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  • The inter-generational politics of ‘travelling memories’: Sahrawi refugee youth remembering home-land and home-camp

    13 November 2013

    Drawing on primary research conducted with Sahrawi children and youth in the Sahrawi refugee camps, Cuba, Spain and Syria between 2001 and 2009, this article explores the Sahrawi politics of ‘travelling memories’, assessing how, why and to what effect memories of both the Western Saharan home-land and of the Algerian-based home-camps ‘travel’ between older and younger generations and across geographies in contexts of ongoing mobility. I start by exploring the ways in which Sahrawi children and youth ‘inherit’ and negotiate memories of their home-land and home-camps when they are temporarily separated from their families for educational purposes. In particular, this raises the question of whether the transmission of memories in such contexts of separation takes place in spite of children's distance from their families and home-camps, or because of this. I then examine the ways in which youth's memories ‘travel’ with them to their refugee home-camps upon graduation, analysing how their memories relate to those memories prioritised both by the international community mandated to secure a political solution to the protracted conflict, and by the older Sahrawis who monopolise not only the political infrastructure in the refugee camps, but also the ‘official memory’ of home-land and home-camps alike. Overall, I argue that the transmission of memories of the home-land are complemented and at times superseded by the development of and longing for memories of youth's home-camps. As such, multiple processes of memory-making and memory-recuperating underpin diverse political commitments to a plurality of home-spaces, including both the home-land and the home-camp. Recognising the intersecting and at times conflicting nature of memories of home-land and home-camp leads us to question the implicit assumption that political mobilisation revolves around memories of the home-land alone, or that the home-land should itself be the focus of political action and change.

  • Histories of displacement: intersections between ethnicity, gender and class

    13 November 2013

    This article examines the Spanish–Sahrawi colonial encounter from the perspective of 41 Spaniards who lived and/or worked in Spain's North African colony (formerly known as the Spanish Sahara and currently known as the Western Sahara) during the late-colonial era (1960s–1970s). An analysis of informants' experiences in the colony suggests the importance of a selection of social and spatial divisions that characterised life in the territory. With particular reference to ethnicity, gender and class, I argue that in addition to the limited nature of contact between the Spanish and Sahrawi populations during the colonial era, major tensions existed between different groups of Spaniards themselves. I also propose that, while the Spanish colonial era is often romanticised by many Sahrawis and Spaniards alike, the ways in which these former soldiers recollect the colonial encounter clearly reflect not only the colonialist discourses of the time, but also ‘paternalistic’ dynamics of the present.

  • Invisible refugees and/or overlapping refugeedom? Protecting Sahrawis and Palestinians displaced by the 2011 Libyan uprising

    13 November 2013

    This article examines the experiences of two North African and Middle Eastern refugee populations (Sahrawis and Palestinians) affected by the 2011 conflict in Libya who have remained largely invisible to the international community. The challenges that they have faced since the outbreak of violence in February 2011, and the nature of international responses to these challenges, highlight a range of interconnected issues on both conceptual and practical dimensions. After outlining the scale and nature of the internal and international displacement arising from the 2011 conflict, and the history of these refugees’ presence in Libya, the article explores whether Sahrawis and Palestinians can be categorised and conceptualised as ‘refugees’ in Libya, given their ‘voluntary’ migration to the country for educational and/or employment purposes. Drawing on a number of historical examples of protection activities by UNHCR for Sahrawi and Palestinian ‘refugee-migrants’, the article explores the potential applicability of a framework that highlights ‘overlapping refugeedoms’ without negating refugees’ agency. Given that neither population has a ‘country of origin’ or effective diplomatic protection, the article then explores which state and non-state actors could be considered to be responsible for their protection in this conflict situation. Finally, analysing the ‘solutions’ promoted for Sahrawi and Palestinian refugees in this context leads to an assessment of whether such responses can be considered to offer effective protection to these populations. Ultimately, the article examines a range of protection gaps that emerge from these groups’ experiences during the 2011 North African uprisings, arguing in favour of a critical assessment of the protection mechanisms in place to support refugees who ‘voluntarily’ migrate for economic and educational purposes. Such an evaluation is particularly important given policy-makers’ increasing interest in presenting mobility as a ‘fourth durable solution’.

  • The Ideal Refugees: Gender, Islam, and the Sahrawi Politics of Survival

    13 November 2013

    Refugee camps are typically perceived as militarized and patriarchal spaces, and yet the Sahrawi refugee camps and their inhabitants have consistently been represented as ideal in nature: uniquely secular and democratic spaces, and characterized by gender equality. Drawing on extensive research with and about Sahrawi refugees in Algeria, Cuba, Spain, South Africa, and Syria, Fiddian-Qasmiyeh explores how, why, and to what effect such idealized depictions have been projected onto the international arena. In The Ideal Refugees, the author argues that secularism and the empowerment of Sahrawi refugee women have been strategically invoked to secure the humanitarian and political support of Western state and non-state actors who ensure the continued survival of the camps and their inhabitants. This book challenges the reader to reflect critically on who benefits from assertions of good, bad, and ideal refugees, and whose interests are advanced by interwoven discourses about the empowerment of women and secularism in contexts of war and peace.

  • Special Issue: Faith-Based Humanitarianism in Contexts of Forced Displacement

    13 November 2013

    Despite an overall paucity of literature, the relationship between religious identity, belief and practice on the one hand, and processes of forced migration on the other, has received increasing attention in the 2000s.1 Over the past decade, a number of journals have convened Special Issues which focus on particular dimensions of this relationship. The introductions and contributions to such volumes note the extent to which religion may play a significant role as a potential cause of forced migration (i.e. examining asylum claims based on the grounds of religious persecution, see Mayer’s 2007 Special Issue of Refugee Survey Quarterly (RSQ)), and within forced migrants’ experiences of internal and international displacement, asylum-seeking, protracted refugeedom, and the quest for effective durable solutions. With reference to the focus on faith and experiences, Goździak and Shandy’s 2002 Special Issue of the Journal of Refugee Studies, entitled ‘Religion and Spirituality in Forced Migration,’ is a particularly noteworthy collection, whose articles engage with diverse ways of negotiating and coping with displacement which variously draw on, and/or result in changes in, personal, familial and collective religious beliefs and practices.2 While the above-mentioned collections draw together case-studies from a diversity of religious traditions, other Special Issues have more concretely explored the history of asylum and contemporary experiences of seeking refuge and protection in relation to specific monotheistic religions, such as Türk’s 2008 Special Issue of RSQ on ‘Asylum and Islam’.

  • Introduction: Faith-based humanitarianism in contexts of forced displacement

    13 November 2013

    Despite an overall paucity of literature, the relationship between religious identity, belief and practice on the one hand, and processes of forced migration on the other, has received increasing attention in the 2000s.1 Over the past decade, a number of journals have convened Special Issues which focus on particular dimensions of this relationship. The introductions and contributions to such volumes note the extent to which religion may play a significant role as a potential cause of forced migration (i.e. examining asylum claims based on the grounds of religious persecution, see Mayer’s 2007 Special Issue of Refugee Survey Quarterly (RSQ)), and within forced migrants’ experiences of internal and international displacement, asylum-seeking, protracted refugeedom, and the quest for effective durable solutions. With reference to the focus on faith and experiences, Goździak and Shandy’s 2002 Special Issue of the Journal of Refugee Studies, entitled ‘Religion and Spirituality in Forced Migration,’ is a particularly noteworthy collection, whose articles engage with diverse ways of negotiating and coping with displacement which variously draw on, and/or result in changes in, personal, familial and collective religious beliefs and practices.2 While the above-mentioned collections draw together case-studies from a diversity of religious traditions, other Special Issues have more concretely explored the history of asylum and contemporary experiences of seeking refuge and protection in relation to specific monotheistic religions, such as Türk’s 2008 Special Issue of RSQ on ‘Asylum and Islam’.

  • Inter-generational negotiations of religious identity, belief and practice: child, youth and adult perspectives from three cities

    13 November 2013

    Book description: Rescripting Religion in the City explores the role of faith and religious practices as strategies for understanding and negotiating the migratory experience. Leading international scholars draw on case studies of urban settings in the global north and south. Presenting a nuanced understanding of the religious identities of migrants within the 'modern metropolis' this book makes a significant contribution to fields as diverse as twentieth-century immigration history, the sociology of religion and migration studies, as well as historical and urban geography and practical theology.

  • The pragmatics of performance: putting ‘faith’ in aid in the Sahrawi refugee camps

    13 November 2013

    Since the 1970s, Sahrawi refugees have depended upon humanitarian assistance and political support offered by a variety of secular and faith-based non-governmental organizations. In this article I explore the ways in which Sahrawi refugees’ political representatives (the Polisario Front) have mobilized religiously-related claims to maximize diverse short- and long-term benefits both inside and outside the camps. In light of the contemporary geopolitical context, including localized concerns regarding ‘Islamism’ and ‘terrorism’ in North Africa, I argue that notions of ‘secularism’ and ‘religious tolerance’ have been invoked during interactions with different non-Sahrawi audiences to demonstrate the ‘ideal’ nature of the Sahrawi camps. In particular, the presence and activism of American evangelical humanitarians are invoked by the Polisario Front to demonstrate the ‘ideal’ nature of the camps as spaces of ‘religious tolerance’ and ‘inter-faith dialogue’. However, the presence of evangelical humanitarians equally has the potential to create an irreconcilable rupture not only with other, non-evangelical donors (including ‘secular’ Spanish ‘Friends of the Sahrawi’), but also between the Polisario and the very refugees which this organization purports to represent. I conclude the article by arguing that rather than creating a dialogic process between refugees and both secular- and faith-based humanitarians, maintaining the appearance of ‘religious tolerance’ is ultimately founded upon a system of repress-entation which purposefully centralizes certain groups, identifiers and dynamics whilst simultaneously displacing and marginalizing the potential for debate and contestation.

  • Human rights and the elusive universal subject: immigration detention under international human rights and EU law

    13 November 2013

    The right to liberty is ubiquitous in human rights instruments, in essence protecting all individuals from arbitrary arrest and detention. Yet, in practice, immigration detention is increasingly routine, even automatic, across Europe. Asylum seekers in particular have been targeted for detention. While international human rights law limits detention, its protections against immigration detention are weaker than in other contexts, as the state's immigration control prerogatives are given sway. In spite of the overlapping authority of international and regional human rights bodies, the caselaw in this field is diverse. Focusing on the U.N. Human Rights Committee, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Court of Justice of the European Union, this Article explores how greater interaction between these bodies could produce more rights-protective standards.

  • Courting access to asylum in Europe: recent supranational jurisprudence explored

    13 November 2013

    This article explores access to refugee protection, which in practice means access to a place of refuge, in light of various barriers to protection erected by European States. First, European States increasingly extend their border controls beyond their territorial borders and co-operate in order to prevent those seeking protection from reaching their territory. Yet, legal obligations, in particular the principle of non-refoulement, may continue to apply to these activities, as the concept of ‘jurisdiction’ in human rights law develops. Second, they engage a further, diametrically opposed move, where they purport to act as a single zone of protection, and allocate responsibility for asylum claimants in a manner that also hinders access to protection. The aim of this article is to explore the recent responses of Europe’s two supranational courts, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR or ‘Strasbourg’) and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU or ‘Luxembourg’), in confronting these attempts to limit and manage access to protection in the EU. Its focus is the ECtHR ruling in Hirsi Jamaa v Italy (condemning Italy’s pushback of migrants intercepted on boats in the Mediterranean to Libya), as well as that in MSS v Belgium and Greece (concerning the Dublin system for allocation of responsibility for processing asylum claims) and the subsequent CJEU ruling in NS/ME.