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  • Beyond labelling: rethinking the role and value of the refugee ‘label’ through semiotics

    11 August 2017

    For decades, academics have written on the need to interrogate the labels upon which the field of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies has been founded. At the centre of these discussions are certain foundational texts, which expound the need to take nothing about the meaning and purpose of the refugee label for granted. Though these accounts have proven incredibly rich and formative, this article suggests that much of the discussion on labelling to date has lacked a clear theoretical framework around which to structure their otherwise critical observations about the performative and malleable characteristics of language. It therefore introduces semiotics as an approach for making sense of these manifold interpretations and their relationships to each other, and for exploring what impacts this has on negotiations over refugees’ futures. To showcase its analytical potential, this heuristic framework is applied to the history of durable solutions. This is used to suggest a number of key ways in which this approach necessitates a rethinking of the role and value of the refugee ‘label’ itself.

  • Article 31 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees

    12 September 2017

    The aim of this paper is to clarify the correct interpretation of Article 31 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (the 1951 Refugee Convention). The interpretation proposed is based on the binding international precepts relating to treaty interpretation, as reflected in Articles 31 to 33 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT). The paper draws on the contemporary practice around Article 31 by States parties to the 1951 Refugee Convention and/or its 1967 Protocol, clarifying where those interpretations are correct, and where State practice appears to depart from the obligations in Article 31. The aim of the paper is ultimately to inform UNHCR when developing guidelines on Article 31. In terms of identifying pertinent State practice, particular attention is given to higher court rulings of national courts interpreting Article 31.

  • ‘Faithing’ gender and responses to violence in refugee communities:insights from the Sahrawi refugee camps and the Democratic Republic of Congo

    20 September 2017

    Chapter 6 in Gender, Violence, Refugees (edited by Susanne Buckley-Zistel and Ulrike Krause). Providing nuanced accounts of how the social identities of men and women, the context of displacement and the experience or manifestation of violence interact, this collection offers conceptual analyses and in-depth case studies to illustrate how gender relations are affected by displacement, encampment and return. The essays show how these factors lead to various forms of direct, indirect and structural violence. This ranges from discussions of norms reflected in policy documents and practise, the relationship between relief structures and living conditions in camps, to forced military recruitment and forced return, and covers countries in Africa, Asia and Europe.

  • Gender, violence, and deportation: Angola’s forced return of Congolese migrant workers

    20 September 2017

    Chapter 11 in Gender, Violence, Refugees (edited by Susanne Buckley-Zistel and Ulrike Krause). Providing nuanced accounts of how the social identities of men and women, the context of displacement and the experience or manifestation of violence interact, this collection offers conceptual analyses and in-depth case studies to illustrate how gender relations are affected by displacement, encampment and return. The essays show how these factors lead to various forms of direct, indirect and structural violence. This ranges from discussions of norms reflected in policy documents and practise, the relationship between relief structures and living conditions in camps, to forced military recruitment and forced return, and covers countries in Africa, Asia and Europe.

  • The Unworthy Citizen

    6 October 2017

    Chapter 11 in 'Within and Beyond Citizenship' (edited by R Gonzales and N Sigona). About the book: Within and Beyond Citizenship brings together cutting-edge research in sociology and social anthropology on the relationship between immigration status, rights and belonging in contemporary societies of immigration. It offers new insights into the ways in which political membership is experienced, spatially and bureaucratically constructed, and actively negotiated and contested in the everyday lives of citizens and non-citizens. Themes, concepts and ideas covered include: The shifting position of the non-citizen in contemporary immigration societies; The intersection of human mobility, immigration control and articulations of citizenship; Activism and everyday practices of membership and belonging; Tension in policy and practice between coexisting traditions and regimes of rights; Mixed status families, belonging and citizenship; The ways in which immigration status (or its absence) intersects with social cleavages such as age, class, gender and ‘race’ to shape social relations. This book will appeal to academics and practitioners working in the disciplines of Social and Political Anthropology, Sociology, Social Policy, Human Geography, Political Sciences, Citizenship Studies and Migration Studies.

  • Impacts and Costs of Forced Displacement: Phase II. A Critical Evaluation of Methodological and Analytical Progress on Designing Development-led Strategies and Interventions in Forced Displacement

    10 October 2017

    Significant progress has been made by intergovernmental organisations and donors in designing and implementing macro- and micro- economic policies, strategies, programmes and tools to mitigate the socio-economic impacts of forced displacement and to promote longer term sustainable development and resilience strategies for refugees, IDPs and host populations. However there has been little evaluation of the tools and methodologies to support these initiatives. The study addresses this gap. Commissioned by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, researched by the Refugee Studies Centre University of Oxford and facilitated by the Fragility, Conflict and Violence Group of the World Bank, this study investigates and assesses the strengths and limitations of the methodological and analytical apparatus that supports current World Bank development-led strategies and interventions in humanitarian crises. The study briefly assesses trends in addressing the development challenges of forced displacement crises and extant econometric research on the cost and impacts of forced displacement. Following discussion of the purpose and scope of the extant evaluations, and using a desk study method, the core of the paper provides a critical assessment of World Bank methodologies and analytical and diagnostic tools deployed to measure the socio-economic impacts and costs of forced displacement on: a) national economies; and b) affected populations – refugees, IDPs and local communities. The study examines the methodologies used for quantifying and modelling economic impacts focusing on the partial equilibrium modelling (PEM) methodology which has been used. The study then explores then explores the challenges in quantifying and modelling the impacts on affected populations. Here the focus of the study is on tools for poverty, vulnerability and welfare (PVW) measurement. Next the study examines some of the cross cutting methodological challenges: these include dealing with counter factuals and exogeneity and the quality and scope of data that is available to undertake impact measurement. The study concludes by reviewing the key findings, the main lessons learned and highlighting the remaining methodological and analytical gaps in current praxis.

  • Research in Brief: Refugee Self-Reliance: Moving Beyond the Marketplace

    12 October 2017

    The issue of how to promote refugee self-reliance has become of heightened importance as the number of forcibly displaced people in the world rises and budgets for refugees in long-term situations of displacement shrink. Self-reliance for refugees is commonly discussed as the ability for refugees to live independently from humanitarian assistance. Many humanitarian organisations perceive refugee livelihoods creation, often through entrepreneurship, as the main way to foster refugee self-reliance. Yet focusing on a purely economic definition of refugee self-reliance is problematic as it does not capture the diversity of personal circumstances or the multifarious ways that refugees live without international assistance. Refugee self-reliance, livelihoods, and entrepreneurship have considerable salience – yet there remain notable gaps in understanding and supporting non-economic dimensions of refugee self-reliance. Academic and policy literature often focuses on technical economic outcomes at the expense of social and political dimensions and the use of holistic measurements. This Research in Brief presents new research on refugee self-reliance and addresses areas not commonly included in current discussions. In particular, it focuses on social and cultural, practical, and programmatic aspects of refugee self-reliance. In so doing, it rethinks the concept of refugee self-reliance and aims to contribute recommendations to help achieve positive outcomes in policy and practice. This brief arose out of a two-day workshop at the Refugee Studies Centre on rethinking refugee self-reliance, convened by Evan Easton-Calabria and Claudena Skran (Lawrence University) and funded by the Swiss FDFA Strategic Partnership Agreement with the Refugee Studies Centre.

  • Talent displaced: The economic lives of Syrian refugees in Europe

    9 November 2017

    Conflict and civil unrest in Syria has caused more than 5 million refugees to flee their homes. While a relatively small proportion of these individuals have settled in Europe, there is a high level of public awareness and concern around the support being offered to these refugees. To contribute to this discussion, Deloitte and the Refugee Studies Centre (RSC) at the University of Oxford have collaborated on an exploratory survey of refugees in three European countries – Austria, the Netherlands, and the UK. This survey studied a small sample of refugees and businesses aiming to enhance understanding of the economic lives of Syrian refugees in Europe with a particular focus on employment. The study seeks to contribute to the conversation on the challenges facing refugees as they seek work, and how to best support them as they settle in their host countries. More research and better understanding of these challenges can help target the assistance and support that businesses, government, and NGOs are providing for the refugees in Europe.

  • Local Politics and the Syrian Refugee Crisis: Exploring Responses in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan

    24 November 2017

    In order to explain responses to Syrian refugees, it is important to understand politics within the major host countries. This involves looking beyond the capital cities to examine variation in responses at the local level. Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan followed a similar trajectory as the crisis evolved. Each began the crisis in 2011 with a history of relative openness to Syrians, then increased restrictions especially around October 2014 with the growing threat of ISIS, before agreeing major bilateral deals with the European Union in early 2016. These common trajectories, however, mask significant sub-national variation. To explore this we examine three local contexts in each of the main countries: Gaziantep, Adana, and Izmir in Turkey; Sahab, Zarqa, and Mafraq in Jordan; and predominantly Christian, Shia, and Sunni areas in Lebanon. In each country, some governorates and municipalities have adopted relatively more inclusive or restrictive policies towards Syrian refugees. The main sets of factors that appear to mediate this relate to identity and interests, but also to the personalities of individual heads of municipal authorities. The report argues that political analysis – across all levels of governance – matters for refugee protection. There is a need to enhance the capacity for political analysis within humanitarian organisations.

  • Thrive or survive? Explaining variation in economic outcomes for refugees

    28 November 2017

    In the context of protracted refugee situations, there has been a revival in concern among policymakers to transcend the so-called humanitarian-development divide and create greater opportunities for self-reliance. Yet, these discussions too often neglect an analytical focus on refugees’ own economic lives, and their own interactions with markets.Despite a growing literature on the economic lives of refugees, much of that work has lacked theory or data. The work that has been quantitative has generally focused on the economic impact of refugees on host countries rather than explaining variation in economic outcomes for refugees. In order to explain variation in economic outcomes for refugees, this paper asks three questions about the economic lives of refugees: 1) what makes the economic lives of refugees distinctive from other populations; 2) what explains variation in refugees’ income levels; and 3) what role does entrepreneurship play in shaping refugees’ economic outcomes?In order to answer these questions, the paper draws upon extensive qualitative and quantitative research conducted in Uganda by the Humanitarian Innovation Project at Oxford University. The quantitative data set is based on a survey of 2,213 refugees in three types of contexts: urban (Kampala), protracted camps (Nakivale and Kyangwali settlements), and emergency camps (Rwamwanja). It supplements this with qualitative research from other parts of Africa and the Middle East. The economic lives of refugees are argued to be distinctive not because refugees are any different qua human beings but because they often occupy a distinctive institutional space. Following new institutional economics, the paper argues that “refugee economies” represent a distinctive analytical space insofar as refugees face different formal and informal institutional barriers and distortions in their economic lives compared to nationals or other migrants.