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  • Refugee economies in Kenya: preliminary study in Nairobi and Kakuma camp

    10 November 2016

    This working paper is based on preliminary fieldwork in Kenya conducted as part of ‘Refugee Economies’ research led by the Humanitarian Innovation Project based at the Refugee Studies Centre (RSC). The research strand of refugee economies at the RSC is driven by an imminent need to better understand and support the economic lives of refugees. Given today’s daunting challenges, with more people displaced than at any time since the Second World War, it is imperative to rethink refugee assistance and to seek ways to promote refugees’ economic potential. Pioneering work has already taken place, drawing attention to and describing key aspects of the economies that exist in refugee camps and urban areas. However, more theoretical approaches are required. Against this backdrop, the concept of refugee economies has been developed to nurture a better understanding of refugees’ economic lives and to explain variation in economic outcomes for refugees (Betts et al., forthcoming 2016). Between 2013 and 2014, the Humanitarian Innovation Project completed a pilot case study across four research sites in Uganda. Although Uganda’s treatment of refugees is not perfect, it does offer refugees a relatively high level of socio-economic freedom through its Self-Reliance Strategy. For comparative purposes, we have selected Kenya as our second case study country, since it neighbours Uganda but has more stringent refugee policies that restrict socio-economic freedom. Through a comparative analysis of Uganda and Kenya, our ultimate aim is to deepen our understanding of the economic lives of refugees vis-à-vis different regulatory environments and to accumulate more data on variation in economic consequences for refugees. We conducted initial research in Kakuma refugee camp and Nairobi in March and April 2016. This initial fieldwork focused on the most prevalent nationalities of refugees in each site, namely Somali and Congolese refugees in Nairobi, and South Sudanese, Somali and Congolese refugees in Kakuma camp. Given the limited duration of the fieldwork, its focus was on gathering qualitative data primarily from Somali, Congolese and South Sudanese refugees, exploring the following two research questions: 1. What types of livelihoods strategies are employed by refugees living in Nairobi and Kakuma refugee camp? 2. What are the potential factors that differentiate refugees’ economic lives from local host communities and amongst different refugee populations?

  • Reflections on Reading Tarakhel

    21 January 2015

    Tarakhel v Switzerland is the latest Grand Chamber ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on Dublin returns. Its contribution to human rights protection is to reassert well-established principles, quite minimal ones the authors would suggest, which prevent states from returning asylum-seekers where there are substantial grounds to believe there is a real risk of inhuman and degrading treatment. The contribution of the case is to reject erroneous approaches which developed under both ECHR and EU law, in particular in the wake of the NS/ME3 judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) as to the significance of the reference to ‘systemic deficiencies’, and what sorts of evidence was required to rebut the presumption of safety accorded to Dublin states. The Tarakhel judgment of the ECtHR has put an end to that uncertainty. The ECtHR holds that there is no additional requirement of ‘systemic deficiencies’. Instead, we find reasserted the duty to do ‘thorough and individualised’ assessment, and suspend removal if there are substantial grounds to believe there is a real risk of inhuman and degrading treatment. In addition, we argue for a fundamental rethink of the Dublin Regulation. Moving away from coercion in the allocation of responsibility for refugee claims is imperative.

  • Survival migration: a new protection framework

    16 September 2014

    Book description: Refugee law is both conceived as a response to the absence of human rights, and is one of the most powerful means by which human rights are restored. This comprehensive collection of leading scholarship examines the strengths of, and challenges faced by, international refugee law over its nearly century-long existence. Following an original introduction by Professor Hathaway, Volume I addresses the questions of the political and ethical reasons that states have agreed to implement refugee protection in international law; the conceptual boundaries of refugee status; and the systems and structures by which refugee rights are implemented. Volume II takes up the nature of contemporary challenges to the refugee law regime, and examines leading proposals to revitalize and reform international refugee law in order to sustain its vitality in modern circumstances. This topical volume will be of great interest to researchers and scholars in both law and related fields, as well as to lawyers and other practitioners working on asylum and related human rights issues.

  • The end of refugee life?

    16 September 2014

    Refugees are people who were forced to flee from their country of origin due to potential or imminent threats to their physical safety, security, liberty, or dignity. These displaced people seek international protection and are rendered refugee status to stay in exile because they are unable or unwilling to return to their home country due to such threats. Their refugee status, however, is not permanently granted. According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, when the circumstances under which they were recognized as refugees no longer exist, the “cessation clause” of the refugee status is invoked by the international refugee regime. For example, the cessation clause has been invoked for refugees from Angola, Sierra Leone, and Rwanda in recent years. Nevertheless, little is known about what actually happens to refugees and how they respond when their refugee status comes to an end.

  • Choices, preferences and priorities in a matching system for refugees

    10 August 2016

    We propose a 'matching system' that simultaneously gives refugees some choice over where they seek protection and respects states' priorities over refugees they can accept. Syrians fleeing the current conflict have been repeatedly told that they cannot ‘choose’ the state in which they seek long-term protection. In Australia, the idea that asylum seekers are ‘shopping’ for the best sanctuary forms a persistent part of the rhetoric around keeping them out. In these and other cases, the premise is that it is unjustifiable for refugees to be allowed some choice over where they seek protection. The consequence enshrined in the Dublin Regulation is that refugees may apply for asylum in only one European Union country. From the perspective of states, refugee flows are chaotic, unpredictable and widely regarded as socially disruptive and destabilising. Everyone recognises that the Dublin Regulation, which seeks to address this by placing the obligation to render asylum on the first EU country an asylum seeker reaches, is not fit for purpose. In parallel, there is an urgent need to design systems to overcome the political deadlock among European states over asylum.

  • Humanitarian Action in Somalia: Expanding Humanitarian Space

    24 February 2014

    In line with the overarching objectives of the Refugee Studies Centre, this workshop aimed to bring together representatives from the communities of ‘Research, Policy and Practice’ for a constructive dialogue on the subject of humanitarian space in Somalia. The participants at the workshop reflected this and included academics with a wide range of specialities, policy advisors and representatives of donor governments, as well as staff from several humanitarian agencies. The workshop also included a number of representatives from the Somali diaspora community, Somali money transfer organisations and Islamic NGO’s working in Somalia, thereby enabling an important exchange of ideas from a wide range of perspectives. The specific aim of the workshop was to map out the main challenges facing humanitarian actors in Somalia, to examine the methods that such actors are using to address humanitarian needs in the country, and to consider how the humanitarian community might better expand humanitarian space through innovative approaches to both policy and practice. This workshop report follows the format of the workshop, providing a brief overview of the main challenges faced by humanitarian agencies and of the innovative methods used by these agencies to provide humanitarian relief in Somalia. The report then provides an overview of the role played by Islamic charities and the Somali diaspora, as well as the media, before finally presenting the main outcomes of the workshop and proposing possible ways forward.

  • Protecting People in Conflict and Crisis: Responding to the Challenges of a Changing World

    24 February 2014

    Ten years ago the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) defined humanitarian protection as including “all activities aimed at obtaining full respect for the rights of the individual in accordance with the letter and spirit of the relevant bodies of law (i.e. human rights, humanitarian and refugee law).” Since then humanitarian protection has received growing attention within the humanitarian sector, becoming not one of the central aims of the international community but also one of its greatest challenges. This conference, which was hosted by the Refugee Studies Centre (RSC) in collaboration with the Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) and with generous support from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, convened over 180 participants from more than 40 countries to discuss the current state of humanitarian protection research, policy and practice, with a view to developing new ideas for the protection of people in conflict and crisis in the 21st century. The conference revolved around six thematic tracks: concepts of protection; the politics of protection; populations at risk; protection, security and the military; national and regional responsibilities to protect; protection in practice. Eighty-four papers were presented and it is impossible to represent the depth, richness and complexity of the debates that took place. With that in mind however, a number of key themes emerged strongly, particularly around the challenges faced by humanitarian practitioners seeking to deliver ‘protection’ in a hostile world and the role which academics could play in addressing these challenges. The text below provides some reflections of those themes.

  • Protection: the new humanitarian fig-leaf

    24 February 2014

    The human rights-based approach (HRBA) has filtered into humanitarian action over the past decade. In tangible fashion, this shift has provided guidance and standards for aid itself. Beneficiaries have become something greater than populations in need of assistance – they have become sets of individuals possessing rights. HRBA thinking thus transforms the wants/needs of people in crisis into obligations demanding a response. Given that we humanitarians are often the only ones on the ground interested in or in a position to provide such a response, the impact of HRBA has radically changed the discursive framework under which humanitarian action is performed.

  • Refugee status determination and rights in Malawi

    24 February 2014

    Malawi has been both a producer and recipient of refugees from its neighbours in the last three decades. In the early 1960s and 1970s, followers of the Jehova’s witness religion were forced to flee the country, mostly into Zambia after their religious beliefs clashed with the ruling Malawi Congress Party ideologies. Scores of people also left Malawi fleeing political persecution to neighbouring countries during the same period of one party rule under the Malawi Congress Party. On the other hand, Malawi has been receiving refugees from Mozambique, initially during the struggle against Portuguese colonial rule, and hosted over one million Mozambican refugees between the 1980s and early 1990s when the Frelimo government and Renamo opposition movement were engaged in a highly destructive civil war. The influx of Mozambican refugees is believed to have forced Malawi to rush the process of ratifying the relevant international refugee instruments as well as drafting the Refugee Act, which came into force in 1989. Currently, Malawi continues to receive refugees, mainly from the Great Lakes region and the horn of Africa, and issues of refugee rights which were relevant during that period when it hosted over a million refugees remain important. This paper highlights the situation of refugee rights in Malawi, including the refugee status determination (RSD) mechanisms and process. The first part of the paper presents an introduction including country background and a brief overview of the legal system. Section two focuses on the refugee conventions and international human rights instruments that Malawi has ratified. The section also discusses the impact of international law on the domestic legal system. The domestic refugee framework is discussed in full detail in section three. The section highlights the provisions of the 1989 Refugee Act as well as RSD mechanisms. It also discusses the impact of reservations to international instruments and the outdated Refugee Act on the enjoyment of rights by people who seek protection in Malawi. Section four submits recommendations and conclusions.