Who should decide when refugees 'go home'? Watch

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Close to 1 ¼ million refugees out of the global refugee population of 25 million currently reside in Uganda, a developing country in East Africa. Some of them are experiencing their 3rd period of exile there from South Sudan. While a new peace agreement was signed in South Sudan in 2018, many of the refugees are worried about leaving Uganda and returning home. Meanwhile, some states in the Middle East hosting Syrian refugees are beginning to talk about the desirability of these refugees starting to go home from neighbouring countries.

What does it mean to return ‘home’ when one’s country is devastated by war, when the political future is uncertain, and when one’s own hopes have been transformed by repeated experiences of exile? For example, what does 'home' mean for someone who has spent more of their life in exile as a refugee, than in the place where they were born? Some analysts argue that pressure is put on refugees to leave countries of exile for reasons which are more about economic and political agendas than they are about the needs and aspirations of refugees themselves.

Humanitarian and state actors may feel that resources should be withdrawn from refugee programming when the conditions exist for displaced people to return in safety to their previous homes. To what extent should refugees be free to determine for themselves whether they are ready to return?

What do you think? Let’s start with the case of the South Sudanese in Uganda–

https://www.voanews.com/episode/sout...n-home-3896796
https://www.unhcr.org/uk/figures-at-a-glance.html



Tania Kaiser is Senior Lecturer in Forced Migration Studies in the Department of Development Studies at SOAS University of London. Her research focuses on forced migration in sub Saharan Africa; its social consequences and dynamics of displacement including with respect to gender, generation and families. She is also engaged with work on refugee protection, experiences of violence and gender relations. After conducting ethnographic research in a Ugandan refugee settlement where she lived for a year in the late 1990s, Tania has remained engaged with her South Sudanese friends and research participants over the last 20 years. She teaches on these issues to UG and PG students, and supervises doctoral research on related issues.
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LuigiMario
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is international direct aid (repair, renewal, rebuilding) being denied also to South Sudan?

I'm sure that I read that one reason the Syrian refugees are not going home is that there might (or might not be?) economic/trade/financial sanctions in place from some large (usually positive donor) countries who are not permitting the repair effort to get underway in the areas controlled by Assad's regime (as some see it, areas controlled by the legitimate Syrian national government as others see it) (I give both sides as I am unsure, due fog)

Modern Refugeeism is so highly complex, I used to live in Geneva and visit the office of the then director of the UNHCR, when they were based in the 'Palais Wilson' GATT building. In those far-off days of the 1980's it seemed simple to identify who was a refugee, the denigrating term "economic migrant" was not then bandied around. Simple rules seemed to work, and the UNHCR was the reference agency.

Nowadays, with some austerity struck or just angry 'first world nations' being highly sensitive about refugees or migrants in general, some using buffer islands, some planning to use Guatemala as a buffer - it is much more nuanced to decide what should be done, ethically.

As I've travelled widely in soviet lands, post soviet lands, Yemen, Kashmir other arabian countries and divided European nations, met many people of different economic achievement levels, different societies; I now think that the refugees themselves are typically much better informed than we (random other people, like me) are about their previous home situation. (many recent Syrian refugees to the European continent were fully mobile data online, continuously updating routes and understanding hazards, admittedly trying to evade/dealing with evil "snake-heads" & traffickers too)

I think full mobile internet data is rarer in Africa, but there are many developing uses of mobile text based internet and clever people with clever solutions. I would personally sponsor sensible accurate individuals in South Sudan, or Syria or Libya, to give accurate ground truth assessments that could help the ensure that news is spread when the conditions exist for displaced people to return in safety to their previous homes.

I tend not to believe much of what I read, I find many sources highly biased, one way or another, that fog again. I think citizen journalism from 'hot spots', without interference, might be an option. Sudan/South Sudan is one of those "oily" places, where things happen, possibly externally funded deliberate strife, can we stop that? Yes - perhaps eventual decarbonisation of our society and the pivot to ubiquitous renewable energy might help in calming some or all of the resource wars, resource winner situations, ruling billionaire in a poor country situation.

There might hopefully be many other better options, but whilst travelling through Kathmandu in the 1990's, I did meet a big colony of previous refugees from the late 1950's Chinese 'absorption' of "their" Tibeten province - they had been guests of the wonderful Nepalese for more than thirty years, and I guess they remain there and of course notably in Dharamshala in India. Some refugees will, as you mentioned Tania, just retain a memory of "home", forever.

We need people to study & think wider. I personally am working to educate and empower many mayors (local regional village/town chiefs, lowest level political levels) in Africa, and in fact wider - I'm just a low level engineer in this work, whilst I do other stuff, but my colleagues have found that working at this mayoral level gets a lot of things done, done quickly, efficiently - without some of the higher strata problems/questions that inevitably occur in the real world. The refugee/economic migrant crisis will sadly inevitably grow, until the world itself becomes more stable and balanced.

Thanks Tania for asking a question, sorry that as I'm not a social scientist, I might not have helped the argument - but I remain interested and await to see what other ideas & thoughts might arrive from the clever students who are online at TSR
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schoolsboring
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I'm going, to be honest, they should return to there home country when the war is over. The answer to every modern conflict cannot just be to import the citizens to richer countries and let them stay there, when who would build up the country when the war is over? An example is Germany, after two world wars the country and its economy was completely devastated, but in those times travel wasn't as easy so the Germans worked to become what is now the biggest economy in Europe.
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999tigger
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(Original post by schoolsboring)
I'm going, to be honest, they should return to there home country when the war is over. The answer to every modern conflict cannot just be to import the citizens to richer countries and let them stay there, when who would build up the country when the war is over? An example is Germany, after two world wars the country and its economy was completely devastated, but in those times travel wasn't as easy so the Germans worked to become what is now the biggest economy in Europe.
Except a lot of those people werent in imminent danger of persecution.
That danger doesnt automatically cease when a war ends, it may increase.
In many situations there will not be an official war and the persecution they are feeling from could be by the winners to that conflict.

Your example of Germany is a poor one for modern conflicts.
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schoolsboring
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(Original post by 999tigger)
Except a lot of those people werent in imminent danger of persecution.
That danger doesnt automatically cease when a war ends, it may increase.
In many situations there will not be an official war and the persecution they are feeling from could be by the winners to that conflict.

Your example of Germany is a poor one for modern conflicts.
The same idea works. If no one returns who is going to build up the country again? At some point, they will have to be forced to go home because in any conflict for example refugee's in Western Europe wouldn't want to return to a poorer nation of Syria. The long term solution cannot be importing countries affected by war.
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999tigger
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(Original post by schoolsboring)
The same idea works. If no one returns who is going to build up the country again? At some point, they will have to be forced to go home because in any conflict for example refugee's in Western Europe wouldn't want to return to a poorer nation of Syria. The long term solution cannot be importing countries affected by war.
People are only going to return if its safe. Do you understand how the refugee and asylum system works? Why should people return to a situation where they are can be in fear for their lives?
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(Original post by 999tigger)
People are only going to return if its safe. Do you understand how the refugee and asylum system works? Why should people return to a situation where they are can be in fear for their lives?
I'm not disagreeing with you they should return when it's safe and stabilized so like the opposition has been defeated completely. The question was who decides when they go home and I think it should be the government as soon as the country has cooperated it's stable
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999tigger
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Who decides? It is ofc the government of the host country and in accordance with international or domestic law and obligations.

The international rules on refugees need rewriting as the landscape of conflict and refugees has changed from when the agreements were originally envisaged.
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Many thanks for your interesting posts. You raise some very pressing questions about what can be defined as conditions which are safe and secure for people to return home. It is often the case that refugees end up returning 'home' because the conditions they face in countries of exile have deteriorated, sometimes because they are under pressure from hosts states to leave. Even in these situations, it is not always practicable for everyone to return - especially when countries have been devastated by conflict, even if outright violence is not any longer taking place. In the context of contemporary South Sudan, the vast majority of refugees have remained nearby in the region. Their own thinking about whether or not to return may well be framed by their expectations (or not) that the peace agreement signed last year will hold. There was war in Sudan through the 1960s, and again from the late 80s up to 2005. So we will be aware that people are likely to want to see some evidence that peace can hold, before they risk a further move. But those who return first may get the best jobs / opportunities. Its a hard choice to make...
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(Original post by 999tigger)
Who decides? It is ofc the government of the host country and in accordance with international or domestic law and obligations.

The international rules on refugees need rewriting as the landscape of conflict and refugees has changed from when the agreements were originally envisaged.
Many thanks for your interesting posts. You raise some very pressing questions about what can be defined as conditions which are safe and secure for people to return home. It is often the case that refugees end up returning 'home' because the conditions they face in countries of exile have deteriorated, sometimes because they are under pressure from hosts states to leave. Even in these situations, it is not always practicable for everyone to return - especially when countries have been devastated by conflict, even if outright violence is not any longer taking place. In the context of contemporary South Sudan, the vast majority of refugees have remained nearby in the region. Their own thinking about whether or not to return may well be framed by their expectations (or not) that the peace agreement signed last year will hold. There was war in Sudan through the 1960s, and again from the late 80s up to 2005. So we will be aware that people are likely to want to see some evidence that peace can hold, before they risk a further move. But those who return first may get the best jobs / opportunities. Its a hard choice to make...
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04MR17
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To what extent should refugees be free to determine for themselves whether they are ready to return?

Well how do we know that the information they're getting about the situation at home is factual? It is entirely possible for them to be fed lies about the peace their country has returned to and subsequently return with dangerous consequences. Or alternatively, they could be misled about the dangerous state of their home country and feel forced to remain in their refuge country (probably not the right term but go with it).

I'd say if the UN or something similar deem certain places safe to inhabit once again, then the host country of refugees should be entitled to move them home. If this is not the case then host countries in my mind have a moral obligation to continue to support refugees, provided that the international community gives some compensation for any large numbers that one country may take in.
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PTMalewski
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Whoever should decide, I expect it will be the West who makes things even worse, as usual.
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(Original post by 04MR17)
To what extent should refugees be free to determine for themselves whether they are ready to return?

Well how do we know that the information they're getting about the situation at home is factual? It is entirely possible for them to be fed lies about the peace their country has returned to and subsequently return with dangerous consequences. Or alternatively, they could be misled about the dangerous state of their home country and feel forced to remain in their refuge country (probably not the right term but go with it).

I'd say if the UN or something similar deem certain places safe to inhabit once again, then the host country of refugees should be entitled to move them home. If this is not the case then host countries in my mind have a moral obligation to continue to support refugees, provided that the international community gives some compensation for any large numbers that one country may take in.
Thanks for these interesting perspectives. The question you raise is extremely important. In practice, it can be very difficult for refugees to get accurate information about conditions in the country of origin. The UN organisation mandated to provide international protection (i.e. the protection of the legal rights of refugees) to refugees-UNHCR-sometimes organisers what they call “look and see visits” so that some community leaders can be taken back to areas of origin and report what they saw there to other refugees. One limitation is that UNHCR only has so much power in terms of what host states want to do. There have been cases over the years where UNHCR has been pressured by host states into supporting return to countries which turned out to be really unsafe. Fairly recently, UNHCR was put under an enormous amount of pressure by the government of Bangladesh who wanted them to facilitate the return of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar. In this case, UNHCR was able to resist this pressure and-so far at least-refugees have remained in relative safety in Bangladesh. One of the problems, is that the conditions they have to cope with there are in some cases pretty dreadful. Yesterday was World Refugee Day, we are mindful that many refugees live in conditions that are far from acceptable
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yzanne
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(Original post by PTMalewski)
Whoever should decide, I expect it will be the West who makes things even worse, as usual.
But if it was in the hands of a corrupt Eastern government, don't you think the outcome would be so much worse? I don't disagree with you, I am just asking your opinion.
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But if it was in the hands of a corrupt Eastern government, don't you think the outcome would be so much worse? I don't disagree with you, I am just asking your opinion.
Which government specificially?
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Which government specificially?
Lets say Mali or India. Both very corrupt governments.
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PTMalewski
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(Original post by yzanne)
Lets say Mali or India. Both very corrupt governments.
I wouldn't describe Mali as an Eastern government, for geographically it isn't, but I guess it's not important.

From what I know, both Mali's and India's governments are democratically elected.
I'm not exactly a supporter of a democratic system, such can be very dysfunctional, as I observe it in my country of origin- Poland, exactly now. I believe that democratic governments can work well only when numerous conditions are met, but even when they are, in the long term democracy tends to go towards self-destruction as it's vulnerable to corruption, short-sight planning and a tendency to recklessly spend public money to satisfy vox populi just for the sake of winning the nearest elections.

It is not so much visible in the West, because democracy in the Western countries has old traditions and generally speaking it has been introduced by authoritarian elites who equipped it with various 'safety' systems, such as the rule of law, and others. For example in the past, it was illegal in some countries to change once changed bill for many years- which was giving some stability to the socio-economical system, as well as limited the threat of reckless changes of law that are aimed to serve only particular and ad hoc aims.

The problem with the governments of the West, when they interfere in the international affairs outside the Western hemisphere, is that, imho, the politicians and voters of the West suffer from 'cultural blindness' which makes them unable to understand the specific situation in other parts of the world. But since politicians either can have or have assistance of highly educated specialists, capable of understanding those exotic specifics, I think the case it that either the politicians are unable to learn, either their actions only serve the purpose of satisfying the vox populi regardless of the actual result of their engagement into problems they're interfering into, or they act on some publicly unknown interest; to put it short and simple; where war rages, weapons are sold in high numbers.

For these reasons, for example, I'm actually glad that there no full Western-style democracy in Russia.
In my opinion, Putin's regime is much better for Russia, and much safer for the surrounding countries than things that would turn up as a result of free and populist democratic competition.

To give you a few examples of the governments of the West failures when interfering in international relations:

-Cuban revolution. Basically they didn't want to be the US' brothel any longer.
-Islamic revolution in Iran. The handbooks on politics claim it was a result of the US' cultural blindness as well as corruption in the local government
-Libya - in my opinion it was either an extreme cultural blindness or hidden motives. The situation in that country has only gone worse when the West (illegally) assisted in destruction of the Libyan army and overthrowing the dictator. By now, even some his former enemies that he was a good leader and if they knew what is going to happen after overthrowing him, they would have chosen to fight on his site.
-Syria- same story again. You can't have democracy in a country where followers of various faiths, confessions and ethnic minorities want to kill each other, and you have Al-Nusra at one gate, and ISIS at the other. Only a dictator can keep peace in such circuimstances. Sometimes it takes killing someone unfortunatelly, but still, you can't compare such victims to the scale of homewar.
-Turkey - if anti-democratic laws of Ataturk were kept in power, the Islimist Erdogan would not be a president, he would be in prison. The reason why Turkey is a relatively modern, civilised and peaceful country by know, is because Ataturk took everybody out their by their heads, enforced education, European alphabet, clothing etc. and made fanatics having nothing to say.
It wasn't democratic at all but it's likely it has prevented a birth of radical theocracy that would threaten whole Balkan region, and perhaps even most of Europe that or other way.
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