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Abstracts 04


Liana Lewis (Nottingham Trent University)

“What is to be a Refugee (and) Child in the Island? How do Refugee Children experience their lives in the 21st Century England.”

The issue of the well being of children who seek refuge in England has been brought into the spotlight of public debate by a proposal of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill 2002 which suggested the exclusion of such children from the mainstream educational system. Representatives of several sectors of the society called attention to the segregating background of such a proposal, the non-recognition of young refugees as children, and to the positive aspects of having these people taking part of one of the most important institutions in the formation of childhood.

At the core of such discussion are concepts that have been permeating the movement of migration in England for decades: segregation, assimilation, and integration. In the children’s case especially, common sense usually points out how fast they are at “getting into” the new society. But what do the children themselves have to tell us about their process of socialisation in the host country? How do they signify their experiences and expectations in the new place?  How do the several positionalities of their identities - gender, age, ethnicity, colour - interact with each other on their quotidian?

As a result of my interaction with refugee children from several countries, I have found some possible answers to these questions. It is what we got from the time we spent together in their classrooms, playgrounds, community centre, houses, the Refugee Forum, or following an interview script. Such answers don’t have the intention of generalisation, but of bringing into discussion the several possibilities of being a refugee (and) child in England.

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Anastasia Dimitriadou (The Institute of Education, London)

“An exploration of refugees’ experiences as English language students in Further education colleges.”

English language acquisition is a major component of refugees’ integration into British society.  Being entitled to free English language courses for speakers of other languages (ESOL) at Further Education colleges, refugee students are being placed in culturally and educationally diverse classrooms.  Beyond language acquisition, this environment provides not only opportunities for social interaction, but also for the encounter of British culture and societal norms. 

Influenced by social capital theory, an attempt has been made to ‘see’ the ESOL environment as a network that mediates benefits – access to resources, information sharing, norms and obligations, relationships and trust – to refugee students through language acquisition. 

This paper is going to discuss findings from a pilot study in two FE colleges.  In particular, information on demographic characteristics and educational experiences of ESOL refugee students are going to be presented.  Also, their views on migration’s effects on identity, their experiences as adult students and the barriers faced by their social or immigration status are going to be analysed.  Finally their experiences of exile will be discussed.

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Nando Sigona (PhD candidate, Oxford Brookes University)

“Policy and practice of refugee integration in Italy and Sweden.”

Based on extensive fieldwork undertaken between Feb 2002 and Feb 2004 in Sweden and Italy, the paper looks at Swedish and Italian policy and practice of refugee integration in the context of EU harmonisation and national legal and policy frameworks. It overviews the historical background of current asylum seeker reception and refugee integration strategies. By focusing on integration and its diverse meanings in the two contexts, the paper stresses the role played by actors on the ground in generating and implementing their own definition of ‘integration’.

Finally, it highlights the importance in the two countries of the ‘move on’ phase and its impact on the possibility of success of integration policies.

Choman Hardi (PhD candidate, University of Kent in Canterbury)

“Kurdish women refugees: obstacles and opportunities.”

Forced migration is the source great amount of stress and anxiety starting from the general uncertainties a migrant experiences regarding their legal status in the country of refuge to the endless requirements of adjustment (learning a new language, founding a new home, finding a job, re-qualifying), loss of social status and becoming a member of a stigmatized minority group, i.e. asylum seekers. However, migration can open the door to new opportunities and empower some migrants, especially women refugees that may come from societies where women in general are second class compared to men. In this paper, I will start with outlining some of the different kinds of problems Kurdish women refugees have faced in Britain and go on to talk about more positive aspects of migration and how some women are empowered in the long run. I will conclude by making some suggestions about how women can be helped in the country of refuge to fulfill their potential.

Alice Szczepanikova  (Central European University, Budapest)

“Seeking asylum: Gender Roles and Conjugal Relationships Challenged (The case of Chechen Refugees in the Czech Republic).”

The focus of this paper is to introduce my research project. Its tentative title is “Seeking Asylum: Gender Roles and Conjugal Relationships Challenged (The Case of Chechen Refugees in the Czech Republic)”. I am examining the situation of Chechens seeking asylum in the Czech Republic from the gender perspective. I scrutinize how the experiences of Chechen refugees influence the power relations between wives and husbands and the position of Chechen women within family. I argue that asylum seekers’ gender roles are being redefined during their stay in the refugee camp. They find themselves in the situation of huge uncertainty, immobility and disruption from their previous social status. Besides, it is an essential characteristic of refugee camps that they do not allow to maintain a rigid distinction between private and public domains. In such conditions, refugees’ notion of women’s and men’s place within the social space are widely affected.

In addition, the objective of this paper is to acquaint participants with the issues of forced migration in the context of Central Eastern Europe (CEE). In my point of view, this region is often overlooked by researchers even though the number of refugees entering the CEE countries increased dramatically since the beginning of the 1990s.

Anna Lindley (Development studies, University of Oxford)

“Refugee Diaspora and financial remittances: exploring the case of Somalia.”

Migrant remittances are moving centre stage in academic and policy research as a potential source of ‘development finance’. However, relatively little attention has been paid to remittances to countries undergoing conflict. Refugees are assumed to have little income to send home, so there is a tendency to focus on their political rather than economic or social influence. Moreover, conditions at home are assumed to prevent ‘productive’ uses of remittances, minimising their ‘multiplier effects’. This paper critically reconsiders these two assumptions based on a case study of Somalia, where disapora remittances represent the largest source of external revenue, significantly outstripping livestock exports and aid.


The first part of the paper explores the significance of remittances as a factor in the livelihoods of both senders and recipients. The second part of the paper investigates the wider impact of remittances in Somalia, frequently invoked to explain the relative thriving of the economy despite continued insecurity and some appalling human development indicators.  Overall, I argue that remittance transfer to Somalia represents the engagement of refugees in a transnational process, the social, economic and commercial dynamics of which challenge common assumptions about the agency of refugees (conceived of as spatially enacted in the host state) and state collapse (conceptualised in terms of absolute disorder).

(The paper draws on exploratory interviews and literature review undertaken in the early phases of the writer’s a doctorate).

Fatmata Lovetta Sesay (University of Munich)

“How do refugees fare in rich and poor countries? An empirical analysis.”

Developing countries are indisputably major host to refugees. These poorest countries have provided asylum and shelter for almost three quarter of the world’s refugees over the past decade. However, the effect of hosting refugees on the economies of refugee-receiving nations has received less attention in academic research -especially from the economics discipline- possibly because of data irregularity on refugees. Statistics on refugees suffer from unavailability, periodical lags, contradictions and the incompatibility of data from different sources. Taking data problems into consideration, this paper estimates the effect of refugees on different per capita GDP thresholds in a sample of 72 countries (mostly Sub-Saharan African countries but also including some Asian and South American countries) for the period 1990-2000. Rather than asking whether or not host countries on the whole benefit, this article disaggregates the question: which countries benefits and which ones loses from refugee influxes and why? Using econometric technique on cross sectional data, the paper finds interesting results indicating that refugees are better off in relatively richer countries. Refugees produce a positive effect on ‘richer’ countries and negative on ‘poorer’ countries. The effect remains strong and consistent using several GDP per capita thresholds.

Leben Nelson Moro (University of Oxford)

“Oil explotation, Civil War and Mass expulsions of South Sudanese.”

In 1999 oil began flowing out of southern Sudan, the epicentre of an insurgency that has caused the death of about 2 million people and displacement of 5 million others. This great achievement in the oil exploitation, which became a reality because of the involvement of multinational companies, boosted Sudanese government attempts to militarily end the war raging since 1983. In order to defend their military position, the rebels declared oil installations legitimate military targets and launched several attacks on them. To secure the oil fields, government forces embarked on massive expulsions of southern Sudanese civilians in the oil producing areas. Hence, the exploitation of oil caused the ethnic cleansing of local people and implicated multinational companies in gross violations of human rights.

The paper examines the actions of the belligerents in the oil producing areas of southern Sudan as well as the role played by foreign companies involved in the oil exploitation. Although the focus of the paper is on forced displacement of civilians resulting from oil exploitation, it also examines the impacts of this vital resource on the nature of the Sudanese conflict. The paper is mainly based on reports of human rights organization and other relevant literature. It is also informed by my own participation in human rights advocacy.

Nida Bikmen (University of New York)

“Memories of homeland, residues of ethnic violence. How different discourses about the history of ethnic relations in Bosnia affect interethnic attitudes and contacts in exile.”

This on-going dissertation research is investigating the aftermath of forced migration in terms of interethnic relationships in the refuge country among the Bosnian refugee communities in the U.S.  Bosnians began to arrive in the U.S. in the early 1990s and most have resettled there.  Although the war ended, political and economic instability still prevails in Bosnia.  Many refugees are reluctant to go back, at least not before they ensure financial security for the rest of their lives in Bosnia.

The research focuses on the collective memories (defined as cultural discourses about a group’s history) of Bosnia and of the war, and attempts to explore how different discourses about the history of ethnic relations in Bosnia affect interethnic attitudes and contacts in exile.  In the Bosnian context, the official ideology of “Yugoslavian brotherhood and unity” which is based on the suppression of ethnic identities and memories of ethnic conflict is countered by the discourse of nationalist leaders, which is based on the revival of the memories of previous conflicts, and which promotes expectations of antagonism from and distrust of the “other”.  This project will attempt to answer the question of "What is it about Bosnians' pre-war experiences and post-migration contexts that makes them more prone to endorse one discourse rather than the other and thus, lead to differential outcomes in terms of interethnic attitudes?"

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Anamitra Deb (University of Oxford)

“Conservation, Displacement and Indigenous Rights: A case-study of the Basarwa in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, 1986-2003.”

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve was established on February 14th, 1961. Based on George Silberbauer’s findings, the Reserve was created ostensibly for the conservation not only of flora and fauna in the area, but also of the Bushmen of the Reserve, to allow them the unalloyed right to continue their traditional ecological lifestyle within the Reserve. However, in 1986, the Botswana Government called for the removal of all Bushmen in the Reserve, and their resettlement in new locations outside. This removal without consultation of the Bushmen indigenous to the Reserve resulted in Botswana’s conservation priorities, and previously unquestioned human rights record being subject to international scrutiny. Since then, most of the Bushmen of the CKGR have been relocated into new government camps, where their traditional access to land and natural resources are denied, and their standard of living has declined severely.

This paper situates the current condition of these Basarwa (Bushmen) within the global discourse on indigenous rights, primarily in the context of conservation-induced internal displacement.  It examines in detail the changing conception of Basarwa rights and place in Botswana in the period, 1961-2003.  It exposes the implicit but systematic exclusion of the Reserve Basarwa by official development policy, and the policies underlying the official conception of the Basarwa.  It demonstrates that the land tenure systems espoused by the Basarwa and the Government are incompatible, and exposes structural favouritism toward the dominant Tswana.  Finally, it offers two complementary solutions to the current displacement dilemma that benefit both the Basarwa and the Reserve: an ecological model based on the tenets of ecosystem stability and community-based natural resource management; and a rights-based model that applies the capabilities theory of Amartya Sen. It concludes by claiming that the incorporation of minority groups into liberal nation-state frameworks will remain an issue of grave significance.

Shahira Samy (University of Exeter)

“50 years to be finally recognised as refugees: The story of two Palestinian Tribes…”

About one third of approximately 7000 people belonging to the Baqqara and Ghaname tribes of Palestine are already registered with UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Work Agency) as Palestine Refugees. The applications of the remaining two thirds were consistently turned down for not meeting UNRWA’s criteria for refugee status and the Syrian government has repeatedly been urging UNRWA to reconsider its position in respect of the unregistered tribe members.

During a six-week period spent at the UNRWA field office in Damascus, I have been able to piece together the answer to the following question:  Should UNRWA register the remaining tribe members or not? In other words, do these people qualify for registration with UNRWA?

The answer is yes. Based on that research, the organisation has finally approved the registration of the tribe members and my proposed presentation aims at telling that story involving so many historic, social, political and legal elements.

Throughout the presentation the following points shall also be highlighted:

1)    How different/similar the only other UN organisation dealing with refugees apart from UNHCR is.

2)    Who are the Palestinian refugees

3)    The significance and implications of finally being registered with UNRWA as Palestine refugees

Yuriy Sak (University of Wolverhampton)

“Taking the Right to Return Seriously.”

This paper formulates and elaborates in detail a holistic notion of the right to return to normality of human existence; a normative concept which goes beyond the physical, and largely politically convenient relocation of internally displaced persons to the destinations of return or resettlement.

More specifically, this paper will argue that in the absence of the well-established international legal and institutional frameworks for IDPs, their fate has frequently been entrusted to the legal rules derived by analogy from the neighbouring refugee, human rights and humanitarian law. While undoubtedly better than nothing, this interdisciplinary floating of the issue of internal displacement has largely resulted in the indeterminacy of the appropriate legal standards and has allowed the avoidance of the responsibility by actors engaged with IDPs.

The paper shows that taking a rights-based approach to the IDP discourse requires a broader interpretation of the concept of return. While the ideal may often seem to be the return of the displaced populations to their former homes, the right to return may in some cases be implemented more efficiently through either alternative resettlement of IDPs or through their continued stay in the areas of internationally-sponsored safety. The rights-based ethos of the IDP discourse, the paper concludes, requires that human safety and security of IDPs be viewed as the only valid criteria of the appropriateness of the choice between the alternative ways of the implementation of the right to return.

Michael Khabie-Zeitoune (University of London)

“The Labour government’s position in the parliamentary debate surrounding major internal reforms of the asylum system in the United Kingdom from September 2001 to November 2002.”

The paper will focus on the government's position during the parliamentary debate sparked by major reform of the asylum system in the United Kingdom from October 2001 to November 2002. The period under examination spans the announcement of major internal reforms, the introduction of a new Labour White Paper, and the passage of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill to royal assent. Specifically four debates will be examined: piloting accommodation centres, detention measures and the role of 'removal' centres, changes to the appeals system and the withdrawal of support for in-country applicants (Section 55). The paper will include an examination of the major arguments of the debates, the Labour government’s presentation of its position and an evaluation of government policy in the light of current research. Particular attention is paid to the interaction between notable political rhetoric, external events, media coverage and the public mood.

Elizabeth Rowley (John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health)

“Local Integration of Refugee Services:  the hand-over model vs. a systems approach.”


Many refugee situations today are of a protracted nature.  In Africa, over 3 million refugees live in long-term circumstances .  Positive and negative impacts of protracted refugee stays exist, both for refugees and host communities.  While a number of studies have highlighted these, this paper focuses specifically on the management of local integration processes.  The international community commonly responds to refugee situations by establishing so-called “care and maintenance” programs specifically for refugee populations.  International and local NGOs usually manage these programs, often with minimal coordination with local health, education, or sector ministries or district authorities.  While there may be cause for this approach in a short-term emergency phase, refugee services managed in parallel to local systems can be very problematic in the long run.  This is particularly true where refugee agencies must reduce support over time due to financial or other constraints.  The challenge of coordinating refugee services with local structures quickly becomes an issue.  This paper describes two different models for the integration of refugee health services in particular: the hand-over model and the systems approach model, based on experience in Arua and Adjumani districts in Uganda. 

Alexander Betts (Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford University)

“The International Relations of the 'New' Extra-Territorial Approaches to Refugee Protection: Explaining the Policy Initiatives of the UK Government and UNHCR.”

During 2003 there was an immense amount of debate about the possibility of states adopting extra-territorial approaches to asylum processing and refugee protection; and such policies’ compatibility with international refugee and human rights law.  The debate has centred on two central policy initiatives: the so-called “UK Proposals” and UNHCR’s “Convention Plus”. It has so far focused primarily on the practical and legal consequences of these initiatives.  What has been less clear is any explanation of the UK’s (and other supportive states’) motivation in aspiring to de-territorialize refugee protection and of UNHCR’s strategy in the evolving consultations. After clarifying the conceptual and political relationship between the two sets of proposals, the article explores the motivation and international relations underlying them, from the perspectives of the UK Government and UNHCR.

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