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  • 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.

  • Refugee status determination in South Africa

    24 February 2014

    This paper outlines the situation in which the asylum system operates in South Africa and its connection to the immigration system. It raises certain challenges within the asylum system and recommends policy changes, which could be used to address these challenges.

  • Refugee status determination and refugee rights in Tanzania

    24 February 2014

    Tanzania gained its independence from British colonial rule on 9 December 1961. Since her independence, Tanzania has been an independent territory having a common law legal system similar to the British one, which has been undergoing modifications from time to time to suit local circumstances. In addition, Tanzania is a dualist state, meaning that all international instruments to which Tanzania accedes must necessarily be ratified1 by the parliament to form part of the domestic legal system. Under the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1977 (hereinafter, the Constitution), the rule of law concept is clearly reflected in the principle of separation of powers.2 Whereas, the fundamental principles reflected in this concept are the supremacy of parliament, independence of the judiciary and observance of human rights by the executive. These are the bases that form the three pillars of the state, i.e., the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. In practice, however, the executive is de facto more powerful as compared to the rest, which, more often than not, makes the executive override the powers of the legislature and the judiciary. Nevertheless, the judiciary enjoys enormous powers that are guaranteed by the Constitution. And, in practice, the judiciary has been at the forefront of defending the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights, as part of guaranteeing the right to access to justice. The right of access to justice is a fundamental right, which is also part and parcel of the rule of law.

  • Politics of Innocence: Hutu Identity, Conflict and Camp Life

    12 August 2014

    Based on thorough ethnographic fieldwork in a refugee camp in Tanzania this book provides a rich account of the benevolent “disciplining mechanisms” of humanitarian agencies, led by the UNHCR, and of the situated, dynamic, indeterminate, and fluid nature of identity (re)construction in the camp. While the refugees are expected to behave as innocent, helpless victims, the question of victimhood among Burundian Hutu is increasingly challenged, following the 1993 massacres in Burundi and the Rwandan genocide. The book explores how different groups within the camp apply different strategies to cope with these issues and how the question of innocence and victimhood is itself imbued with ambiguity, as young men struggle to recuperate their masculinity and their political subjectivity.

  • Materialising Exile: Material Culture and Embodied Experience among Karenni Refugees in Thailand

    12 August 2014

    Focusing on the highly diverse Karenni refugee population living in camps on the Thai-Burma border, this innovative book explores materiality, embodiment, memory, imagination, and identity among refugees, providing new and important ways of understanding how refugees make sense of experience, self, and other. It examines how and to what ends refugees perceive, represent, manipulate, use as metaphor, and otherwise engage with material objects and spaces, and includes a focus on the real and metaphorical journeys that bring about and perpetuate exile. The combined emphasis on both displacement and materiality, and the analysis of the cultural construction and intersections of exilic objects, spaces, and bodies, are unique in the study of both refugees and material culture. Drawing theoretical influences from phenomenology, aesthetics, and beyond, as well as from refugee studies and anthropology, the author addresses the current lack of theoretical analysis of the material, visual, spatial, and embodied aspects of forced migration, providing a fundamentally interlinked analysis of enforced exile and materiality.