Refugees and mobility

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					       Refugees and mobility
       Giulia Scalettaris
       The way that mobility is dealt with in respect of protracted                                         refugees do move outside the three
       refugee situations shows a gap between social practices and                                          solutions framework. It envisages a
                                                                                                            degree of agency, as movement is not
       international policies.                                                                              aimed exclusively at searching for
       Asylum and migration are currently                        (repatriation), or in the neighbouring     protection in a ‘country of destination’.
       considered as separate policy areas.                      countries (local integration), or in       While refugees’ trajectories are
       Refugees are seen as lacking agency,                      a third country (resettlement).            still seen as linear and as having a
       mostly not doing but being done                                                                      direction (secondary movements
       to; they are forcibly displaced and                       However, mobility and transnational        are often referred to as ‘onward
       in need of protection. Migrants are                       networks often constitute effective        movements’), at the same time
       seen as voluntarily migrating and                         livelihood strategies. For instance,       secondary movements are considered
                                                                      mobility patterns of Afghans          as an exceptional phenomenon,
                                                                      and Somalis, both considered          prompted by the protracted
                                                                      among the largest and protracted      hopelessness peculiar to PRS.
                                                                      refugee populations, intensified
                                                                      following outbreaks of conflict.      Secondary	movements	
                                                                      Both populations have extensive       as a problem
                                                                      diasporas and have developed          In UNHCR policy papers, secondary
                                                                      extended transnational networks       movements are presented as a
                                                                      with multidirectional and/or          problem to be addressed and as a
                                                         UNHCR/J Björgvinsson

                                                                      cyclical mobility patterns. From      phenomenon to be reduced and
                                                                      this viewpoint, mobility could be     prevented. The main reason is
                                                                      considered as a solution by itself.   that they are usually irregular.
                                                                                                            Irregular movements undermine
                                                                      Secondary movements are one of        “the right of States to control who
                                                                      the key issues discussed in policy    can enter and remain in their
Exhausted survivors of smuggler-organised crossings of
                                                                      documents on protracted refugee       territory”1 and entail disorderly
  the Gulf of Aden wait for help on a beach in Yemen.
                                                                      situations (PRS). The notion refers   and unpredictable flows, both
                                                                      to refugees moving independently      considered undesirable for states.
       not in need of protection. While both                     from their first host country to a third
       regimes are based on states’ borders,                     country. PRS are seen as particular        In Southern countries refugees
       the regime addressing voluntary                           susceptible to secondary movements,        have often no opportunities for
       migrants centres on controlling                           which are prompted by the lack             legal mobility and this lack of legal
       and preventing migration between                          of durable solutions. In addition,         opportunities diverts the flows to
       states, rather than on defining and                       secondary movements are seen as            irregular channels, meaning that in
       protecting their rights. Within refugee                   strictly of concern to the refugee         many cases secondary movements
       policies, mobility is considered                          regime – a matter of asylum rather         are irregular almost by definition,
       incompatible with solutions to                            than of migration policy areas.            as a result of existing policies.
       displacement. In fact, all three                                                                     Therefore, in practice, preventing
       durable solutions imply settlement,                       The notion of secondary movements          irregular secondary movements
       either in the country of origin                           acknowledges that as a matter of fact      means preventing any movement.
FMR33                              PROTRACTED DISPLACEMENT                                                                             59

    The strategy of Northern countries          Absence of education and                    Moreover, due the co-existence of
    aiming at containment of refugees           employment, or the failure of the           international and national legal
    regionally, ensuring orderly and            state to protect from extreme poverty,      systems, legal status is not always
    limited arrivals exclusively through        are associated with protection in           clearly defined. For example, the one
    resettlement, reflects the very same        host countries, whereas a person            million documented Afghans in Iran
    attitude which secondary movements          leaving their own country for the           are not strictly refugees according
    clearly undermine. Thus, refugees           same reasons would be considered            to Iranian law. Alongside them
    are not supposed to move again after        as a voluntary migrant.                     there are hundreds of thousands of
    finding a refuge from persecution or                                                    undocumented Afghan commonly
    war. When they move, the exception to       Considering the importance attributed       labelled as labour migrants who
    the migration regime restricting cross-     by UNHCR to fostering refugees’             have no rights whatsoever.
    border movements that has been made         self-reliance, it is paradoxical that
    for them does not hold anymore; they        mobility – one of the most widespread       More broadly, policy papers on PRS
    are caught in the same mechanisms           livelihood strategies, which in             indicate lack of refugee identification
    that control and prevent international      addition does not require any donor         as a cause of secondary movements:
    migration. As UNHCR acknowledges,           resources – is presented as a problem,      lack of documents provokes
    this has deplorable effects particularly    and all the more so because the             vulnerability and vulnerability induces
    in the case of persons who lack             effectiveness of mobility as a livelihood   onward movements. From a sedentary
    protection in their country of origin,      strategy is indirectly recognised.          perspective it is important to carry out
    as they risk being returned there.          The absence of self-reliance is listed      registration and identification as early
                                                among the main causes of secondary          as possible in the refugees’ movement.
    According to UNHCR, a related               movements. Urban refugees who
    consequence of secondary movements          have escaped from camps are often           However early registration and
    is the fostering of human smuggling         presented as a positive example of          identification may hinder mobility
    and trafficking, seen as absolutely         refugees who have succeeded in              strategies. While it is accepted for
    negative for refugees, because of the       achieving self-reliance; remittances        persons in need of protection to
    human rights violations they are            sent by family members who have             leave their country illegally, as soon
    exposed to. While smuggling and             succeeded in moving to another part         as they have been intercepted and
    trafficking might indeed entail serious     of the world are acknowledged to            recognised as refugees, they are
    human rights violations, it should          contribute to livelihoods in Somali         not legitimated to move illegally
    be recognised that existing policies,       camps in Kenya. How did Somali              anymore, although no opportunities
    by preventing migration, encourage          arrive in other parts of the world?         for legal mobility are available. From
    smuggling and trafficking which             Most probably, through the same             this viewpoint, becoming visible
    are often the only means available          irregular secondary movements that          to refugee authorities makes it
    to individuals wanting to move.             the refugee regime wants to prevent.        impossible to reach other destinations
                                                                                            legally, whatever the reasons: to
    UNHCR also sees secondary                   Instead of considering mobility as          apply for asylum in a country with
    movements as “destabilising …               an asset to enhance self-reliance, the      higher standards of protection, to
    structured international efforts to         focus is rather on enhancing self-          reach an attractive labour market,
    provide solutions to refugees”2 – that      reliance to prevent mobility. In a world    or to reunite with family. In fact,
    is, refugees’ mobility strategies perturb   structured on the geopolitical order of     often individuals strive to postpone
    the refugee regime itself. Refugees         sovereign nation states, the interests of   identification and remain invisible
    are not supposed to search on their         the states take precedence over these       as long as possible, going so far as to
    own for solutions other than the            considerations. However, international      destroy identification documents.
    three proposed by the refugee regime        mobility and its effectiveness for
    – even though it is acknowledged            people should cause us to reflect           Migration and asylum are, as we
    that these solutions have reached an        whether and how mobility could be           see, intertwined, even though states
    impasse. In order to apply the three        enhanced as a livelihood strategy,          and international stakeholders
    solutions and assist refugees, clear        rather than be considered as a problem.     strive to keep the two policy areas
    responsibilities on defined territories                                                 separated. Most states are unwilling
    have to be established, meaning that        RSD and migration                           to foster multilateral discussions
    protection and assistance can be given      One has to be recognised as a refugee       on migration in order to safeguard
    only to people that ‘stay’. Refugees        by the authorities of the refugee regime    their rights to control immigration
    are not supposed to move except             through refugee status determination        flows, and are disposed to make
    when repatriating or being resettled.       (RSD) or, in exceptional cases, prima       an exception only with regard to a
                                                facie recognition, in order to be           specific category of migrants, notably
    Lack of protection is considered            entitled to international protection.       refugees. The fact remains that the
    by UNHCR as the main cause of               Through RSD, the theoretical                two areas are closely interconnected.
    secondary movements. This calls             distinction between refugee and
    into question the capacity of host          voluntary migrant assumes concrete          Giulia Scalettaris (giulia.scale@
    countries to protect refugees.              meaning in reality. But there are no is a PhD student at
    Within the debate on PRS, UNHCR             universally accepted criteria and           École des Hautes Études en
    affirms that livelihoods as well            procedures so that falling into the         Sciences Sociales, Paris.
    as personal security should be an           refugee or the migrant category is          1.
    integrated aspect of protection.            to some degree therefore arbitrary.         2. ibid