Refugee Protection

Refugee Protection

How the Asylum Backlog Affects Torture Survivors and What the Biden Administration Can Do to Fix It

One of the most pernicious aspects of the changes to the asylum processes promulgated under the Trump administration is substituting the first-in, first-out (FIFO) policy for the last-in, first-out (LIFO) one. Individuals who had already been waiting for years for an asylum interview have to wait even longer. Until they obtain asylum, individuals cannot petition for visas for their immediate relatives who are often still facing danger. In many ways, this is the “other family separation” crisis, but it remains unseen by most policy makers and the general public.

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How President Biden Can Make His Commitment to Refugees a Reality

In an Executive Order signed on February 3, 2021, President Joe Biden promised a thorough review of the US refugee admissions program as well as the Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) under which Afghans and Iraqis endangered by their association with the US government are admitted. He also announced that the United States will resettle 125,000 refugees in Fiscal Year 2022 and consult with Congress to increase this year’s admissions quota as a down payment. These promises offer hope to thousands of refugees who have been awaiting resettlement, often for years and still more often in precarious settings. Fulfilling this promise will not come easily, however. The new administration has scant time to rebuild a program that the Trump administration sought to destroy.

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Recent Work on Refugees & Forcibly Displaced Persons

The Center for Migration Studies (CMS) has recently released four new resources describing and proposing solutions to the challenges faced by refugees and forcibly displaced persons globally. A new CMS essay, provides an overview of the Venezuelan crisis and closely examines legal contexts and responses of countries receiving Venezuelans. A new paper from CMS’s Journal on Migration and Human Security outlines the legal protections afforded migrants in places of armed conflicts and describes the obstacles to realizing those protections in the context of the Yemeni and Libyan conflicts. CMS has also published a new story from Omar al-Muqdad, a prominent journalist, documentary filmmaker, and former Syrian refugee. Al-Muqdad reflects on a Syrian refugee camp that was set ablaze and shares the hopes of Abdul Qadir, a father living in a Syrian refugee camp. A new video interview with Donald Kerwin, executive director of CMS, provides an informal overview and reflection on the world’s forcibly displaced persons and the conditions they face at the advent of a new year. Finally, CMS and Refugee Council USA released an exhaustive report on ways to rebuild and strengthen the US refugee resettlement program.

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Caught in the Crossfire: Challenges to Migrant Protection in the Yemeni and Libyan Conflicts

In spite of the prevailing security dynamics in Yemen and Libya, both states continue to serve as areas of transit along some of the world’s largest mixed migration routes, leaving migrants caught in the crossfire of the two conflicts. This article examines the legal framework governing the protection of migrants in armed conflict under international humanitarian and human rights law. It also identifies two adverse incentives produced by the conflict situations that impede the exercise of these legal protections: (1) profits derived from migrant smuggling and trafficking, and (2) the use of migrants to support armed groups. In the absence of stable conditions in Yemen and Libya, individuals have little reason to respect international legal protections and discontinue migrant abuse connected with the lucrative businesses of smuggling and trafficking. The intractable nature of the two conflicts has also led to the strategic use of migrants as armed support, and more specifically as combatants, weapons transports, and human shields. Given these realities, the article outlines several recommendations to address the issue of migrant abuse in conflict. It recommends that states, particularly those neighboring Yemen and Libya, strengthen regular migration pathways to help reduce the number of migrants transiting through active conflict zones. It further advises that the international community increase the cost of non-compliance to international humanitarian law through the use of accountability mechanisms and through strategic measures, including grants of reciprocal respect to armed groups that observe protections accorded to migrants in conflict situations.

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The Hope of Refugees as a New Year Approaches

With a new year on the horizon and the world focused on the coronavirus pandemic, another harsh winter has arrived at the door of the squalid refugee camps where hundreds of thousands struggle to survive and retain their human dignity. Many harsh winters have passed over Syrian and many other refugees with what seems like total indifference from the world’s governments, including some who were strongly committed to refugee acceptance in the past.

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Charting a Course to Rebuild and Strengthen the US Refugee Admissions Program

This report analyzes the US refugee resettlement program – known as “USRAP” (the US Refugee Admissions Program) – leveraging data from a national survey of resettlement stakeholders conducted in 2020. The survey examined USRAP from the time that refugees arrive in the United States. The survey’s design and questionnaire were informed by three community gatherings organized by Refugee Council USA in the fall and winter of 2019, extensive input from an expert advisory group, and a literature review.

This report finds that USRAP serves important purposes, enjoys extensive community support, and offers a variety of effective services. Overall, the survey finds a high degree of consensus on the US resettlement program’s strengths and objectives, and close alignment between its services and the needs of refugees at different stages of their settlement and integration. Because USRAP’s infrastructure and community-based resettlement networks have been decimated in recent years, the Biden administration’s main challenges will be to rebuild and revitalize the program, educate the public on it, and try to regain broad, bi-partisan support for it. The report also points to specific ways in which USRAP’s programs and services should be strengthened.

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The Risk, Care, and Imagination of Moral Agency: Two Women’s Narratives of Life After Refugee Resettlement

Nadra and Ghazel first came to North America as refugees. Today, they participate in their communities as mothers, teachers, learners, and leaders. Although much of the literature on refugee resettlement focuses on refugee-serving agencies, refugee women can have a profound impact on fellow refugees in their new home communities. Interviews from 2017 and 2019 with Nadra and Ghazel about their post-resettlement experiences reveal insight into both the nature and effects of moral agency under constraint. The constraints refugee women encounter in the United States operate like a downward-turning spiral; with each twist of the “spiral,” a new obstacle appears that makes overcoming subsequent obstacles all the more daunting. However, Nadra’s and Ghazel’s narratives indicate that acts of moral agency—characterized by hopeful risk, holistic care, and future-oriented imagination—can reverse the direction of the spiral by lowering barriers to integration and expanding opportunities for refugee women, their families, and their communities to thrive.

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Revisiting the Refugee–Host Relationship in Nakivale Refugee Settlement: A Dialogue with the Oxford Refugee Studies Centre

Uganda has long promoted refugee self-reliance as a sustainable livelihood strategy with progressive land-allocation and free-movement-for-work policies. Framed as a dialogue with Oxford University Refugee Studies Centre (“the Centre”), this article explores sustainable solutions that benefit refugees as well as the host populations that receive them. It explores the self-reliance opportunities that depend on the transnational, national, and local markets in which refugees participate. It acknowledges the Centre’s substantial work and welcomes its focus on economic outcomes. For Nakivale Refugee Settlement in Uganda, however, the discussion of “refugee economies” may not be complete without problematizing the effects on the host populations living alongside the refugees.

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More than a Wall: The Rise and Fall of US Asylum and Refugee Policy

This article uses a multidisciplinary approach — analyzing historical sources, refugee and asylum admissions data, legislative provisions, and public opinion data — to track the rise and fall of the US asylum and refugee policy. It shows that there has always been a political struggle between people who advocate for a generous refugee and asylum system and those who oppose it. Today, the flexible system of protecting refugees and asylees, established in 1980, is giving way to policies that weaponize them.

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