As families continue to endure separation after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, a less visible group of refugees has been abandoned by the Trump Administration with little recourse and dimming hope. In early 2018, approximately 100 Iranian refugees were denied resettlement to the U.S., stranding them in Vienna, Austria, where they had been awaiting final approvals through the U.S. Resettlement Program for over a year. Their denial was made “as a matter of discretion.” They have exhausted their savings and now have no clear path forward. President Trump’s policies have made these refugees’ already precarious lives even more so.
In a June 12 speech to governments and NGOs at UNHCR’s annual consultations on refugee resettlement in Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi made a passionate plea for additional resettlement pledges from participating nations. He will likely be disappointed.
What happens to people displaced from countries that don’t exist? Those displaced from ISIS- or Donetsk People's Republic (DNR)-controlled territories have had to confront this very question. They are, as a technical matter, categorized as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) rather than refugees, due to international non-recognition of the states from which they have been displaced; and as such, these individuals have been particularly affected by the lack of consensus on how to deal with IDPs. The experiences of individuals displaced during now-frozen conflicts following the fall of communist regimes in the Balkans and Caucasus suggest that they are unlikely to enjoy many of the legal protections afforded to refugees. The combination of a weak international legal regime to govern IDPs and de jure states’ political disincentives to integrate them suggests that they will not enjoy such protections until either a legally binding IDP regime is developed or the frozen conflicts become resolved.
IGAD--the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, constituted by the four Horn of Africa states plus Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya and Uganda--last week issued an important communique on Somali refugees. The Nairobi Declaration on Durable Solutions for Somali Refugees and Reintegration of Returnees in Somalia builds on earlier regional statements and agreements to work collectively toward safe and durable Somali returns and to seek additional funding from the international community to support hosting states.
It is a reality of human behavior that people usually relate better to stories than to facts and reasoned analysis. Stories have the power to motivate, compel, and persuade – to create a movement or call people to action. Social media has become a space for the sharing of stories, and indeed much of the online conversation about refugees is through this medium. Which stories people choose to share should be of interest to anyone concerned about the plight of refugees; as these choices elucidate points of interest, allude to how perceptions might be shaped, and open an opportunity to influence hearts and minds. This Forum post will consider the refugee stories that are shared on twitter. Analyzing common narratives from the popular stories, this post hopes to give a flavor of the kind of content that is capturing the public imagination, and explain why anyone working to improve the lives of refugees should care about these stories.
The headlines we saw over the past two years were European. Indeed, the word “crisis” was first attached to refugees when the refugees showed up in Europe. But this is not a European issue, or even a Western one. The numbers of refugees reaching Europe fell in 2016 to about one third the 2015 levels from 1 million to 300 thousand thanks to the constraints on transit imposed by Turkey as part of the EU Turkey deal. The Syrian war was plainly a humanitarian crisis for the millions of persons displaced by the violence. The dangers of crossing the Mediterranean from Libya have not declined. But for Europe, the secondary flow of refugees from Syria’s neighbors presented and presents not a demographic or economic crisis (the number of asylum-seekers arriving in Europe is about one-half of one percent of the continent’s total population). The crisis is one of governance, more specifically governance failure.