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World Refugee Week: Best Reads

We compile some of the best stories and research during Refugee Week from Refugees Deeply and other outlets and organizations.

Written by Charlotte Alfred Published on Read time Approx. 5 minutes
Syria conflict refugees1
A displaced Syrian woman, who like many others fled her hometown due to clashes between regime forces and ISIS, sits outside a tent in Kharufiyah, south of Manbij, on March 4, 2017. AFP/DELIL SOULEIMAN

This Refugee Week, the U.N. released its annual figures on the size of the world’s displaced population: 65.6 million men, women and – around half of them – children, more than the total population of the U.K.

This week was an opportunity to listen more carefully to their perspectives, while reflecting more thoughtfully on the causes of and responses to their displacement. Amid the noise of political bluster and media sparring, it has never been more important to surface the voices that matter.

This World Refugee Day, on June 20, Refugees Deeply’s Twitter feed was dedicated to refugees speaking in their own words. We have also compiled some of the best stories and research from this Refugee Week from Refugees Deeply and other organizations:

The UNHCR Global Trends report released on June 19 showed the displaced population continues to grow, by 300,000 from 2015 to 2016 – but at a slower pace than the previous four years. Here’s Refugees Deeply’s breakdown of the report and here’s the World Bank’s Xavier Devictor unpacking the figures. Devex took a look beyond the headline figures and pointed to some underlying trends revealed by the report, while Elizabeth Ferris at Brookings had this analysis:

“Most of the growth in global displacement figures comes from this internal displacement. And if we’re honest, at least some of that increase is due to greater awareness of the phenomenon of internal displacement and improvements in data collection… We do face a displacement crisis – but it is primarily a crisis of internal displacement, of protracted displacement, of failing to prevent conflicts and of fine-tuning our systems to better address the needs of those forced to flee their communities. It is not a crisis of refugee numbers.”

Today’s returning refugees, tomorrow’s IDPs, an article by Elizabeth Rushing from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, makes the case for better definitions and data on refugees who, upon returning home, continue to be displaced inside their own country. Addressing this is a prerequisite for the global compact on refugee actually providing long-lasting solutions for refugees, she writes.

In Fixing a Broken Humanitarian System That Is Failing Refugees’ Health, an article on Refugees Deeply refugee health expert Paul Spiegel argues that the humanitarian system is broken and urges wholesale reform. In an excerpt from The Lancet, he outlines four ways that humanitarians need to change to be equipped for future public health action in crises.

Amid Drought, Somali Pastoralists Watch Their ‘Sources of Life’ Perish, is the first in a series by Samuel Hall researchers on Refugees Deeply about climate-induced displacement. With striking images from Somalia by photojournalist Ashley Hamer, the article explores how crippling drought in the Horn of Africa is displacing communities.

Understanding public attitudes towards refugees and migrants, a new working paper from The Overseas Development Institute and Chatham House, took an in-depth look at how opinions about formed and what this means for advocates and policy makers. It draws on a large body of work on attitudes refugees, including the Refugees Deeply investigation Manufacture of Hatred examining the antirefugee propaganda machine that fostered xenophobia in Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Where should we look to find Britain’s ‘tradition of welcome’ of refugees?, an article from Refugee History, critically examines the U.K.’s history of welcoming and rejecting refugees over the decades.

Snake and Stranger: Media Coverage of Muslims and Refugee Policy, a paper by Meighan Stone, the former president of the Malala Fund, for the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center, drills down on media coverage of Muslims and refugees in the U.S. In her analysis of CBS, Fox, and NBC from 2015-2017, Stone found:

…there was not a single month where the combined coverage of refugees on CBS, Fox and NBC was more positive than negative in tone (see Figure 6). Refugees received substantially more negative than positive coverage on all three networks, although there was one small but notable difference. Whereas CBS and NBC ran a few human interest stories on individual refugees, Fox carried virtually no stories of this type during the two-year period.

How Are Refugees Faring? a report from the Migration Policy Institute, examined whether refugee integration varied from state to state in the U.S. They conclude that despite large differences in state policies towards refugees in the states they studied – California, Florida, New York and Texas – the integration of refugees is more correlated with where refugees came from than which American state they end up in.

The detention of asylum seekers in Europe, a legal briefing from the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, provides a thorough analysis of the expansion of the use of detention of asylum seekers in Europe, including statistical analysis and examination of the legal arguments for detaining refugees. According to the authors, their research:

…reveals significant gaps and inconsistencies in reliable data collection on immigration and asylum detention at European level…. Given the significant scale of detention and de facto detention practices documented in some countries covered in this briefing, such a data collection gap remains unjustifiable and should be addressed by the European Union including a statistical analysis and mapping of detention centers and examination of the legal basis for detention.

Still looking for safety, a report from Oxfam on Syrian refugees attitudes to safety, found that only 21 percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon feel safe in the country and just 7 percent want to stay in Lebanon after the Syrian war ends. Yet 86 percent said they cannot go back to Syria now. The report’s authors write:

While there are some clear points of convergence on what factors undermine or enable a sense of safety, refugees’ conceptions of what constitutes ‘safety’ are individualized and subjective. Refugees need to be supported to find safety in the present, and provided with the information and pathways to make their own decisions about their futures. The international community and host governments should not be making decisions for refugees about what or where is ‘safe.’

In “We Must Start the Conversation About Return of Syrian Refugees Now,” an article on Refugees Deeply, the authors of an International Center for Transitional Justice study of refugees in Lebanon explain their findings about Syrians attitudes towards returning. If millions of displaced Syrians are to go home one day, we need to understand refugees’ conditions for going back, and what they mean by terms like coexistence and justice, as they write:

For many of the displaced, justice also means the chance to get back what was taken from them – homes, land and livelihoods. It means the chance to track down the missing or to find humane ways of recognizing that many tens of thousands of people may sadly never be found.

In “A Teenage Syrian Refugee on a Mission to Educate Her Generation,” an interview on Refugees Deeply, 19-year-old refugee education campaigner Muzoon Almellehan describes the motivations behind her activism and her hopes for Syria. Almellehan became the youngest-ever UNICEF goodwill ambassador this week. In her words:

When I started my campaign, I knew that there would be many challenges but also that they wouldn’t be stronger than my hope or stronger than my message, because I know the message of education is really strong. So nobody will stop me to continue.

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