over stressful situations. The interviews found confrontation and forbearance to be the most common responses to discrimination. Direct confrontational responses reduce the sense of helplessness and victimization, but this type of response may also cause distress through the escalation of the conflict and hostility.

The authors explain how direct confrontation may be difficult for Southeast Asian refugees and other powerless groups because of lack of social networks, cultural and social barriers, and direct confrontation may cause fear. The authors have found that forbearance is one of the most viable coping mechanisms for S.E. Asian refugees because it allows individual to passively accept and disassociate from the discrimination and to avoid distress and hostilities, and possible salvage a degree of their self-esteem. Forbearance is the preferred coping mechanism of Southeast Asian refugees in this study because it reflects the cultural norms and values of this population and the collective nature of their community which gives high value to the preservation relationships. This research has also given legitimacy to the idea that cultural differences in values and norms lead individuals to prefer a certain type of coping mechanism.

The evidence of this research study supports the authors original hypothesis that “perceived discrimination constitutes a significant stressor which can jeopardize the physical and mental health of ethno-racial minority group members.” (p. 195) The authors also researched the relationship between ethnic identity and the level of depression associated with perceived racial discrimination. Their original hypothesis was that the strength of ethnic identity would directly affect the amount of depression associated with discrimination. But, they found no direct relationship exists between levels of ethnic identity and the level of depression. The explanation to this lack of correlation was explained by the authors as stemming from the stress-moderating effect of forbearance on refugees who held a stronger attachment to traditional cultural and ethnic values. Overall, this paper provides the empirical evidence for the relationship between perceived discrimination and the occurrence of symptoms of depression.




Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, January 2003, Volume 29, Number 1, pp. 5-26 (21)

Franz B.

Abstracted by Carol Vernon

When refugee and asylum applications accelerated in post-1989 Western Europe, states responded by lowering admission ceilings. A shift occurred from prior emphasis on resettlement and political asylum to temporary protection and repatriation as the most desirable “durable solutions.” This article addresses some of the legal and political changes and their effects on the refugee population by comparing two vastly different resettlement schemes: that of the US and Austria. This study was based on in-depth interviews in 1999 with 26 Bosnian refugees resettled in Vienna and 20 in New York City, plus interviews with key personnel in both governmental and non-governmental organizations. In spring and summer of 1992, more than 30,000 Bosnians entered Austria. Due to its geographic location, it was the first Western European state inundated with a large influx of Bosnian refugees. Fearing that foreigners would swamp their country, the Austrian government set the precedent in Europe by giving temporary protected status (TPS) to refugees from the Balkans area, instead of classifying them as refugees under Article 1 of the 1951 Refugee Convention. The Federal Asylum Office made the criteria for applying for asylum so difficult that most Bosnians were prohibited from applying. Of those that did apply, over two-thirds were rejected. Since Austria denied Bosnian refugees the Convention asylum status, they held an uncertain residence status for a number of years and most could not seek legal employment or travel freely throughout the country. A majority found work, however, through the black market. Those Bosnians who came to the US prior to August 10, 1992 were also given TPS status, which allowed them to seek employment and travel freely throughout the country. TPS status ended on February 10, 2001. Most Bosnians who came to the US, however, came under the refugee resettlement program and, as such, were treated as Convention refugees. With a US policy that provided a wide array of services through public-private partnerships, it could be surmised that the Bosnian refugees would fare much better in terms of economic success and upward mobility. Conversely, the two groups showed similar patterns of upward mobility. Both groups took similar types of jobs initially; Bosnian women in Austria, however, disproportionately shouldered the initial socio-economic adjustment due to the particular demands of the black labor market. Through their individual determination, many were eventually able to convert these jobs to permanent guest worker positions. As guest workers, they gained social service benefits for themselves and their families. In the US, settlement agencies encouraged early employment for the heads of household in mostly entry-level jobs. An analysis showed that the two groups adapted socio-economically quite similarly, leading to the conclusion that this was due more to individual initiative and persistence than to state policy.