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Abstracts from FMSC 2003

Students presenting at the 1st Annual Forced Migration Student Conference

Refugee rights in the 21st Century—racism and resistance within fortress Europe

Elane Heffernan - University of East London

At present the processes of exclusion arising, from the process of convergence within the European Union and construction of a “European” identity requiring the fabrication of a new “other” mediated through the state (Balibar 1991), are gathering pace. Tens of thousands are struggling to enter the walls of fortress Europe, and those who make it through the chinks face increasing pressure to survive. The current debate about how recent anti-asylum racism has gained ground directly relates to the possibility of building resistance to exclusionary policies. It is popularly held that many that politicians introduce exclusion in response to a popular fear driven from the demos. From the perspective of campaigning work, especially with the Ahmadi family campaign, I want to look at this debate and at the prospects of winning anti-racist support within the subordinate class. It is my belief that the new measures in the UK, introduced in part as a response to the rise of the far right in Europe, seek to segregate asylum seekers as a direct attempt to weaken links between refugees and the domestic working class. This marks, not a new racism as Sivananden suggests, but I would argue a new and dangerous stage in institutional racism in the UK—which of course does not stop at refugees but is being felt by the settled back communities—especially Muslims. Migrants have always resisted racism, those with no access to mainstream society do not achieve the same level of success as those who are able to mobilise forces within the mainstream to counteract the power of the state. For example, the French sans-papiers movement, for example, was able to mobilise church, trade union and political organisations in legitimising the demands of the movement and ensuring success while the young Muslim women in France wishing to respect their religion and wear headscarves to school could not.

Resettlement: rediscovering the lost solution

James Milner - Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford

The focus of this paper is resettlement. As one of the three durable solutions, resettlement has historically been a significant vehicle through which the UNHCR has been able to realize its mandate of finding a solution for the condition of refugees, and has served as a tangible expression of international solidarity on the part of Western States. Resettlement was the core of responses to early refugee crisis, from the Hungarian exodus in 1956, to the international response to the Indo-Chinese refugee crisis, specifically the 1989 Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA). Resettlement seems, however, to have fallen out of favor with the international refugee regime since the end of the CPA. As opposed to alleviating the burden of countries of first asylum and seeking solutions for refugee populations for whom neither repatriation nor integration were viable solutions, the norm now appears to be containment in the region of origin and the recurring theme of protracted refugee situations. In response to the rising security, economic and environmental concerns of host states, the policy of ‘facilitated’, and often forced, return has become a prominent feature of solutions for refugees. This trend has led some authors, like Chimni, to ask if resettlement has ceased to be a viable durable solution. This paper has three goals. The first is to demonstrate how resettlement has, historically, played a significant role in the comprehensive solution of complex refugee emergencies. Second, the paper will examine the decline of resettlement in the eyes of Western states, and place this decline within the broader framework of developments in the international refugee regime. Finally, the paper will examine recent initiatives to revitalize resettlement, from the development of a UNHCR resettlement Handbook in 1997, through the treatment of resettlement during the recent Global Consultations and drafting of the Agenda for Protection. The objective of the paper will be to demonstrate that resettlement can still play a vital role, as an instrument of international protection, as an expression of international solidarity, and as a durable solution for refugees. The paper will highlight how resettlement can play a strategic role in the upholding asylum, can contribute to addressing the security concerns of host states, and, given its complimentary nature with the other durable solutions, can serve as the core of comprehensive solutions for refugee situations.

Eastwards Enlargement of ‘Europe’ and Restrictions on Immigration and Asylum Policies

Marat Kengerli - The Queen’s University of Belfast

The process of the fifth EU expansion is underway and takes on countries from a wide range of area in the Central and Eastern Europe with total population of more than 100 million. The official date of accession has already been set as the 1st of May 2004. The eastwards enlargement has and will certainly have a significant influence on the future European immigration and asylum policies. None of the previous enlargements has focused on so many and such a diversity of countries that are dramatically different from the Union. Therefore, the issues of free movement of people are put into a completely new dimension. The existing migration pressure on the EU from third countries provokes, rightly or wrongly, the EU Member States to develop and implement restrictive measures in their national immigration and asylum system. With a perspective of sooner expansion, one of the obvious objectives of the EU policy-makers is to create on the EU's eastern doorstep some sort of ‘filtration buffer’ against unwanted migration and refugee inflows. Consequently, the paper will focus on the nature and scope of the cautious approaches in immigration and asylum policies upheld by the EU Member States towards the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEECs), aiming to prevent possible migration from and through these countries as well as the Newly Independent States to the Union’s core. In its relations with the CEECs, the key element of the EU policy is to make sure that EU acquis is fully maintained. The presentation will look at the issue of harmonisation of national immigration and refugee policies of the CEECs with those of the EU. It will attempt to assess the extent and legitimacy of importing the EU’s immigration law and practice into the domestic sphere of the CEECs.

From Settlement to Integration - A Social Domains Approach to Refugee Policy in Germany and Britain

Ulrike Hill CRER-University of Warwick

The integration of refugees in the country of exile has long been regarded by UNHCR as a permanent solution to the refugee issue. While ‘integration’ has recently become the buzz-word in European and national refugee policy, there appears to be no clear concept of what integration actually means. This paper examines the concept of integration with the aim of establishing how the term is used by various social agents. I will show that there exists a serious conceptual confusion around the notion of integration, which prevents any precise definition of the concept and renders its meaning to a ‘meaning in use’. This conceptual analysis will be followed by a consideration of national British and German refugee policies in order to examine how the concept of integration is applied in practice. Identifying a similarly incoherent notion of integration at the level of policy, I will argue that the fundamental problem of existing integration policies is initially a theoretical one as the neglected relationship between structure and agency needs more consideration. I will propose a social theoretical perspective based on social domains, which in my view has the potential to effectively link structure and agency and thus presents a more fruitful basis for an understanding of integration and related policies.

Asylum in the UK – A phenomenological approach to acculturation

Philip Brown - University of Huddersfield

Purpose: To explore and understand the experiences of seeking asylum from the perspectives of the individuals involved in the asylum system. Background: When any individual enters a new culture/country to live, their culture, social and political structures, and past experiences interact with those present in the new environment. This interaction stimulates a process of change and adaptation, which maybe conceptualised as ‘acculturation’, which impacts upon any consequential adaptation that takes place to this new environment. When considering the asylum system, how this change and adaptation is understood and interpreted inevitably impacts upon how the system is implemented and consequently how the system is experienced. Taking a phenomenological approach to this area allows an attempt to understand the experience of the asylum system in the individuals ‘own terms’ and tries to explore the ‘meaning’ that people place upon their experiences of migration and settlement. This approach allows the research to produce findings that are ‘grounded’ in the lived experiences of all those involved within the system. Research is being conducted to explore these issues with the Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Asylum Consortium in the form of exploratory depth interviews with ‘key informants’ originating from all service providing local authorities attached to the Consortium, with asylum seekers participating in the research who are supported by these local authorities.

Community-building in asylum-seeker/ refugee dispersal sites in the UK.

Hannah Lewis - University of Hull

This paper presents proposed PhD research into ‘community-building in asylum-seeker/ refugee dispersal sites in the UK’ and initial findings from preliminary research. The research will be an ethnographic project based in Leeds and other towns in Yorkshire and Humberside, and aims to examine the conceptualisations of community that emerge amongst asylum-seekers/ refugees, those involved in their care and control and long-term residents. Community is a term that appears frequently in policy on the dispersal of refugees, integration, and multiculturalism, and which is often utilised uncritically in the voluntary sector, local government and much academic literature. Positive depictions of community may, however, gloss over issues of responsibility to others and freedom, that come with the security sought in community. Furthermore, there may be a tendency in Britain to view community as a relatively static, geographically situated object, whilst refugees themselves may build identity around fluid, multi-sited and multi-faceted notions of community. This paper will discuss the extent to which existing policy works with and against the formation of new refugee communities, and will examine recent post-modern and globalisation theories in anthropology that challenge the significance of geographical roots in favour of cultural flow and fluid boundaries in the formation of identities.

A Bitter Pill to Swallow - Obstacles Facing Refugee Doctors in the UK

Emma Stewart - University of Dundee

Within a climate which is increasingly hostile towards migrants coming to the UK there is one group that challenges the negative assumptions. Refugee doctors have the potential to contribute to this country's economy but all the evidence points to a waste of this resource. This paper will summarise the main difficulties facing refugee doctors in the UK. Unlike previous investigations, it will report directly from the personal experiences of 35 doctors, both employed and unemployed. It was found that the main difficulties facing refugee doctors are GMC registration, unemployment regulations, being shortlisted for a job and career progression. The interviews also uncovered the important personal and cultural impact on individuals. This study of refugee doctors in the UK will clearly demonstrate that for many the hurdles they face are a 'bitter pill to swallow'. This paper calls for more immediate action to ensure that refugee doctors make full use of the existing governmental and secular provisions. More needs to be done to guarantee that doctors' previous experience is fairly assessed, doctors are helped to enter the NHS quicker and once within the health service doctors should be guided in how to progress with their careers.

Stranger than Others?

Nigel Danby - Goldsmiths College, London

Some strangers are stranger than others. If, as Benedict Anderson argues, the nation is an "imagined political community" of strangers, what are the processes by which refugees and asylum seekers are figured as strange in a particular way? Critically engaging with the thought of Michel Foucault, this paper examines the ways in which the migrant is put into knowledge and how she or he is rendered as a subject of what Nikolas Rose calls "advanced liberal governmentality." Using the figure of the migrant to interrogate Foucauldian social theory from a post-structuralist perspective, I will argue that psychic processes are involved in the practices of alterity and mimesis, that is, of 'othering' and 'same-ing.' In addition to this analytical moment, I will explore the presence of the migrant as the source of a unique ethical demand. In doing so, I engage with the thought of Emmanuel Levinas and his influence on Derrida, placing Levinas' critique of ontology and Western metaphysics in the context of the Jewish Scriptures.

Experts in Their Own Environments? Considerations and Choices for Researchers

Patricia Hynes - Middlesex University

This paper is based on issues raised in a research project investigating the experience of asylum seekers in the dispersal process. It investigates processes of social exclusion within this system and during the processes of secondary migration. The study examines the refugee experience in its entirety, focusing mainly on the latter stages, once a refugee reaches the UK. The research is built on the premise that refugees are the experts of their own experience and is therefore based on qualitative methods. Crucial to the success of these methods is the establishment of trust between the researcher and the researched. The refugee experience however, creates mistrust at a number of levels. Considerations of why refugees themselves mistrust; why refugees are mistrusted; who is trusted to provide information about refugees, and how to build trust as a researcher are investigated. These issues are examined in relation to their theoretical as well as practical dimensions. Finally, the issue of being an ‘outsider’ to this process – both as a researcher and as a non-refugee – is explored.

Dispersal of asylum seekers: public attitudes and press portrayals around the UK

Nissa Finney - University of Wales

The ‘New Migration’ in Europe since the early 1990s has brought issues of asylum to the forefront of academic, political and social debate in the UK. The much-discussed 1999 Asylum and Immigration Act brought in a controversial policy of dispersal of asylum seekers from South East England, with the intention of spreading social and economic ‘burdens’. This research uses theories of minority settlement and integration, othering and prejudice and media effects to investigate perceptions of and attitudes towards this policy. Qualitative and quantitative information on local attitudes and local press coverage in 5 areas of the UK has been collected and this paper will present initial findings and their potential implications.

A Moving Image? Possibilities and Limitations for the Representation of Refugees in British Television Documentary

Lucy Nabijou - Bijou Films

Through an analysis of the contingencies of media production, reception, text, and context, this dissertation examines the output by British broadcasting institutions of documentaries about refugees, highlighting various prevalent tendencies in the portrayal of refugees and assessing the extent to which conventional forms of representation can be said to be problematic. Via an examination of the working methods of two less conventional documentary makers, and an account of the author’s own experience of making a film about a refugee, alternative, more empathetic possibilities for the representation of refugees in British television documentary are explored. It is concluded that whilst the opportunities for broadcast of the latter kind of films may from time to time become available, in the current climate it is likely that negative forms of representation will continue to predominate.

The Agency of Refugee Women: The Case of France and Canada

Leah Bassel - RSC-University of Oxford

This paper will begin to explore the relationship between the agency of refugee women and the presence of an official policy of multiculturalism in Canada, compared to refugee women’s agency in France where assimilation on a republican model is the official policy. The tensions, which are apparent between group rights and gender equality, and the danger that multiculturalism may be "bad" for women will be considered. Through previous research examining the integration of Muslim women in France and professional experience as a social worker with asylum seekers in Paris, the necessity of careful, context-based analysis of the particularity of refugee women's experiences when resettling in a new country has become apparent. Refugee women’s experiences are arguably unique and require separate attention from 'conventional' female migrants. Not only are their identities complex and multiple -- they integrate simultaneously as members of ethnic minorities and as women within these groups -- but this complexity combines with previous experiences of persecution in the country of origin. Their agency, the ability to act within a particular context, enabled and constrained within it by their particular roles and identities, must be studied in context in order to address the interwoven forms of discrimination these women face.

Women asylum seekers and refugees in West Yorkshire: Opportunities, constraints and the role of agency

Lisa Hunt - University of Leeds

My thesis is about the experiences of women asylum seekers and refugees in the host society, focusing in particular on how far they act on their own behalf, either individually or collectively, in order to secure basic rights and services. My initial hypothesis is that women do play an active role, and despite operating within constraints set by a variety of actors, their role is an important and constructive one. I am examining women’s agency in relation to the welfare of their own, their children’s, and their group or community’s lives as refugees and asylum seekers. The research focuses on West Yorkshire, not just for pragmatic reasons, but because West Yorkshire, Humberside and the North East had received over 11,700 asylum seekers since the dispersal policy began in April 2000 (Yorkshire Public Health Observatories, 2002 ). The fieldwork, which is now in the preliminary stages, involves carrying out up to 40 interviews in Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield and Leeds. These will be carried out with members of organisations that represent and support asylum seekers and refugees in my chosen localities, and also with women asylum seekers and refugees, access permitting. It is hoped that an equal number of both groups will be interviewed.

Trafficking of Women for Sexual Exploitation: A Gender-based well founded fear? An examination of refugee status determination for trafficked prostituted women from CEE/CIS countries to Western Europe

Jenna Shearer Demir - University of Pavia

Approximately 120,000 women and children are trafficked into the European Union every year. World-wide, estimates range from 700,000 - 4,000,000 women and children trafficked annually. The gendered aspect of trafficking for sexual exploitation brings about particular protection concerns for prostituted women. In cases where protection of trafficking victims is weak, traffickers connected to crime rings have corrupted officials, trafficking victims retain debts to traffickers or have testified against traffickers, the fear of physical harm or further exploitation is palpable. This paper argues that although victims of trafficking should not be guaranteed blanket refugee status, their cases should be heard for refugee status determination, having passed the threshold on one of the five convention grounds. If trafficking survivors as members of a particular social group are afforded the possibility of asylum, benefits may also extend to governments as more survivors may be willing to testify against their traffickers. In the upcoming European harmonization of migration and asylum policy, policy makers should consider updating the international refugee regime to protect trafficked people with a well-founded fear of persecution, and assume responsibility for those suffering what Kofi Annan calls ‘The most egregious form of human rights violation that the United Nations now confronts’.

A Conspiracy of Silence? Critical Fieldwork memoirs on ‘stakeholders’ Work in Refugee Protection in Kenya.

Ekuru Aukot - University of Warwick

The law, policy and practice of refugee protection at the national, regional and international levels, as well as availability (or lack of) of humanitarian assistance to the refugees, commonly dominate and indeed (always) form the basis for criticism of any refugee-receiving authority. Removed from the discussion are the attitudes, the characters, personalities and the mode of operation of those charged with the responsibilities of effecting the law, policy and humanitarian assistance to the refugees. The paper argues that the enforcement of laws for the protection of the refugee depends largely on the good will of governments, donor agencies, NGOs and individuals, working with or among refugees. Most often the perception of the refugee as a problem, as opposed to a human being with a problem, by the ‘stakeholders’ is argued as the greatest insecurity that can be visited upon one seeking protection. This paper critically observes how the work of refugee agencies in Kenya, some individuals, as well as some programmes proposed for the sustenance of the refugees, fail the protection ideal. Drawing on field experience conducted in Kenya, the character of stakeholders has made it almost impossible for refugees to see Kenya as an asylum state, and to say the least their attitudes towards the refugees is contemptuous, and is nothing less than a conspiracy of silence.

“This is Home Now” – The Creation of Social Support Networks by HIV Positive asylum seeking and other migrant women in London.

Judith Sunderland - University of East London

This paper explores the life experiences and social support networks of HIV positive asylum seeking women in London. In depth-interviews were carried out with 16 women from Sub – Saharan Africa who were diagnosed HIV positive after arrival in the UK and with staff from three community HIV organisations. Women spoke of their worries about lack of access to medication at home, the difficulties of living without welfare benefits and the impact on health; inadequate housing and access to familiar foods; fear of being dispersed out of London, away from specialist health care and newly created social networks and fear that asylum claim would be denied. In addition, the research findings highlight the cross-cultural differences in the meaning of being HIV positive, the complexities of disclosure of HIV status to existing family and friendship networks both in UK and at home, the reasons for a reluctance to mix with their own communities, the perceived double stigma and the importance of role models enabling women to identify as HIV positive and to join HIV specific organisations. The findings will be discussed in relation to current policies and theories of forced migration and integration.

Which “we”? The challenged and challenging identities of Cypriot refugees in London

Helen Taylor - University of East London

This paper examines the relationship between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot refugees in London and the extent to which their identities have been formed by: their experiences as refugees; their lives in London; their former lives in Cyprus; and their place in the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot diasporas. Unlike their counterparts in Cyprus who have been segregated, Cypriot refugees in Britain have lived in close contact with each other, which has led to more positive attitudes between the two communities. The identity of Cypriot refugees in Britain seems to have been influenced by life in Cyprus before partition and life in multi-ethnic London, rather than by the construction of distinct Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot identities in Cyprus since partition. This research also shows memory to be crucial to the reaffirmation of identity by Cypriot refugees in Britain, who have been exiled from their homeland, which has been split in two. The revisiting of memories is also of paramount importance for the passing on of identity to second generation refugees. In addition, although London has also been home to many Cypriot migrants, the identity of Cypriot refugees has been differently formulated, being marked by displacement, war and loss.

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