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From the editors
Foreword: Syria in 2018 – in search of solutions
Noor Al Hussein
This important issue of Forced Migration Review draws our attention to the current challenges facing displaced Syrians and the continuing search for solutions. The statistics of Syrian displacement are staggering – and the numbers continue to rise. Half of Syria’s population has been displaced: five and a half million are registered refugees and over six million are internally displaced.
The region of Latin America and the Caribbean has long demonstrated hospitality towards those fleeing conflict and persecution within the region and from further afield. Faced with newer causes of displacement, such as the violence of organised criminal gangs and the adverse effects of climate change, Latin American and Caribbean countries are continuing to expand and adapt their protection laws and mechanisms in order to address these and other situations of displacement and to meet the differing needs of affected populations.
All displaced people need some form of shelter, and circumstances dictate that in reality not much of it conforms to the typical picture of a tent or tarpaulin nor meets official standards. The types of shelter and settlement responses found, employed and created by, and created for, displaced people profoundly affect their experience of displacement. It should provide some protection from the elements and physical security for those who dwell in it, and the articles in this issue of FMR give a glimpse of just some of the many ways this is possible.
Resettlement is receiving greater prominence not only in light of US President Donald Trump's recent actions but in the context of the recent surge in numbers of refugees. In the 33 feature theme articles in this issue of FMR, authors from around the world look at some of the modalities and challenges of resettlement in order to shed light on debates such as how - and how well - resettlement is managed, whether it is a good use of the funds and energy it uses, and whether it is a good solution for refugees.
It is often people’s immediate community that provides the first, last and perhaps best tactical response for many people affected by or under threat of displacement. In the 23 feature theme articles in this issue of FMR, authors from around the world – including authors who are themselves displaced – explore the capacity of communities to organise themselves before, during and after displacement in ways that help protect the community.
FMR 53 also includes eight ‘general’ articles on other aspects of forced migration.
The new issue of FMR explores the ideas and practices that are being tried out in order to engage both development and humanitarian work in support of ‘transitions’ and ‘solutions’ for displaced people. What we need, says one author, is “full global recognition that the challenge of forced displacement is an integral part of the development agenda too”. FMR issue 52 includes 32 articles on ‘Thinking ahead: displacement, transition, solutions’, plus ten ‘general’ articles on other aspects of forced migration.
Europe is experiencing the mass movements of displaced people in a way that it has largely been immune from for decades. The manifestations of the ‘migration crisis’ are as disparate as the building of fences to stop people crossing normally peaceful borders, the deaths of people transported by smugglers in unseaworthy boats, EU political leaders bickering over a Common European Asylum System and the numbers they will or will not allow into their respective countries, and contentious responses to the disaster that continues to unfold in Syria.
Børge Brende and Didier Burkhalter
While the international community has already been addressing many aspects of disasters, climate change and human mobility, in order to really make progress it is essential to bring together different strands of the discussion so as to develop a comprehensive response that also anticipates future challenges associated with climate change. The Governments of Norway and Switzerland are contributing to the development of future responses to disaster displacement through the Nansen Initiative
The role of faith in the humanitarian sector is not easy to measure. Faiths generally advocate welcoming the stranger and there are many organisations and individuals inspired by their faith or religion to provide protection and assistance. Yet it is easier to measure the activities inspired by faith than to measure the difference that having that faith makes, and secularly inspired standards for such activities can appear to be in tension with the faith inspiration. FMR 48 includes 36 articles on ‘Faith’ plus seven ‘general’ articles.
Innovation is not new. Displaced people themselves and those attempting to assist and protect them have always been having new ideas about how to deal with their needs. Yet the imperfections of current approaches are obvious in the challenges that we continue to face - challenges which ensure that displaced people are often unable to do what they need to do, that they do not receive the support they need, and that the organisations providing support do not function as effectively as would be desirable.
25 years of forced migration
During the past 25 years, Forced Migration Review (FMR) has played a vital role in enabling researchers, practitioners and policymakers to exchange information and ideas on refugee-related issues. In this article, Jeff Crisp provides a personal (and alphabetical) perspective on some of the events, trends and organisations that FMR has covered over the past two and half decades.
Many people who are displaced, or become ‘trapped’, in the context of diverse humanitarian crises do not fit well within existing legal, policy and operational frameworks for the protection of refugees and IDPs. This raises questions about whether there needs to be – or can be – more systematic ways of dealing with assistance and protection for people affected by ‘crises’ such as environmental disruption, gang violence, nuclear disasters, food shortages and so on.
Asylum seekers and refugees – men, women and even children – are increasingly detained and interned around the world, as are numbers of other migrants. Sometimes detained indefinitely and often in appalling conditions, they may suffer not only deprivation of their liberty but other abuses of their human rights too. Detention may appear to be a convenient solution to states’ political quest to manage migration (often as a precursor to deportation) but it is an expensive option and has lasting effects on those detained.
Fragile states are risky environments. Many states fail in their responsibilities to their citizens but those states which are fragile, failed or weak are particularly liable to render their citizens vulnerable. Failures of authority or legitimacy can lead to the emergence of significant organised violence; the impact of this can then be compounded by the failure of the state to protect its citizens, especially minorities.
Around the world, people face abuse, arbitrary arrest, extortion, violence, severe discrimination and lack of official protection because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. This latest issue of FMR includes 26 articles on the abuse of rights of forced migrants who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex. Authors discuss both the challenges faced and examples of good practice in securing protection for LGBTI forced migrants.
Preventing displacement is obviously a worthwhile objective. Being displaced puts people at a higher risk of being both impoverished and unable to enjoy their human rights. Such a situation is worth preventing – but not at any cost.
Young people may be particularly susceptible to being physically and socially ‘out of place’ during this period of their lives. FMR 40 examines the stresses of ‘being young and out of place’, explores young people’s needs and coping strategies, and asks why relatively little attention is paid to their rights and needs. It also includes articles on other subjects such as national IDP policies in Afghanistan and Nigeria, resettlement in Argentina, mental health in Lebanese camps and why some issues make it onto the international agenda while others do not.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and subsequent instruments of international human rights law and international humanitarian law play a vital role in providing protection for refugees and internally displaced peoples. Yet the claim to universality has been disputed and not all states have acceded to these legal instruments. It seems that a particular point of controversy or dispute in the Islamic world is their compatibility with shari’a.
We need to get used to the idea that modern technologies are reaching and affecting not only researchers and agencies but even the displaced and uprooted themselves. In fact it may be the agencies which – despite their own use of technology – need to catch up with the importance of technology in the lives of displaced people. Technology can have a transformative effect for displaced people and for their relationships to governments, the agencies, the diaspora and each other.