Learn to build a world where everyone belongs. Take free classes at OBI University.   Start Now

Cover image of Moving Targets report

Moving Targets: An Analysis of Global Forced Migration investigates the historical and contemporary causes of forced migration as well as both the challenges and capacities of national and international refugee protections and resettlement efforts. 

Written by Haas Institute researchers Elsadig Elsheikh and Hossein Ayazi, this report develops a framework of global forced migration that accounts for how experiences of displacement across the globe, and the set of institutional norms and values surrounding “refugeehood,” are inseparable from not only historical and contemporary formations of colonialism, imperialism, and militarization, but also momentary and ongoing environmental changes. It argues that neoliberalization, securitization, and the climate crisis describe these dynamics of global forced migration in the present moment.

The report uses as a starting point what is today commonly referred to as the “European refugee crisis." Despite popular notions that frame the US and Europe as the primary regions impacted by the refugee crisis, the authors illustrate how these areas, with the exception of Sweden and Germany, actually host the fewest refugees relative to their population and wealth—yet have the potential to provide greater support to vulnerable displaced persons and refugees from around the world.

Aimed at advocates, practitioners, policymakers, and researchers, Moving Targets was written to provide a conceptual framework for understanding forced migration, support improvements in local, national, and international refugee policy, and identify research-based interventions to facilitate fairer refugee support mechanisms.

With ten case studies in four “mega-regions” of the world, Moving Targets not only identifies the major dynamics causing massive waves of migration today but also traces the colonial histories of these dynamics and why nations that may seem far removed from the current crises may still have a hand in their creation and exacerbation. 

Seeking to envision a set of policy interventions that can not only help establish a more comprehensive and equitable global refugee regime, but also help prevent the future production of refugees, Moving Targets serves as an all-encompassing guide to understanding historical and contemporary dynamics of global forced migration and the obligations of actors at various levels.

Click here to read the full report.

Read a web version of this report here. 

Glossary of Terms

ASYLUM SEEKER Individual seeking international protection but whose claims for refugee status has not yet been determined.

CLIMATE CRISIS A term used to describe climate-induced abrupt environmental disasters and slowly occurring environmental changes, as well as the hardship faced by certain communities because of such changes. The climate crisis has disproportionately affected communities in the Global South.

CLIMATE REFUGEE Individual forcibly displaced people by natural disasters, such as typhoons, hurricanes, and tsunamis, as well as long-term environmental changes triggered by rising temperatures, rising sea levels, water shortages, deforestation, and desertification. 

COLONIALISM The deliberate extension of a nation’s power and influence over other peoples and lands, including the use of territorial seizure, legal justifications for occupation, regimes of racialization, labor exploitation, and forced assimilation. Such dynamics become the conditions from which more indirect forms of rule, military action, and economic control can be established.

ETHNOCIDE Refers to the erasure of culture, spatial segregations, and the reorganization of social space; and the legal formations that undergird such processes.

FOOD REFUGEE While difficult to separate from climate refugees, food refugees are those who have been forcibly displaced due to growing food insecurity caused by: foreign military intervention, armed conflict, political and civil unrest, and/or environmental challenges, as well as circumstances perpetuated by land grabs, seed monopolies, natural resource grabs, global warming, the increased commodification of food, and structures and arrangements of international free trade agreements.

FORCED MIGRATION The movement of people from their lands or places of origin due to conflict, natural or environmental disasters, famine, or development projects. Conflict-induced displacement occurs when people are forced to flee their homes as a result of armed conflict, generalized violence, and persecution on the grounds of nationality, race, religion, political affiliation, or social group. Development-induced displacement occurs when people are compelled to move as a result of projects implemented to advance development efforts, such as the building of a large-scale infrastructure project. Disaster induced displacement occurs when people are displaced due to natural disasters, environmental change, and human-made disasters. 

GLOBAL NORTH, GLOBAL SOUTH These terms do not describe a geographical divide but a social, political, and economic divide between formally colonial and colonized countries, while also accounting for ongoing indirect forms of rule, military measures and encampments, and global economies. The use of the term emphasizes the limitations of other terms such as first world vs. third world, or developed vs. developing countries. Global North comprises the countries of Australia, Europe, Japan, New Zealand, and North America (excluding Mexico). Global South describes the rest of the world and includes countries of Africa, Asia (excluding Japan), Latin America, and other island countries in the Indian and Pacific Ocean.

GLOBAL REFUGEE REGIME The set of norms that define who is a refugee, the rights to which that person is entitled, and the norms that define who is expected to support that person. Within this global refugee regime, refugees officially include individuals recognized under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, persons recognized under the 1969 Organization of African Unity (OAU) Convention Governing the Specific aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, those recognized in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, individuals granted complementary forms of protection, and individuals granted temporary protection, and individuals in refugee-like situations.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPs) Persons or groups forced to leave their home or place of habitual residence as a result of, or in order to avoid, the effects of armed conflict, situations of violence, violations of human rights, or natural or human-made disasters, yet who have not crossed an international border. 

LAND GRABS The acquisition of local, community, or communal land by foreign governments, foreign firms, or local entities, and also the displacement and expulsion of people living and working on that land.

MIGRANT UNESCO defines the term migrant as “any person who lives temporarily or permanently in a country where he or she was not born, and has acquired some significant social ties to this country.” The term migrant should be understood as “covering all cases where the decision to migrate is taken freely by the individual concerned, for reasons of ‘personal convenience’ and without intervention of an external compelling factor.” Although we argue in this report that most migration is forced, this definition indicates that the term migrant differs from refugees in that it does not refer to those forced or compelled to leave their homes. 

NEOLIBERALISM/NEOLIBERALIZATION This term refers to the late twentieth century, and still ongoing, reinterpretation and exercise of state and political power modeled on market economy values. Neoliberalism is the extension and dissemination of market economy values to all institutions, displacing or weakening the role of the government and state as the representation of the people. Neoliberalization is the strengthening of dynamics that expel and ecxclude many people from participating in the economy and society.

PALESTINIAN REFUGEES Individuals and their descendants whose residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict. Following that war, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) was established by United Nations in 1949, and began operations in 1950, to carry out direct relief and work programs for Palestinian refugees. UNRWA is unique in terms of its long-standing commitment to one group of refugees, and in the absence of any international solution for Palestinian refugees, the General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA’s mandate, most recently extending it until 30 June 2017.

REFUGEE According to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), a refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so.

RETURNEE A returnee, also called voluntary repatriate, is a refugee who returns home. This can only happen when the factors that caused someone to flee are no longer an issue in the country of origin. Returning may take place over a period of time beginning with visits to the home country. Assistance may be needed for legal issues and for reunited returnees and family members.

SECURITIZATION Broadly refers to a state’s “condition of heightened security” and need to strategically manage expulsions,deportations, and resource and power conflicts. These security concerns have taken on a number of forms, such as the proliferation of surveillance technologies, increased military presence and activities on national borders. Securitization is exacerbated by and linked to rhetoric and policies that exacerbate anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment, often leading to the conflation of migrants and those seeking refuge with supposed "terrorists" or those who pose threats to national security.

UNEVENNESS OF FORCED MIGRATION The longstanding and presently exacerbated mass displacement of people from the Global South in particular, the hosting of the vast majority of the forcibly displaced within countries in the Global South, and the reality of how some nations within the Global North have disregarded the terms and norms of international refugee conventions.



PART 1 addresses the origins and evolution of the global refugee regime—the set of norms that define who is a refugee, the rights to which that person is entitled, and the norms that define who is expected to support that person. It also addresses the support that person has actually received, attending to the significance of their country of origin and intended host country, the cause of their displacement, and the broader social and political context within which their journey has taken place.

PART 2 offers our analysis of the central dynamics of forced migration in the present day—neoliberalization, securitization, and the climate crisis, to explain larger trends in the causes of contemporary forced migration, as well as how responses by the international community operate as triggers and feedback loops for such processes.

PART 3 elaborates upon regional experiences of neoliberalization, securitization, and the climate crisis by offering histories of Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa. This section highlights the significance of European and US colonial and imperial influence in shaping the politics of these regions and the experience of forced migration patterns in these regions.

Policy Interventions, the last section, concludes the report by laying out practices and policies that can help establish a more equitable and comprehensive framework for identifying, supporting, and humanizing refugees.

THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY has fallen short in fully reckoning with the historical and contemporary dynamics of global forced migration, and creating equitable and sustainable solutions to accommodate millions of forcibly displaced people seeking refuge from war, political instability, and environmental change. In this report, Moving Targets: An Analysis of Global Forced Migration, we interrogate the many social, political, economic, and environmental forces that constitute global forced migration, past and present, as well as how these forces have shaped the realities of millions of displaced peoples around the world. 

Moving Targets aims to develop a framework of global forced migration that accounts for how the experiences of displacement across the globe and the set of norms that define who is a refugee, the rights to which that person is entitled, the norms surrounding who is expected to support that person, and the support that person actually receives, are all inseparable from not only historical and contemporary formations of colonialism, imperialism, and militarization, but also momentary and ongoing environmental changes. The framework we seek to develop also accounts for how these dynamics are collectively underpinned by processes of Othering—whether along markers of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, geography, or a combination of these dimensions. 

The Haas Institute has long believed that the frame of “Othering” provides a critical perspective to our common objective of building a more inclusive and equitable society. It is in the responses to the experiences of displacement across the globe that we seek to counteract such processes, expose the power structures that generate them, and also to find and elevate strains of Belonging—enough, perhaps, to generate hope for a more inclusive world. 

As part of this larger framework, Moving Targets aims to:

  • Outline the causes of forced migration in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, from the mass displacement in the World War II era, to the current mass displace- ment of people primarily from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa;
  • Recount the origins and evolution of refugee protection mechanisms;
  • Account for why displaced peoples largely come from the Global South, why the Global South hosts the vast majority of the displaced, why so many seek long-term refuge in the Global North, and why the response in the Global North has been limited;
  • Attend to the different histories and dynamics of forced migration in the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific;
  • Account for the ways in which climate change has shaped the current refugee landscape and forced migration more broadly;
  • And envision a set of policy interventions that can not only help establish a more comprehensive and equitable global refugee regime, but also help prevent the future production of refugees. 

THE WORLD IS CURRENTLY WITNESSING the largest wave of forced migration seen in nearly a century. In 2015, large numbers of predominately Syrian, Afghan, and Iraqi people who were fleeing war, political instability, and military action captured the attention of the European public, leading to the what began to be commonly described as the "European refugee crisis."

Yet major migratory waves and patterns are happening across the entire globe, and while many are due to violence and instability, those are not the only circumstances leading to displacement. Austerity measures, economic precarity, land dispossession, and, increasingly, environmental disasters due to climate change are also forcing many to migrate.

In this report, we will critically engage with the multiple crises of global forced migration in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. These crises encompass the many causes and experiences of displacement, as well as the set of norms that define who is a refugee, the rights to which that person is entitled, the norms that define who is expected to support that person, and the support that person actually receives. Our analysis in this report includes:

  • The mechanisms that lead to the forcible displacement of people and the various and often problematic responses to the plight of the displaced;
  • The colonial past of the Global North, with a focus on Europe and the US in particular;
  • The disproportionate burden to house refugees placed upon countries in the Global South due to political resistance and lack of political will from countries within the Global North;
  • The social, political, economic, and environmental nature of such dynamics that encompass the various types of displaced peoples, from economic migrants, to asylum seekers, to climate refugees.

After developing a framework for understanding the interrelatedness of the crises of forced migration, we ultimately envision a set of policy interventions that, if enacted, can help establish a more equitable and comprehensive social, political, economic, and legal framework for identifying and supporting refugees.

IN 2015 AN INFLUX OF PEOPLE seeking asylum made the journey to Europe by way of the Aegean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and Southeast Europe. Most of these people came from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia: according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the top three nationalities of the over 1.3 million arrivals by the Mediterranean Sea in 2015 were Syrian (49 percent), Afghan (21 percent), and Iraqi (8 percent), making up 78 percent of all refugees and migrants arriving in Europe by sea that year. 

By April of 2015, the plight of these refugees became highly visible to the public when five boats carrying almost 2,000 people fleeing to the European Union sank in the Mediterranean Sea—more than 1,200 people were estimated to have died. By the end of 2015, the total scale of the mass movement had become even clearer: the total number of forcibly displaced people worldwide had reached 63.9 million, the highest level since World War II and the greatest proportion of displaced people to world population since 1951 when the UNHCR began collecting statistics.1  The “crisis” therefore came to signal not only the massive influx of migrants and refugees, but also the inability and lack of desire of European states to swiftly and safely facilitate their intake. The tragic fate that many people, including thousands of children, have experienced on their journey and at Europe’s borders has been the sharpest expression of the “European refugee crisis.”

Yet this crisis also came to illustrate the many crises of forced migration. The first crisis is the dire and longstanding nature of the factors that have forced so many to flee from their homes in countries across Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Pacific, and Latin America in the first place. These factors are both internal and external to the countries and regions from which such people have fled, though the two are often difficult to separate. Internal factors include the capture of state institutions by corporate elites, internal civil conflict, extreme indiscriminate acts of violence, and exclusionary political and economic policies.2  External factors include imperial and post-colonial policies and practices from actors largely in the Global North, including military interventions and encampments, to economic and trade policies, to other indirect forms of influence. These have laid the ground for and exacerbated the internal mechanisms of displacement. There are factors that conjoin the myriad social, political, and economic, dynamics, most notably the global climate crisis.3  In their totality, these multiple factors make life unbearable, particularly for those already marginalized.

The second crisis is related to the role that the neighbors of many countries have played in resettling these displaced populations. Those leaving Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, for example, have largely been forced to seek asylum near their home country despite the lack of any sort of guaranteed long-term safety and material wellbeing in those neighboring countries. While media attention has focused on Europe opening or closing its borders to refugees, the impacts of such causes of displacement have been felt far more locally than generally understood. For example, 60 percent of those displaced in recent years were from just five countries, and 77 percent of the world’s Internally Displaced Peoples live in just ten countries, all within the Global South.4

This infographic includes a diagram showcasing the drivers of global forced migration.

The majority of countries that host the greatest number of refugees are in the Global South and are primarily countries that border the most affected countries. As of 2016, out of the top 10 countries hosting refugees, four are in the Middle East (Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, and Jordan), one is in South Asia (Pakistan), and four are in Africa (Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda).5  Only one European country—Germany—falls within the top ten in terms of numbers of refugees hosted.6

Most of these countries cannot adequately accommodate the refugee populations they are hosting. Smaller countries such as Lebanon and Jordan have up to one quarter of their population comprised of documented refugees. Major constraints are placed on the economies of these countries as refugees are not allowed by law to be employed and therefore have difficulty supporting themselves financially, or are unlicensed to work in the fields or professions they had in their home countries. On the other hand, larger and more prosperous countries, including Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India, Russia, and the US have sufficient financial and human resources to accept large numbers of refugees. In addition, prosperous Gulf Arab states have only accepted a very limited number of refugees over the past several years. 

A third crisis is related to the experiences of those seeking refuge in the Global North, many of whom have been met with responses that are far too often neither inclusive nor humane. Across Europe, governments have ignored their obligations to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in order to justify deporting Syrians back to Turkey, a country where most cannot work legally and when deportation back to Syria is a major risk. The Italian, German, and British governments have called for refugees to be returned to Libya, where many migrants work in perilous and inhumane conditions and where conflicts continue. In Greece, Western European leaders have forced the Greek government to detain arriving asylum seekers en route to Germany and elsewhere on the continent, yet have gone back on their promise to move them to such better-resourced countries. In Denmark, asylum seekers have been forced to give up their valuables in order to pay for their stay, and volunteers that have given gifts to them have been prosecuted as smugglers. 

These cases are not limited to Europe. In the US, by spring 2016 more than 30 governors refused to accept Muslim refugees.7  In Australia, the decision to turn back many boats full of asylum seekers has been supported by both main political parties, resulting in breaches of international law and tensions with Australia’s neighbors. Despite the thousands of refugees who have officially been accepted by these and others countries, stories and sentiments like these are all too common within the context of the current refugee crisis.

Thus, the current “European refugee crisis” is actually part of a larger set of crises of global forced migration. These range from the crises that have caused the mass displacement of peoples largely from across Africa and Asia, to the crisis of resettlement and the selective and uneven abidance of existing refugee protection mechanisms, particularly within Europe and the US, as well as the climate crisis linked to the droughts and famines that trigger and exacerbate conflict.

Such crises highlight the need for a more holistic approach to understanding forced migration, which necessitates a critical reassessment of the global refugee regime itself—the set of norms that define who is a refugee, the rights to which that person is entitled, and the norms that define who is expected to support that person. Ultimately, this analysis calls for us to envision laws, institutions, and policies that would establish a more equitable and comprehensive response to refugees, so that all those seeking refuge and asylum across the globe are treated with dignity and are afforded belonging. 

Part 1: A History of Refugee Protections: Race, Colonialism, and the Unevenness of Forced Migration

In this section we begin our look at forced migration by unpacking the twentieth-century origins and evolution of the global refugee regime: the set of norms that define who is a refugee, the rights to which that person is entitled, and the norms that define who is expected to support that person. We examine the support designated refugees receive, addressing the significance of the person's country of origin, intended host country, the causes of that person's displacement, and the broader social and political context within which their journey has taken place.

Those forced to migrate today are largely from the Global South. Further, the disproportionate burden of accommodating such refugees has also been placed upon the Global South, while many Global North countries have ignored established refugee conventions. These realities illustrate what we call the unevenness of forced migration, which is related to the idea of Europe itself as a "sanctuary"—the relative well-being its populations enjoys, not simply in contrast to regions under former European colonial control, but made possible by way of extractive colonial relations. Our analysis illustrates how these dynamics have been shaped by particular social and political contexts, most notably the Cold War. 

World War II and the Origins and Limits of Refugee Protections

With roughly 60 million Europeans fleeing persecution, violence, and poverty during WWII, the extreme vulnerability that characterized the wartime and post-war environment was largely new for Europeans in the modern era.8  As the scale of violence increased, migration continued throughout the war. By 1951, more than five years after the fighting stopped, a million people had yet to find a place to settle.

The Second World War highlighted for many people the ways in which national governments were themselves the cause of the refugee problem. From their origin during the Enlightenment, so-called “human rights” were understood as the rights of national citizens. Yet by the late 1930s, the fact that one’s rights were only as good as the politics of the country they lived in had become apparent9  —for those not under the protection of the racist, homophobic, and ableist ideologies of Germany, for example, this point was quite clear.10

In the wake of WWII, such judicial and political vulnerability motivated the creation of a new universal human rights regime. This included the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and the Refugee Conventions that followed (in 1951, 1954 and 1961).11  It also included the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.12

A significant major stipulation of the 1951 Refugee Convention was that it was limited to protecting European WWII refugees from only before January 1, 1951.14  Although the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees removed both the temporal and geographic restrictions of the 1951 Refugee Convention, the Protocol gave those states that had previously ratified the 1951 Convention the option to uphold such restrictions. 

Given these early Eurocentric limits of international refugee law, for many Europeans WWII was a divergence from the histories of violence that were typically reserved for those areas outside Europe. The war reflected the inward movement of US and European-driven colonial violence and dispossession, racialized expropriations of many kinds, and policies that had virtually ensured that colonized countries across the world would be unable to provide social and economic security for the vast majority of their populations. '

What separates the conditions of World War I from those of World War II are the exclusionary nationalistic and discriminatory ideologies that drove not only mass violence but also the enactment of such violence along new lines of human difference previously experienced primarily by colonized populations. The genocides carried out during World War I, for example, were largely carried out by the Ottoman Empire against Armenians, Assyrians, Lebanese, Kurds, and others, whereas those carried out in World War II were against those people who were part of their respective national populations. 

According to the author Hannah Arendt, what the world witnessed during WWII was the experience of violence, death, and displacement by the “civilized” people of Europe that had been previously reserved for the “savages” of the colonial world.15  In the particular tactics used, and within the social and political formations that arose, such links are apparent. According to the African philosopher and political theorist Achille Mbembe, there is a link between national-socialism and traditional imperialism, and as the prominent Martiniquan poet Aimé Césaire stated, fascism is not an aberration in the history of the West, for its brutal tactics and ideas have long been the work of Western empire outside its borders.16  The surprise to Europeans that Europe itself could experience dispossession and violence generally reserved for the colonial world— and, for Europe’s working classes and newly “stateless people” who were themselves compared to the “savages” of the colonial world—speaks to the histories that have created Europe as a place of relative material comfort and supposed “sanctuary” in the world.17  Specifically, territorial acquisition, enslavement and indentured labor, and extractive trade in the colonial world founded the formative wealth of Europe, the US, and elsewhere.18

Violent and extractive colonial relations were sustained so that life within the US and Europe could remain more secure and prosperous. This certain comfort was thrown into question with the rise of authoritarian and far rightwing regimes in Europe—as well as the experience of US blacks in and outside of the Jim Crow-era US South—with violence and displacement taking place on a scale not seen before.


International legal mechanisms, some of which are codified in domestic law and others that are generally accepted principles, define various types of people who have been forced from their homes, lands of origin or current place of residence. Here are the most commonly accepted categories of forced migration. 

Asylum Seeker is the general term used for people seeking protection in a country different from their country of origin. 

Refugee falls within a subset of “asylum seeker”. The basic definition of refugee found in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees is as follows:

"Owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it."

This definition expanded in the 1950 Statute of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees by including persecution on the basis of social group. The 1967 Protocol amended the refugee definition by eliminating geographical and temporal limitations. The EU and Canada have ratified the Convention and Protocol, the US has only ratified the Protocol. In the US, the 1980 Refugee Act defines a refugee as the following: 

"(A) any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, or (B) in such special circumstances as the President after appropriate consultation...may specify, any person who is within the country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, within the country in which such person is habitually residing, and who is persecuted or who has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion."

International conventions and domestic legislation require a person to be outside their country of origin to be considered a refugee. In contrast, an internally displaced person (IDP) is an individual who remains within their country’s territorial boundaries. The UNCHR Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement define IDPs as:

"persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized border."

Even if IDPs have fled their homes for reasons identical to refugees, they remain under the legal protection of their own government, even if that government is the root cause of their fleeing. IDPs and refugees are subject to the privileges and responsibilities associated with their countries of origin or where they have taken refuge. 

There is also a special designated status for those considered stateless. The 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons defines such a person as someone 

“who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law.” Some people are born stateless while others become so later in their lives. 

Climate refugee is a term we use for people who are not considered refugees or IDPs, but have been forced to migrate for reasons related to climate change-induced environmental disasters and degradation. The Cancun Adaptation Framework agreed to at the 2010 UN Climate Change Conference called on parties to enhance their understanding and cooperation of “climate-induced displacement, migration and planned relocation.” The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction estimates that more than 19.3 million were displaced by disasters in 2014. 

There is also development-induced displacement, another type of forced migration related to the forcing of people out of their homes for economic development such as the building of dams for hydroelectric power and irrigation purposes, mining, creating military installation, airports, industrial plants, weapon testing grounds, railways, road developments, urbanization, conservation projects and forestry, among others. The World Bank estimates that approximately 10 million people are displaced yearly worldwide due to infrastructure programs.13

The Cold War and the Political Utility of Refugee Protections

uropean countries and the US have not always turned their back on migrants and refugees from the Global South (nor do they do so entirely now). Yet during the Cold War, Europe and the United States’ selective acceptance of refugees—dependent upon the country of origin, the receiving country, the cause for displacement, and the social and political context at the time—spoke to how acceptance of refugees has been at times more a matter of political utility than a fundamental belief that such protections should be afforded to all peoples. 

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the limits of signatories to fully abide by refugee conventions—limits inherent to the origins of such conventions—became especially apparent.

During the Cold War years, the granting of refugee status and protections to asylum seekers became a moral and political tactic. Doing so helped differentiate between the supposed “civilized West” and “uncivilized East”—namely, the Soviet Union.21  As such, the paradigmatic refugee during the Cold War was the Eastern European and Soviet escapee, and the term “refugee” became interchangeable with “defector.” In this way, providing asylum to refugees fleeing communism, who were themselves symbols of communism’s failure, became a foreign policy tool for the US, providing an alleged advantage over the Soviet Union.22  For example, in 1948, following the admission of more than 250,000 displaced Europeans, Congress passed the Displaced Persons Act, which enabled the admission of an additional 400,000 refugees, the vast majority of whom were escaping from Communist governments—namely, Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia, Korea, Vietnam, China, and Cuba. Despite conflict not being limited to these selected countries, until the mid-1980s, more than 90 percent of the refugees that the US admitted came primarily from countries in the communist Eastern bloc.23

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the political utility of accepting refugees was severely diminished. It was at this time that the racial and colonial limits of refugee conventions became particularly apparent. During the 1990s there were several prominent refugee emergencies that highlighted not only the shifting geographies of mass displacement but also the negative rhetoric toward about refugees from outside Europe, and the extreme social and political hesitation to accept them. The Kurdish refugee crisis in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, the displacement resulting from the Balkan wars, the mass exodus resulting from the Rwandan genocide, the waves of refugees from the Horn of Africa and West Africa—all were emergencies that received far less attention than explicitly Cold War crises.24

There was no shortage of stated reasons for refusing to accept non-European refugees. Sadako Ogata, the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the 1990s noted that the nature of the refugee crisis was seemingly beyond what the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) could handle.25  Many of the challenges confronted by the agency during the 1990s had political origins and therefore required more than simply humanitarian responses. As such, Ogata has rightly portrayed the nineties as a decade of refugee emergencies. During Ogata’s tenure the average duration of a refugee's situation almost doubled, rising from an average of nine years in 1991 to 17 years by 2003. The decade gave rise to protracted refugee situations, what might be considered the greatest challenge faced in regard to the global refugee protection regime, and forcing the UNHCR to address situations that were seemingly beyond their capacity or mandate to resolve.26  Under such circumstances, Ogata argued that the UNHCR was forced to compromise on a number of its core principles, such as the return of rejected asylum seekers to their place of origin.27

Yet the UNHCR was largely left alone to confront such difficulties during the decade in part because state actors were increasingly unwilling to take action. For example, in Hungary the rise of Victor Orban and his rightwing populist party swept to victory (in 2010 and again in 2014) on the back of xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-refugee sentiment, and a “keep Europe Christian” platform.28  Hungary’s role in dealing with refugees attempting to get in Europe has been uniquely egregious in its lack of humanitarian response, with in-country asylum-seekers detained, and their applications rejected based largely on their national origin and religion. Amnesty International has documented that “Hungary continued to severely restrict access to the country for refugees and asylum-seekers, criminalizing thousands of people for irregular entry across the border fences put up at its southern border.”29  When Hungary suspended its obligation and refused to accept asylum-seekers other European governments publicly accused the Hungarian government of treating refugees “worse than wild animals.”30

Such anti-refugee sentiment and policy has been at the center of many rightwing European political parties’ push for the formation of more restrictive asylum and refugee policies, and have led many European governments either to inaction or to openly bending under pressure in order to avoid the fulfillment of their international obligations toward refugees.31  These trends pose a fundamental challenge to the rights and support guaranteed within the global refugee regime.


Changes in international refugee governance are already being made. For example, the EU-Turkey refugee deal, which went into effect March 20, 2016, has been claimed a major victory for the Turkish and German government given its potential to reduce the flow of asylum-seekers into the EU and calm the ongoing refugee crisis. The deal stipulates that: Turkey will work to prevent departures of migrants from Turkey to the EU; in coordination with EU member states, Turkey will return those migrants considered to not be in need of international protection to their country of origin; Turkey will send one Syrian refugee to the EU for every Syrian refugee deported to Turkey; and that Turkey will receive 3–6 billion Euros to aid its own resettlement programs and a promise of easing visa restrictions for Turkish citizens to the EU. In return for Turkey’s agreement, the deal stipulates that the EU would grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens, accelerate Ankara’s EU membership application, and increase financial aid to help Turkey manage the refugee crisis.

Yet such developments in international refugee governance need be assessed for their larger impacts and precedents they set. The EU-Turkey deal, for example, has introduced a host of new crises: it is arguably illegal under EU law and international law, and it ultimately reflects an entirely wrong framework for new partnerships and measures designed to curb the influx of refugees and adequately process those that do arrive. Despite the stipulations above, for example, only 2,935 Syrian refugees have been resettled to EU member states as of January 17, 2017, while Turkey hosts some 2.8 million Syrian refugees. Additionally, Turkey has not proven to be a safe place for refugees, as many Syrians fleeing violent conflict have been deported from Turkey back to Syria. The borders to other European countries have been closed and are increasingly militarized and securitized, thus creating a bottleneck for all migration to Europe and putting great stress on Greece in particular. Furthermore, as these borders close, other, more precarious paths for human smuggling emerge, leaving refugees with little choice but to make even more perilous journeys across highly surveilled borders. A recent report from Amnesty International calls the EU-Turkey deal “A Blueprint for Despair.

The deal has also nearly frozen the legal process for asylum in Greece. As of March 16, 2017, only around 10,000 asylum seekers were relocated from Greece to another EU member state, out of an initial target of 63,000. Further, since the EU-Turkey deal went into effect, nearly 14,000 asylum seekers have been stuck indefinitely on the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, in prison-like camps that offer little safety or protection, and no clear answers or certainty as to whether their cases will be considered or processed. People fear deportation, which would be a death sentence for the many Syrians who face great risk if sent back to Turkey. Many of the different groups fighting in Syria have extended networks into Turkey, where kidnappings by Syrian regime forces, Jabhat al Nusra, and Daesh have previously occurred. The endless uncertainty and fear of what is to come is the hardest to endure, especially when conditions within the camps continue to worsen.

The camps in Greece are being turned into detention centers, or “hotspots,” complete with fences and barbed wire. There are also plans to build new camps in remote locations that would be completely closed off. Essentially, these refugees are imprisoned with little access to or contact with the outside world. With little access to basic services for physical and mental health, as well as legal needs, the conditions in the camps themselves are abysmal and have continued to worsen.

Such conditions in the camps are essentially a symptom of a deal that is fundamentally flawed. While the world is witnessing the greatest displacement of peoples since WWII, the EU has failed in its responsibility to provide safety and protection for a fraction of the world’s displaced peoples. Instead, it has worked to build walls, borders, and legal regimes to keep people out, in effect, relapsing to a historical period it vowed never to repeat. 

Expansion and Contraction of Refugee Protections in the Twenty-first Century

In recent years, however, some progress has been made toward less restrictive asylum policies, and the definition for refugee status has been broadening in some ways under customary international law. According to international law scholar Donald Worster, this is taking place in a few key ways. First, the classification of social group membership appears to be broadening as a result of cultural changes.32  Additionally, some states have begun to recognize non-state actors as potential sources of persecution, rather than only states themselves.33  Finally, the infrequent use of certain exceptions to refugee conventions is also a sign of its broad applicability and dynamic nature.34

At the same time, however, persons and situations covered by customary international law have been contracting.35  For example, internal flight or relocation within the state of nationality has been used as an alternative to seeking official refugee status, as relocation within the state of nationality can seemingly allow for the individual not to face the danger needed for refugee qualification. Additionally, states have applied “safe third country” and “safe country of origin” guidelines—blanket definitions of country’s safety for the purpose of asylum. The recent addition of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia to Germany’s “safe country of origin” list seemingly enables Germany to refuse claims without further review.36

On the one hand, states appear to believe in a humanitarian imperative to protect individuals who are seeking refuge—a seeming shift from the restrictive politics of refugee protections in the wake of the Cold War—while, on the other hand, they are reluctant to permit entry to all those persons falling under their responsibility.37

Even for those who are resettled, the failure to grant citizenship has both contributed to displacement and made it more difficult to resolve. Many states limit the number of viable paths to citizenship. Restrictive framings of national citizenship limit and inhibit local integration. Further, policies that focus on extended detentions in isolated areas—currently highly visible in the practices of Australia, Greece, Turkey, and elsewhere—further undermine efforts of integration. Ultimately, such policies create “separate but equal” systems within the countries where they are seeking asylum. Many refugees can only live in a limited geographic space and are deprived of freedom of movement and protections of the state.38  The International Refugee Rights Initiative states that the proper realization of citizenship is a key factor that determines whether or not a particular person or group will be further displaced; whether they will be able to repatriate; whether they will be accepted by those in their home communities if they do return; how they are perceived in exile both by host communities and those “at home”; whether durable solutions are possible; or whether they will end their lives in exile.39

Taken together, the contracting of those who would be covered by international law and the limiting of pathways to citizenship, despite the seemingly expanding scope of refugee protections, together with the increase of political animosity toward displaced peoples from outside Europe, are trends that we attribute in part to the racialized limits of refugee protections, which have deep roots in the Global North’s history of colonialism. This is not to say that international refugee protections and actions by state actors have not been paramount in providing the possibility for another life for displaced peoples; rather, such protections by international actors have not been as sufficient as should be when the potential political gains were unclear.44

As such, the UNHCR has stated that “the rate at which solutions are being found for refugees and internally displaced people has been on a falling trend since the end of the Cold War.45  This trend is apparent in the treatment of asylum-seekers and other displaced peoples who are part of the current extremity that refugees face, treatment that stands apart from the refugee crises of the past. This treatment includes the mass deportation of Syrians back to Turkey, the call by British, German, and Italian governments for refugees to be sent back to Libya, the Danish government’s demands that asylum seekers hand over valuables to pay for their stay, as well as the stranding of more than 53,000 refugees and migrants in Greece as of April 2016.46

Part 2: Dynamics and Colonial History of Contemporary Forced Migration

In this section, we extend our analysis of the unevenness of forced migration into the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century. We offer three central dynamics of forced migration in the present day: neoliberalization, securitization, and the climate crisis. These dynamics build upon colonial and imperial histories. Neoliberalization enacts and extends colonial histories of accumulation; securitization enacts and extends colonial histories of militarization; and the climate crisis operates as a trigger and feedback loop and is greatly exacerbated by neoliberalization and securitization. These particular dynamics structure not only the mass displacement of people from the Global South,47  they also structure the anti-refugee and xenophobic response and sentiment in the Global North.

Dynamic 1: Neoliberalization

The first dynamic of global forced migration is neoliberalization. A term often used but rarely defined, neoliberalism or neoliberalization is the late twentieth century reinterpretation and exercise of state and political power modeled on market-based economy values. Political theorist and scholar Wendy Brown describes neoliberalism as the extension and dissemination of market economy values to all institutions and social action, causing the state to further lose its role as the supposed universal representation of people.48  Sociologist Saskia Sassen furthers this analysis by describing how neoliberalization strengthens the particular dynamics that expel people from the economy and from society, dynamics that are now hardwired into the normal functioning of these spheres.49

The historical and institutional rupture in global political economics and governance known as neoliberalism has changed the cause, form, and management of forced migration around the world. Neoliberalism has fomented the further erosion of state support and protections afforded by citizenship within both the Global South and Global North, leading to expulsions of various people within each region. Although a new phenomenon in some ways, neoliberalization has historical roots in the colonial systems of appropriation, expropriation, exploitation, and expulsion. 


While it is a global phenomenon, neoliberalization since the 1970s has affected the Global North and the Global South in different ways. As David Lloyd and Patrick Wolfe argue, in the Global North, neoliberalism has manifested in the register of austerity—cuts to, and the privatization of, state-furnished public services, from public utilities, education, healthcare, to social welfare, public space, and other services. This new mode of accumulation reflects the “enclosure” of those public goods historically wrested from the state by social movements during much of the twentieth century—public goods that were fundamental elements of the welfare state itself. To the neoliberal state, according to Lloyd and Wolfe, these public goods “represent vast storehouses of capital, resources, services, and infrastructure” but are now targeted for expropriation and exploitation.50

The outcomes of this enclosure for the general public within the Global North have been far reaching. As Sassen argues, unemployment, out-migration, foreclosures, poverty, imprisonment, and higher suicide rates have become central outcomes of neoliberalism in countries within the Global North. These outcomes can be understood as their own displacements of sorts: displacement from ones’ home and neighborhood vis-à-vis the foreclosure and real estate crises of the 2000s, and from society more broadly vis-à-vis the exponential growth of the prison population in recent decades.51

While many parts of the Global North have experienced austerity measures, the Global South has experienced its own version of neoliberal policies. According to Sassen, the imposition of debt repayment priorities and the opening of markets to powerful foreign firms weakened states throughout the Global South. Such measures ultimately impoverished the middle class and undermined local manufacturing, which could not compete with large mass-market foreign firms.52  These acquisitions were made possible by the explicit goals and unintended outcomes of the IMF and World Bank restructuring programs implemented in much of the Global South in the 1970s, as well as the demands of the World Trade Organization (WTO) from its inception in the 1990s and onward. Sassen argues the resulting mix of constraints and demands “had the effect of disciplining governments not yet fully integrated into the regime of free trade and open borders, and led to sharp shrinkage in government funds for education, health, and infrastructure.”53

There have been many consequences of neoliberalism in the Global South. Principal among them is the exacerbation of resource and power conflicts, which have often taken the form of war, disease, and famine. These have been proximate causes for displacement.54  In other words, the disciplining of countries within the Global South by way of the programs from the 1970s onward is part of the backdrop of the socioeconomic hardships facing many such nations, and, by extension, the current crises of forced migration within and from the Global South. 


Restructuring as experienced in the Global North, which has been primarily in the form of austerity, extends such neoliberal forms of accumulation that the Global South has been subjected to in recent decades. The debt regimes imposed on the Global South are an antecedent to what has begun to take place in the Global North by way of state deficits that have risen sharply in recent years.55

Even further, neoliberalism extends forms of commodification that the Global South has been subjected to long before the 1970s—a reminder that the history of the Global South does not begin with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. Specifically, according to Lisa Lowe, “in light of the commodification of human life within slavery, colonialism, as well as contemporary globalization, we can appreciate that what is currently theorized as the financialization of life as 'human capital' in neoliberalism brutally and routinely occurred and continues to occur throughout the course of modern empires.”56  In this way, neoliberalization can be seen as an expansion of those forms of accumulation and expulsions historically associated with racial and colonial difference itself. 

Yet the colonial antecedents of neoliberalism are not limited to the Global North’s histories of colonialism that have taken shape outside its own borders. Such antecedents also include the territorial acquisitions that constitute the US, Canada, and other settler colonial states as such. As Lloyd and Wolfe suggest, the fundamental continuity between past formations of settler colonialism and the present-day development of the neoliberal world order “resides in the exigencies of managing surplus populations.”57

Dynamic 2: Securitization

As part of the project of neoliberalism, the role of the state has been redrawn to furnish a conduit for the more rapid distribution of what were once “public goods” into the hands of corporations.58  And in the Global South, alongside the imposition of debt regimes, neoliberalism has forced countless people to be ejected from their homes, communities, and countries. Along with these expulsions, such demands placed upon the state have also fostered a “condition of heightened security.”59  In other words, neoliberalism has taken shape not only in the register of austerity in the Global North and debt regimes in the Global South, but also brought with it the dynamic of securitization. We refer to securitization as the states’ need to strategically manage resource and power conflicts, as well as the manifold displacements, caused by neoliberalism itself. 


Examples of the pairing of neoliberalism’s austerity and debt regimes, and new security concerns and measures to deal with the fallout of such regimes, are abound in the US and Europe. According to the Centre for Urban Research on Austerity, examples include: 

  • Greece’s financial crisis and the disputes regarding polices pushed for from the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (these three entities are the main decision-makers for European Union policy and are commonly referred to as the Troika), alongside what Human Rights Watch has described as the growing crisis of xenophobic violence towards immigrants and political refugees across the country; 
  • The British austerity narrative promoted by the Conservatives alongside policies and bills preventing terrorism, such as the Government’s Draft Investigatory Power Bill; 
  • The growing use of force by state actors (e.g., housing eviction officers) and growing control of citizen participation initiatives (e.g., neighborhood renewal partnerships in the UK and the US, or citizen security programs across Latin America where police are a key partner).60

Each of these highlight how Global North austerity and debt regimes are linked with emerging security concerns. Yet given the current increase in forced migrations globally, and the increase in arrivals from the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa in particular, these security concerns within the US and Europe have taken on particularly troubling forms: the anti-immigrant sentiment that conflates migrants, whether driven by economic or political failures, with “terrorist enemies” and other threats to national security; the militarizing of national borders in the name of security; as the proliferation of surveillance technologies; as “ethnocidal” spatial segregations and reorganization of social space; and the legal formations that undergird the dispossession and expropriation of asylum-seekers and economic migrants in particular, and the general population more broadly.61  For example, coinciding with global regimes of austerity and debt has been the so-called global war on terror, which has been used to legitimate an inordinate increase in the development of surveillance technologies and the use of such technologies against the citizenry within the Global North, and has taken the shape of military, political, and surveillance measures against both terrorist organizations and the regimes accused of supporting them in the Global South.62  Yet such links between neoliberalization and securitization can also take on a less explicitly militaristic tone. For example, the 2007 subprime mortgage crisis and the 2008 financial crisis were contemporaneous with the passage of dozens of anti-immigration laws—in 2010 and 2011 alone, US state legislatures passed 164 anti-immigration laws.63

World's Top Ten Host Countries for Refugees


As of the end of 2015, there are a total of 65.3 million people forcibly displaced around the world. These are people displaced from their areas of origin or habitual residence. Among this staggering number are an estimated 21.3 million refugees, plus an additional 5.2 million Palestinian refugees. Worldwide there are 10 million stateless people who have been denied access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment, and freedom of movement.40

What may seem like a universal phenomenon, the burden of hosting forcibly displaced peoples is not shared equally in the world. The reality is that low and middle income countries host 86 percent of the world’s displaced people while high income countries host only 14 percent.41 The current refugee crisis is too often framed as primarily impacting countries in the European Union and North America, though the number of refugees hosted in countries neighboring the country of departure far exceeds the number of refugees and asylum-seekers hosted in the EU and US. The top 10 hosting countries welcomed more than 60 percent of all refugees and asylum seekers.42

The wealthiest nations in the world, with the exception of Sweden and Germany, host the fewest refugees relative to their population and wealth. Several European countries do host sizeable refugee populations, yet nine out of the top ten refugee hosting countries, per 1,000 inhabitants, are outside of Europe.43 The burden of forced migration has largely been placed upon nations that lack the capacity and resources to effectively integrate and absorb such a large influx of people.

Most Refugees per 1,000 Inhabitants


Such anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment and heightened security measures speak to a key dynamic linking neoliberalization and securitization with regard to the present “refugee crisis” in particular and forced migration more broadly. Specifically, neoliberalization and securitization are two dynamics work hand in hand to ensure the free flow of capital alongside the limited flow of people. 

First, renowned geographer David Harvey states, “the free mobility of capital between sectors, regions, and countries is regarded as crucial. All barriers to that free movement such as tariffs, punitive taxation, planning, and environmental controls are impediments that must be removed.”64

The direction of this free flow of capital between regions and countries is not even nor equitable. According to US-based Global Financial Integrity and the Centre for Applied Research at the Norwegian School of Economics, in 2012, the last year of recorded data, countries in the Global South received a total of $1.3 trillion, including all aid, investment, and income from abroad. Yet, that same year, roughly $3.3 trillion left these countries, meaning they sent a net of $2 trillion to Global North more than they received. Since 1980, these net outflows have totaled $16.3 trillion, contradicting the widely held belief that the Global South merely drains the resources of the Global North through aid of various sorts. According to the study, however, the greatest outflows have to do with unrecorded capital flight, with countries in the Global South having lost a total of $13.4 trillion unrecorded capital flight since 1980.65

Second, alongside the tearing down of barriers for the flow of capital, and the guarantee that such capital flows move uninterrupted from the Global South to the Global North, has been the continual creation of barriers to the movement of people. Such barriers have manifested in the “extreme vetting” of refugees and asylum seekers and the militarization of borders.

The goal of this seeming tension between the free flow of capital and the restricted movement of people and labor is to curb wealth redistribution—even if labor is able to move to areas with better pay and greater benefits, the state can still manage this movement by restricting or increasing immigration.69  Supported by anti-immigrant sentiment, state and private actors have been able to tightly regulate the flow of capital and people. As such, the present moment can be understood as one of both the free flow of capital from the Global South to the Global North, and the mass restriction of the flow of people from the Global South to the Global North.


AHMAD WAS BORN AND RAISED in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria. Yarmouk, known as the "capital" of Palestinian refugee camps, was home to over 100,000 Palestinian refugees prior to 2011. Today only about 20,000 residents remain, as most of Yarmouk’s residents have fled violence, siege, and starvation that the Syrian civil war brought since 2011. 

Ahmad’s grandparents were the first to come to Yarmouk. They fled their home in northern Palestine in 1948 when the state of Israel was established. During this time over 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their native lands. They eventually settled in Yarmouk refugee camp, where they, and their children, and their children's children were born and lived until 2012. 

In December of 2012, a MIG plane hit the Yarmouk camp with barrel bombs and at the same time the Free Syrian Army invaded the camp. Ahmad and his family fled to a relative's house in Damascus, taking shelter along with 25 other people in a three-bedroom house. 

In 2011, after the Syrian war began, Ahmad was arrested by government security forces for writing messages of resistance on the walls of Yarmouk against the Syrian regime. He was tortured and interrogated for two weeks. When he was released, he was in a precarious position: he was not able to travel freely and he was also due for his mandatory conscription in the Syrian army. 

At the time of his arrest he had been studying business management in the Damascus Training Center, and working in media at an online news site. Instead of going into hiding, he decided to leave his work and enlist in the army voluntarily, lest he be caught by the regime again. He stayed in the Palestine Liberation Army—the Palestinian faction of the Syrian military for four years—two and a half years longer than required because of the war. 

In his fourth year of service, he injured his hand and needed surgery. He was able to leave his army servie. He knew this would be his only chance to escape wartorn Syria.

Ahmad knew that leaving Syria would be extremely dangerous and potentially fatal. He was now a target from all sides—from the Syrian regime for leaving the army and from the rebel groups for having served in the Syrian military. Even without these complications, the prospect of death was a constant given the continual bombing and violence all around him. Under threat of potential arrest and imprisonment.

After being in this position for three months, he met someone who advised him to fly from Damascus to Kamishli, a Kurdish-controlled area, advising that would be the best way to leave Syria. He paid $300 to this person to be able to pass through the airport in Damascus. Everything in Syria could be done with a bribe. After an hour-long flight, he arrived in Kamishli, and got in touch with another smuggler there. Because it is illegal for Palestinian Syrians to go to Kamishli, he had to pay $100 to pass through and another $50 to obtain a fake permit to be there

The first night in Kamishli, the smuggler was to take them across the Turkish border. Ahmad a group of about 15 others were told to get ready in the middle of the night to make the 7 kilometer walk to the border crossing, but were were stopped by Turkish border police before they got past the first kilometer. They were badly beaten and the border police threatened to kill them if they returned. 

The second time they tried, they had to climb a wall about 3 meters high to cross into Turkey. As they were climbing, the police shot at them and they were forced to go back to the Syrian side of the border. The third time he tried, Ahmad got into Turkey. By this time he had spent $1,200 to get from Syria to Turkey in smuggler fees and bribes.

Once in Turkey, Ahmad went directly to Izmir, a city on the route to Germany where his sister and younger brother had already fled from Syria.

Ahmad arrived in Izmir in May 2016. The borders to European countires were already closed. He had no idea how severe the security and control at the borders were going to be. Having run out of money, and having heard stories about the incredible hardship faced by refugees in Greece, he decided to stay in Turkey and work on a cattle and goat farm. He did not have any documents proving that he was a refugee in Turkey, despite the fact that he had tried to get a Kimlik (proof of residency in Turkey). When he went to the Kimlik office, he gave them his identity card, and they returned it to him saying that Palestinians were not allowed to obtain a Kimlik. 

Because he did not have papers, employers treated him poorly as they knew there would be no repercussions. On the farm, he worked 12 hour days and received about $225 per month, after paying for his board there. 

He left for Istanbul to look for better work, although quickly learned how terrible the working conditions were for Syrians there. He was able to live in a small, three-bedroom apartment with nine other young Palestinian men. He worked in a furniture factory six days a week, getting paid a third of what his Turkish coworkers received for the same work, but without any benefits. He was continously filled with anxiety because he did not have employment papers—his main worry that if he were caught he would get deported back to Syria. 

After three months, he saved up enough money to go back to Izmir because by September 2016 he had decided to try to go through Greece. He tried to leave Izmir 12 times over twenty days to get on a boat for Greece. He would wait for three hours in the forest in the middle of the night until the raft was ready. Once in the raft, the water would flood up to their waists in freezing cold water.

For the first elevent attempts the Turkish coast guard stopped them, make them get off the raft, which they would then destroy, and returning them to Turkey by coast guard ship. Four of the first eleven times they also beat the driver of the boat badly, who was also a refugee with no experience at sea. Once returned them to the port, they then had to go to the police station where they were photographed and fingerprinted. At the station, they would wait for 8-12 hours with about 30-60 people who were also attempting the journey to Greece. For these attempts, he paid the smugglers $600.

On the eighth attempt, they were in a jet boat. This boat only had capacity for 10 people but they crammed 20 people into the boat. The waves were massive and the boat was going to capsize so the driver made the younger people on the boat get out. The driver stopped on an island to drop them off and said he would come back to pick them up. The driver never came back. The six who got off the boat waited for two hours, but when they understood that he was not returning, they made a big fire to get anyone’s attention. The Turkish coast guard saw them but did nothing to help. It was the middle of the night, they were soaking wet in freezing cold rain, and they had no water, blankets, food, or any idea how to return to safety. When the sun came up, they decided to start walking to try and find help. They walked for hours and had to drink water from the sea. They tried to reach the smuggler and told him where they were but nobody came to help. One of the people had a number for a UN employee who then spoke with the Turkish police, after which the coast guard came back to rescue them. They had been out for 20 hours. 

On the twelfth attempt, he was able to make it to Samos island in Greece. He was supposed to go to Chios but there no boats heading that direction.

Upon arriving in Samos, a police car came to get them and they were taken directly to the camp. They dropped them in front of the police office where they were forced to sleep outside on the rocky ground. It was raining. In the morning, they entered the police office where they were registered and fingerprinted. He was then assigned a tent and given clothes by an NGO. 

Ahmad was shocked by the camp conditions in Samos. He did not imagine that the conditions could or would be so terrible. But the greatest shock was meeting people who said they had been there for seven months. He couldn't imagine staying in the camp for such a long time under such conditions. 

WHEN WE MET HIM, Ahmad had been in Samos for four months. It had been a year since he left Syria. He says all he can think about is how he will not be able to reach Germany to be reunited with his brother and sister. With the borders more tightly controlled than ever, it is nearly impossible to get anywhere beyond the borders of Greece. 

Ahmad's case is specially dire and challenging because Palestinians coming from Syria were not being registered for the asylum process. Today many appeals by Syrians for admissibility to Greece are getting denied. They are often imprisoned and await deportation to Turkey. 

Currently trapped in Greece and with very little hope, Ahmad still expresses his belief that his story is not so bad especially after witnessing what so many others have endured and do still endure—many refugee children have been denied education for years, elders and the disabled have been forced on perilous journeys with no basic necessities and no help, and women have been taken advantage of and abused, along with the many others who have died along the way. 

At this point, all he wants is to be settled somewhere— anywhere—after all the conditions he has endured. Before, he would never have imagined staying in Greece, but now he simply wants to get asylum anywhere. 


Since entering office, and under the banner of putting the United States “first,” President Trump has put force behind his central campaign pledge to toughen immigration enforcement. For example, he has signed executive orders to start construction of a border wall, expand authority to deport thousands, increase the number of detention cells and hiring of more than 10,000 of Immigration and Customs Enforcements (ICE) employees, and vow to punish cities and states that refuse to cooperate (i.e., “sanctuary cities”). Further, as of June 2017, a watered down version of President Trump’s “immigration ban” went into effect, prohibits for 90 days the entry of travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries—Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen—unless they have a “bona fide relationship" with a person, business or university in the US.70

Taken together, his efforts have highlighted the centrality of securitization to the management of flows of peoples and capital (including labor itself). Yet they have also highlighted the centrality of racial and colonial difference itself to such dual dynamics, as they have targeted immigrants from Latin America and from majority-Muslim countries in the Middle East and Africa. 

Such measures have of course been met with fierce opposition from countless labor groups, academic organizations, state and local governments and courts, community organizations, and others. For example, in legal challenges to Trump’s “immigration ban,” plaintiffs have cited legal precedents that state that the government cannot act arbitrarily or without supportive evidence. Further, many cities have made efforts to shield undocumented immigrants from immigration officials. In late March 2017, for example, Los Angeles passed a directive forbidding firefighters and airport police from cooperating with federal immigration agents. On the other hand, several states have been attempting to leverage economic power to force more liberal cities to cooperate with immigration officials, with lawmakers in Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and Texas introduced bills to penalize sanctuary cities. 


Just as neoliberalism’s austerity and debt regimes have their roots in colonial and racialized expropriations of many kinds, neoliberalism’s security regime draws from long histories of colonial counter-insurgency.71  We can understand those security methods deployed alongside, and in service of, neoliberal austerity and debt regimes as elaborations and extensions of the histories of violence constitutive of European and US power and wealth.72  Most recently, such security regimes extend the key strategies of US war-making in the Global South during much of the twentieth century, and the militarized management of displaced peoples in particular.

The explicitly militarized forms of colonial and imperial appropriation from which neoliberalism’s security regime have taken shape have manifested differently depending on the geographic and historical context. For example, as the next section addresses in further detail, for the Asia-Pacific region, it was after World War II that colonialism and militarism converged. US military leaders turned the region’s islands into a Pacific “base network” that would support US military deployment in allied Asian countries as part of the containment of communism.73  Significantly, this network would also be essential in the management of refugees from the region fleeing both political persecution and aggressions by the US government and corporations. Histories such as these laid the groundwork for contemporary strategies for managing unwanted populations, including the militarization of borders, proliferation of surveillance technologies, and the legal formations that undergird dispossession, expropriation, and displacement.

The colonial antecedents of neoliberalism’s policies are not limited to the Global North’s histories of colonialism outside its own borders, but also include the territorial acquisitions that constitute the US, Canada, and other settler colonial states. This is also the case for neoliberalism’s security regimes. The presence of indigenous populations in these contexts has prompted many techniques of elimination, including homicide, removal, and confinement— techniques which would continue to find new life for new populations and new contexts.74  The strategy of confining populations, a process that is highly racialized, has been illustrated in the prison industrial complex, urban ghettos, and militarized refugee camps and borders. This need to secure colonialism’s racialized expropriations, and the need for the hyper-management of unwanted “surplus” populations—the roots of securitization—is key to the dynamics of forced migration today.

Amidst the current era of expulsions and displacements experienced across the Global North and Global South, both neoliberal restructuring, and security regimes designed to “keep the peace” during such capital flows, are simply an evolved continuation of colonial and imperial histories of extraction and dispossession.


The case of the British multinational security services company, G4S, highlights one way that the free flow of capital and the restricted movement of people are intimately linked. With operations in an estimated 125 countries, G4S is the world’s largest security company in revenue, the largest private employer in Europe and Africa, and the the third largest private employer in the world. The scale of G4S reflects the scale of national security matters in the world, and the privatization for such work as corporationsare recruited for these efforts.

G4S in particular has profited off not only the privatization of government services but also war and conflict, and financial and human rights abuses. The company has sought out new opportunities for profit in conflict zones caused by war, regime change and state failure across the world, ultimately increasing militarization and instability. Hired by governments and companies to perform operations previously carried out by national military forces, G4S and other private military and security companies are essentially armed civilians operating for profit in conflict zones. In Israel, for example, G4S has helped the Israeli government run the military prisons in which Palestinian political prisoners are held (largely without trial and subjected to torture), and provides equipment and services to Israel’s illegal settlements, border wall, and military. Further, about 60,000 G4S employees operate in Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East, where it dominates the private security market. Working largely for financial institutions, foreign embassies, and oil facilities, the majority of its profits in the region come from cash management and transportation, and private security.

In the UK, G4S has covered a wide range of services for the UK government, including military, police, and welfare. The company's financial gain amidst the privatization of government and amidst war and conflict services has led to a number of financial and human rights abuses. The most controversial is G4S’s work in prison and immigration services. In 2010, for example, there were over 700 complaints—including allegations of assault and racism—filed by undocumented immigrants held in G4S detention centers. Further, in August 2014, G4S was found to be using such detainees as cheap labor, with some being paid as little as £1 per hour. G4S also work with the U.S. government, where, for example, it has a $250 million contract with the Department of Homeland Security to transport and guard undocumented peoples, and where it operates juvenile detention centers. Through such operations G4S has accrued almost 1,500 complaints for human rights and multiple custody-related deaths on its record from 2008 to 2011.66  Further, G4S employees themselves have faced precarious labor contracts and poor working conditions, leading to disputes in over a dozen countries.67

Due to G4S’ countless financial and human rights violations, and the troubling trend it reflects, G4S has received a great deal of pushback by the general public and various organizations and coalitions. In particular, the international Stop G4S Campaign—a coalition of activists and human rights groups dedicated to opposing G4S and halting the privatization of public services for private profit while violating human rights—has cost the company contracts worth millions of dollars and compelled the Bill Gates Foundation to sell its shares in G4S.68

Dynamic 3: Global Climate Crisis

Along with the myriad socioeconomic and political dynamics, global climate change has contributed to forced migration by way of abrupt environmental disasters as well as long-term, slowly occurring environmental changes. The effects of climate change are most predominately affecting communities in the Global South and are triggering new conflicts. We use the term “climate crisis” to describe both environmental change and the hardship faced by certain communities because of such change. We identify climate crisis as the third dynamic of forced migration, operating alongside and in conjunction with neoliberalization and securitization.


Estimates of the extent of climate-induced migration vary significantly, but the numbers are staggering by any measure. As of June 2011, according to the UNHCR, there were an estimated 42.3 million people displaced by sudden-onset disasters caused by natural events in 2010.75  Furthermore, “since 2008 an average of 26.4 million people a year have been displaced from their home by disasters brought by natural hazards. This is equivalent to one person being displaced every second.”76

Researchers predict a larger increase in climate refugees not only due to more frequent and intense weather events but also to rising sea levels, which are rising at an annual rate of 0.13 inches (3.2 millimeters) a year, roughly twice the average speed of the past 80 years.78  Most impacted are several small island and coastal countries, which must grapple with the possibility of complete submersion. Bangladesh is projected to lose 17 percent of its land by 2050, causing about 20 million people to seek refuge elsewhere, and the Maldives could lose all of its 1,200 islands.79  People worldwide who depend on the fishery industry are witnessing a decline in revenue as increasing fresh water from melted polar caps drives saltwater fish away and harms ocean ecosystems. If current rates of ocean water temperature continue to rise, for example, the ocean is projected to be too warm for coral reefs to survive by 2050.80

Climate change also contributes to desertification, wherein a relatively dry land region becomes increasingly arid and bodies of water, vegetation, and wildlife can no longer thrive.81  Desertification is threatening the livelihoods of many communities by completely transforming the ecosystem and diminishing, if not eliminating, the productivity of land. 

Many residents of countries at risk of submersion are already migrating to other regions or to nearby countries as their livelihoods become ever more precarious. For instance, as of 2010, 3,000 of Tuvalu’s 10,000 residents migrated to New Zealand seeking work under a labor migration program.82  Many have had to migrate due to desertification as well. Most notably, communities in East Africa, the Horn of Africa, and the Gobi desert in China are being forced to relocate as land becomes increasingly arid and uninhabitable. In China, the Gobi desert has been expanding at around 100,000 square miles per year and at an accelerated since 1950. As a result, some 24,000 villages in northern and western China have been abandoned either entirely over the last half-century or so.83  Further, according to the UNHCR, in 2010 and 2011, “a mass exodus” of Somalis migrated to Kenya and Ethiopia due to severe droughts and civil strife. Significantly, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that East Africa and the Horn of Africa are projected to be impacted the most negatively by climate change in the future.84


The most significant distinction between traditional refugees and climate and food refugees is that the latter do not receive the legal recognition granted to the former. That is, climate refugees are not covered in the 1951 Refugee Convention. People displaced due to abrupt natural disasters or slow, ongoing environmental changes caused by global warming, such as desertification and rising sea levels, are often sent back to their countries or communities. For instance, the estimated 200,000 Bangladeshis who will lose their homes every year due to river erosion in recent years will be unable to appeal for resettlement as refugees in another country.96

In some cases of environmental displacement, people can seek protection under humanitarian law. In 2014, a family of four from Tuvalu appealed to the New Zealand court that they should be granted refugee status because their ability to provide for their family was hindered by the scarcity of land. The family claimed that they were suffering from the adverse effects of climate change, including lack of fresh drinking water and rising sea levels. In June 2014 the court allowed the family to stay because they had strong family ties within New Zealand, but rejected claims concerning climate change and were not granted protection under refugee or human rights law.97


Vulnerability to climate change—and the manifold resource conflicts climate change triggers and exacerbates—is disproportionately experienced in the Global South across key eco-regions. These regions include areas commonly affected by storms, particularly in Central America and Southeast Asia; communities in arid environments and in close proximity to a desert, such as those around the Sahara Desert; and coastal cities and low-lying island-states, such as the Maldives.85  Additionally, the impact on such communities is expected to worsen given, for example, that coastal populations are burgeoning in developing countries in particular. Over the past three decades coastal populations have increased globally from 1.6 billion to over 2.5 billion and in 2007, with over 1.9 billion in developing countries in particular.86  Hence, a meter increase in sea levels and a 10 percent intensification of storm surges could cause flooding affecting 31 million people in developing countries and would broaden the areas of exposure from 7 percent to 12.6 percent.87

Such acute vulnerability to climate change experienced by many across the Global South also occurs as a fact of the predominance of natural resource-based economies. For example, countries and communities with large economic contributions from agriculture and a large number of subsistence-level households are more vulnerable to a changing climate. In addition to disasters, climate change causes unpredictable weather patterns that place pressure on already fragile low-income rural economies. Climate change manifests in hotter days, drier seasons, more flooding, and shorter growing seasons, which reduces yields and increases poverty.88  According to the United Nations, the largest segment of the world’s poor live in rural environments: “these are the subsistence farmers and herders, the fishers and migrant workers.”89  In 2010 about 34 percent of the total rural population of developing countries was classified as extremely poor and about 80 percent of rural households engaged in farm activities of some sort.90  As such, a large majority of the world’s poor depend on moderate seasonal changes to produce their food, yet such communities are losing one of their few assets, one which is essential for their livelihoods: knowing when to sow and harvest.91 91

Given such acute vulnerability to climate-induced environmental change experienced across the Global South, the climate crisis must be understood as inseparable from the turmoil caused by the first two dynamics of forced migration—neoliberalization and securitization. Regarding neoliberalization, such links are apparent in the deregulation and privatization of state sectors and industries that occurred throughout the Global South in the late 1970s that contributed to the underdevelopment of national economies and industries. As such, neoliberalization has helped generalize individual and community vulnerability to climate-induced changes and decrease resilience. It has done so not only by increasing poverty, but also by re-entrenching colonial relations of dependency that have locked many countries into natural resource-based economies, and by undermining the development of adequate infrastructure that might help communities cope.92  A majority of climate refugees comprise people largely from the Global South who are already marginalized in their communities and geographies, and whose livelihoods are most vulnerable to climate change. Even further, many lack the resources to resettle elsewhere after being forcibly displaced by climate-induced environmental disasters.


International attention concerning climate change emerged as early as the late 1980s when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established to collect and access evidence on climate change. In 1995 the IPCC’S Second Assessment Report concluded that “a discernable human influence” was contributing to climate change, marking the first link made between human activity and global environmental changes.77  Yet the dialogue surrounding climate change has, for the most part, centered around the impact on ecosystems, sustainability, and physical health, and largely overlooked its relationship to forced migration.

While the number of people fleeing their homes due to short-term and long-term environmental changes grows, they continue to be denied international refugee status, and with the changing climate increasingly recognized as a cause of such environmental changes, debate remains what to call such people and how to accommodate them—from climate refugees to environmental migrants. This report uses the term climate refugees. It does so because the term “refugee” recognizes the acute cause of displacement, from war and persecution to natural disasters, and the term “climate” accounts for those who are not only displaced by abrupt natural disasters, but also those who are displaced by long-term environmental changes directly tied to global warming, such as desertification and rising sea levels. The term climate crisis therefore accounts for both environmental change and the hardship faced by certain communities because of such change.

The links between the climate crisis and securitization on the other hand are apparent in the fact that military institutions have been playing an increasingly prominent part in the governing of environmental concerns. For example, on July 27, 2008, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), alongside the US military, scientific institutes, public policy institutes, private corporations, national funding agencies, and news agencies, carried out a two-day, new type of military exercise called the “Climate Change War Game,” which was intended “to explore the national security consequences of climate change.” According to an extensive study on securitization and climate change by Robert P. Marzec, the CNAS is perhaps the first in what will a growing number of post–Cold War, post–homeland security institutions involved in environmental changes and the conflicts and displacements to emerge therefrom.93


While the number of people fleeing their homes due to environmental crises grows, they continue to be denied refugee status. This is particularly challenging as, for many countries, the effects of climate change are generally felt across large geographic areas and have forced many to migrate regionally and internationally. For example, residents of the Horn of Africa, primarily from Somalia, have temporarily settled in refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia; citizens of island states, such as Tuvalu, Nauru, and Kiribati, in the South Pacific Ocean have tried to relocate to Australia and New Zealand; and Bangladeshis have migrated to India and Nepal.94  All of these migrants are not granted legal status and are either eventually deported or remain as undocumented immigrants. Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that internal migration due to climate change may ultimately create more economic and political refugees. The former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Gutierrez, stated that “climate refugees can enhance the competition for resources—water, food, grazing lands—and that competition can trigger conflict.”95  Hence, climate change migration can cause population pressures, landlessness, rapid urbanization, and unemployment, which put refugees in danger of backlash and worsen existing urban struggles.


In 2015, after two decades of talks, 195 countries agreed to curb greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change, and foster and finance climate-resilient development starting in the year 2020. Named the Paris Climate Accord, the agreement sets out to enhance the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and push countries to set targets beyond previously set mitigation, adaptation, and finance targets.

The agreement is significant because it ultimately seeks to prevent the runaway climate change that would occur should temperatures spiral two degrees (Celsius) or more above the pre-industrial era, to hasten the transition away from fossil fuels and to a clean energy economy, and to ensure that the effects of climate change itself are dampened.

Yet also significant is the fact that it officially considers mass migration as one such effect of climate change. Specifically, the Paris climate accord calls for developing recommendations “to avert, minimize and address displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change.” This explicit acknowledgment of the dangers of migration was one that some of the poorest of the 195 countries involved in the talks had sought to include in the text, for estimates state that by 2050, about 200 million people—primarily from the Global South—may be permanently displaced. Significantly, wealthier nations acknowledged the perils of climate change with regard to forced migration. 

During the September 2016 ratification then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that “[e]ach day the planet is on this course, it becomes more dangerous…[i]f anyone doubted the science, all they have to do is watch, sense, feel what is happening in the world today. High temperatures are already having consequences, people are dying in the heat, people lack water, we already have climate refugees.”

Regardless, after U.S. negotiators demanded the exclusion of language that could allow the agreement to be used to claim legal liability for climate change, critics said the agreement would still condemn hundreds of millions of people living in low-lying coastal areas and small islands to a precarious future. Even further, in June 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S.— the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases—will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement stating that the agreement is “less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States." The announcement undermines ongoing efforts toward climate mitigation, adaptation, and finance, in and outside the agreement. Further, it undermines more expansive accounts of the climate crisis itself that had begun to surface in recent year, including acknowledgement of its effects with regard to mass migration.

Yet the announcement drew condemnation from countries across the globe. Even further, as Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who delivered the Paris agreement, states, “[s]tates, cities, corporations, [and] investors have been moving in this direction for several years and the dropping prices of renewables versus high cost of health impacts from fossil fuels, guarantees the continuation of the transition.” Such has been the case within the U.S. itself, where U.S. states have already pushed back on Trump’s decision and vowed to adhere to the principles of the Paris Climate Accord. For example, only one week after Trumps announcement, Hawaii became the first state to enact legislation aligning with Paris Climate Accord. The bills signed by Hawaii Governor David Ige were SB 559 (Act 032) and HB 1578 (Act 033). HB 1578 establishes a Carbon Farming Task Force, and the governor's office stated that SB 559 expanded "strategies and mechanisms" to cut greenhouse gas emissions across the state "in alignment with the principles and goals adopted" in the Paris Agreement. Despite such multi-scalar responses and efforts, much work still remains to mitigate and adapt to climate change and the climate crisis.

Part 3: Migration and Displacement by Region

Having established a broader framework related to global forced migration, this section elaborates on regional histories, accounting for the interface between the three dynamics of forced migration—neoliberalization, securitization, and the climate crisis, as well as the colonial relationships from which they took shape. We explore the regional histories of the Asia-Pacific region, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, South Asia, North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa. We also highlight the significance of European and US colonial and imperial influence in shaping these regions and peoples’ experience of forced migration within and away from them. 


Since the late nineteenth century, the US has colonized many islands in the Asia-Pacific region, transforming them into strategic sites for advancing US economic and military interests. These islands included Guam, Eastern Samoa, Hawai‘i, and the Philippines; in these places the US established infrastructure for military operations and imposed colonial forms of education, health, and public policy. Throughout these experiences, the US created indigenous elite and police collaborator classes, while excluding most indigenous populations from the dominant, white circles of influence, residency, and power.98

In the Asia-Pacific region, colonial militarization rapidly advanced following World War II, converging with regimes of colonial accumulation.99  Specifically, as part of the containment of communism, and in order to support US military deployment in allied Asian nations, the US government turned the region’s islands into a Pacific “base network.”100  According to Yen Le Espiritu, upon securing US hegemony in the Pacific, military leaders proceeded to build permanent facilities on key islands in Micronesia, with Guam in particular serving as a heavily militarized site and central part of the United States’ “buffer zone” from perceived hostilities in the region during the Cold War.101  By 1956, Andersen Air Force Base, a 20,000-acre site located on the northern side of Guam, had become Strategic Air Command’s chief base in the Pacific, one of thirty-eight overseas bases that encircled the Sino-Soviet Bloc.102  This build-up was experienced elsewhere in the region during the Cold War, with Clark Air Base in the Philippines becoming the largest US base overseas, with a permanent population of 15,000 at its peak during the Vietnam War.103

Such colonial histories within the Asia-Pacific region were particularly significant in that they came to structure the militarized production and management of displacement during the second half of the twentieth century. The trajectory of US militarization in Southeast Asia—punctuated by the US war in Vietnam—is illustrative of this historical relationship between colonial militarization and forced migration. Notable for its indiscriminate violence, the US war in Vietnam saw search-and-destroy missions in the South, carpet-bombing raids in the North, free-fire zones, and chemical defoliation, and the maiming of countless bodies, the poisoning of water, land, and air, the razing of countrysides, and the devastation of infrastructure.104  Ending at least three million Vietnamese lives, and forcing more than three million people from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia to seek asylum in other countries between 1975 and 1995, the US war in Vietnam and the subsequent “Indochinese refugee crisis” have been described as one of the “great population shifts in history.”105


Myanmar (also known as Burma) is the country of origin for the majority of refugees in Southeast Asia. Since independence from the British in 1948, there have been major waves of displacement from and within Myanmar. 

The first wave occurred in the 1960s and 70s when Ne Win, a politician and military commander, established military rule. Those who fled were primarily of Chinese origin, particularly following the 1967 anti-Chinese riots. Between the 1980s and the early 1990s, after the anti-socialist national uprising in 1988, people from many ethnic groups were forced to flee. 

In 2013, religious and ethnic tensions between the Rohingya Muslims and the Rakhine Buddhists. who make up the majority of the population in Myanmar, escalated into widespread and deadly rioting. Considered “stateless entities” by the Myanmar government, the Rohingya people lack legal protection from the government of Myanmar and have long experienced mass ghettoization, massacres, and restrictions on movement.108  For the near future, it is predicted that Myanmar will continue to undergo protracted internal displacement due to conflict and tensions.109

WHO Many of the 135 officially recognized ethnic groups of Myanmar have been discriminated against by Myanmar's military governments—most notably in recent years, the Rohingya.110

HOW MANY Internal displacement: As of mid-2016, there are 452,747 internally displaced people within Myanmar.111

Refugees: As of mid-2016, there are 197,982 refugees from Myanmar.112

WHERE TO AND WHY Most refugees from Myanmar have gone to Thailand and Bangladesh. Thailand: According to the UNHCR, as of October 2016, Thailand is currently home to some 103,300 Myanmar refugees, living in nine camps along the

Thailand-Myanmar border and mainly of Karen, Karenni, Burmese and Mon ethnicity. Refugees first arrived there in the early 1980s after fleeing ethnic conflict in south-eastern Myanmar, making this one of Asia’s most protracted refugee situations.113

Bangladesh: As many as 300,000 to 500,000 Rohingya are in Bangladesh, according to government estimates.114  According to Amnesty International, the Bangladeshi authorities have cracked down on the flow of Rohingya refugees and asylum-seekers from Myanmar, detaining and forcibly returning hundreds. The move is a violation of the principle of non-refoulement in international law, which includes forcibly returning people to a country or place where they would be at real risk of serious human rights violations. The Bangladeshi authorities have also sealed their border with Myanmar and fortified it with the deployment of the Bangladesh Border Guards and coast guard forces.115  Since 1992, the Bangladesh government has a policy of denying Rohingya refugee status.116

Papua New Guinea

SEA LEVELS RISE & CLIMATE CHANGE Papua New Guinea, the largest and most populated country in the Pacific, is subject to unpredictable environmental hazards, including volcanic eruptions, tropical cyclones, floods, landslides, droughts, earthquakes, and tsunamis. The volatile nature of Papua New Guinea’s environment has worsened in recent years as a result of climate change. In the past 20 years, the frequency of storms has increased and sea levels around the atolls have risen by 10cm, inundating communities. In 2007, 38,000 people were displaced by flooding as a result of sea swells. Predictions for the future show no promise of improvement: a 2015 International Organization for Migration (IOM) report argues that “more than a quarter of PNG’s shoreline is expected to be moderately to severely inundated due to sea-level rise and associated impacts of climate change, affecting up to 30% of the country’s population.”119  The effects of climate change will be experienced even more widely that, pointing to the disproportionate impact of climate change on countries in the Global South. Specifically, in Papua New Guinea, approximately 85% of the population relies on agricultural production as their primary source of income, and the varying impacts of climate change on weather patterns, and thus crop yields, threatens the livelihood of the majority of Papua New Guinea’s population.120

As a result of both abrupt environmental disasters and slowly occurring environmental changes due to climate change, Papua New Guinea has experienced unusually high rates of internal migration. There are four main categories of displacement in Papua New Guinea: labor migration, environmental migration, conflict-driven migration, and development-induced displacement. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) two-thirds of internally displaced persons in PNG were displaced due to natural hazards.121  Due to the frequency of natural disasters, the government of Papua New Guinea has developed elaborate resettlement plans that have been implemented to relocate communities—particularly the populations of the low-lying atolls. In 2007 the resettlement of islanders from the Carteret Islands became the center of national and international attention. The Carteret Islands are only about one meter above sea level and have been heavily impacted by rising sea levels, intensifying storm surges, and volcanic activity, which has led many in the international community to label them as the first “climate refugees.” In 2007 the Planning Division of the Bougainville Administration adopted the Atolls Integrated Development Policy to resettle Atolls islanders at designated resettlement land by the end of 2020.122

Challenges with traditional land ownership laws and bureaucratic backlog has slowed down the progress of resettlement. As such, community leaders have developed voluntary resettlement efforts to compensate for the slow pace of the government’s resettlement program. In 2005, the Council of Elders of the Carteret Islands created Tulele Peisa, a local NGO that has coordinated the voluntary relocation of the majority of the island’s population to the Bougainville Island. In partnership with the Roman Catholic Church of Bougainville, Tulele Peisa has aimed to ensure that resettled islanders are able to be economically self-sufficient. At the 2014 International Conference on Small Island Developing States, ambassadors from the Pacific Islands rejected the term “climate refugees” as they argued the political connotations of it imply a lack of agency and choice. Kiribati’s president Anote Tong stated: “I have never encouraged the status of our people being refugees. We have to acknowledge the reality that with the rising sea, the land area available for our populations will be considerably reduced and we cannot accommodate all of them, so some of them have to go somewhere, but not as refugees. We have more than enough time now to train them, to up-skill them, so that they can be worthwhile citizens when we relocate them as a community, not as refugees.”123

Beyond the production of refugees, the way the US came to “manage” these refugees points to the relationship between colonial militarization and forced migration, and has laid the groundwork for a key dynamic of global forced migration today—securitization. Following Espiritu’s definition of the “militarized refugee,” it was the enormity of the military buildup in the Pacific—particularly Guam and the Philippines, as outlined above—that uniquely equipped US bases there to handle the largescale refugee rescue operation. For example, the route most frequently used for airlifted refugees was from Vietnam to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California.106  In short, US evacuation efforts were not an improvised response to an emergency situation that arose in Vietnam in 1975. Rather, such efforts were part of the long-standing colonial and highly militarized histories that connected the United States to Vietnam, the Philippines, and Guam, dating back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.107

Militarization across the Asia-Pacific region is still an ongoing phenomenon. For example, some of the most militarized parts of the Pacific are still Hawai‘i, the Marshall Islands, and Okinawa. Yet, in recent years the US military has begun to increase Guam’s “strategic” significance, highlighting “the increasing geopolitical importance of Asia to Washington as well as the Pentagon’s priority to project power from American territory rather than foreign bases.”117  Militarization in these regions and elsewhere has also taken place under new names. For example, active US military propaganda campaigns in Guam and Okinawa have depicted militarized settlement as one of economic opportunities and “economic progress” for the indigenous and settler populations of those areas.118

This history of Asia-Pacific highlights how the flight of refugees to the US is most often portrayed as a matter of desperate individuals escaping political persecution or traveling solely for economic reasons. Such narratives discount the central role that the US government, military, and corporations have played in causing such mass displacement in the first place,124  and they the importance of the US state and private corporations in the management of this exodus. Apparent in this regional history is the militarized production and management of displaced peoples, and the fact that both are not only made possible by longer histories of colonial influence, but also continue to influence the structure of contemporary security regimes. 

Latin America and the Caribbean

The links between colonial accumulation and militarization, and the forces of contemporary neoliberalization and securitization, are evident in the history of US influence in Latin America as well. There, US militarization and support of security forces within the region has been carried out in order to help keep in check the rise of regional cooperation and national independence that has threatened US political and economic interests as well as corporate interests. 

This influence came to be quite direct by the mid-twentieth century, where, following World War II, the US had dropped the supposed multilateralism that it had embraced in the 1930s.125  Instead, according to the State Department’s Division of the American Republics, it moved “toward a policy of general cooperation [with dictators] that give only secondary importance to the degree of democracy manifested by [Latin America’s] respected governments.”126  Under what was more of a system of containment, technical and financial aid was increasingly provided to insurgent militaries and security forces. The orchestration of coups and destabilization programs in Guatemala, Honduras, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, and elsewhere became a key strategy of regional control.127

In Guatemala, for example, anti-communist pressure from the US government and pressure to protect the interests of US companies—particularly United Fruit—fomented a military coup backed by the US Central Intelligence Agency. On June 18, 1954, Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas led a US-backed invasion force into Guatemala from Honduras, resulting in the resignation of Arbenz on June 27, and end to the agrarian reforms attempted by the Arbenz regime. Castillo Armas, supported by the US ambassador, was installed as president on July 8, 1954, and Guatemala’s 36-year civil war would follow shortly thereafter.128  The US also supported a similarly brutal regime in El Salvador in the 1980s by sending military advisers and economic and military aid to help the right-wing Salvadoran government fight Marxist guerrillas. Lasting from 1980 until the 1992 peace agreement, El Salvador’s civil war saw the loss of more than 75,000 lives.

The militarization of the region by the US would be a key reason for the social, political, and economic dislocation that occurred at the time. Specifically, the extreme inequality and vulnerability that characterized both Guatemala and El Salvador’s economies, the undermining of political dissent, and civil war and extreme violence, all led to a massive displacement of people. The large-scale migration from both countries was one that ended in the US—an ironic destination when taken at face value, but considering the fact that US power and wealth has been predicated upon such colonial relations, the decision would be a difficult one to avoid.129  From 1967 to 1980, roughly 109,000 Guatemalans immigrated to the US, due to both political The militarization of the region by the US would be a key reason for the social, political, and economic dislocation that occurred at the time. Specifically, the extreme inequality and vulnerability that characterized both Guatemala and El Salvador’s economies, the undermining of political dissent, and civil war and extreme violence, all led to a massive displacement of people. The large-scale migration from both countries was one that ended in the US—an ironic destination when taken at face value, but considering the fact that US power and wealth has been predicated upon such colonial relations, the decision would be a difficult one to avoid.129 From 1967 to 1980, roughly 109,000 Guatemalans immigrated to the US, due to both political conflict and a devastating earthquake in 1976.130  During the Salvadoran civil war, up to 30 percent of El Salvador’s population emigrated, and about 50 percent of those who escaped the country traveled to the US, which, by then, was already home to over 10,000 Salvadorans.131

The trajectory of the US-led “War on Drugs” across Latin America is also illustrative of both the present-day reformulation of longstanding US efforts to control the development of such countries, as well as the continuation of mass displacement caused by such efforts.140  Ramped up anti-narcotics efforts in the region reflect the elaboration and extension of colonial forms of militarization into what we have argued are two of the key dynamics of forced migration today—neoliberalization and securitization. Specifically, the “War on Drugs” has included, among other measures, the deployment of US military forces throughout Mexico, and Central and South America, but more importantly, the financing of Mexican, and Central and South American, security forces and military assistance—measures that have helped foment new waves of displacement.

Perhaps the most well-known of such counter-narcotics operations is “Plan Colombia,” launched by the Clinton administration and expanded under George W. Bush. As Foreign Affairs documented in 2002, “The Clinton administration shifted its emphasis from a comprehensive counter-narcotics program… to a policy that focused on the provision of military assistance and helicopters.”141  Altogether, the US military, police, and economic aid to Colombia between 2010 and 2015 had totaled nearly $3 billion.142  Yet after 14 years and $10 billion under Plan Colombia, things changed. Due to a number of reasons, rebel leaders and the Colombian government formally signed an agreement on September 26, 2016 to end the half-century war that has killed more than 220,000 people and that, from 1995 to 2000, according to Colombia’s National Administrative Statistics Department, forced over 700,000 people to flee the country.143

Other such militarized and securitized counter-narcotics efforts in the region include the steady increase of US assistance to Honduran armed forces and the US role in militarization of national police forces. The US Drug Enforcement Administration’s Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team (FAST) worked to train a local counter-narcotics police unit and help plan and execute drug interdiction operations, yet in practice such operations and the “commando style [FAST] squads” differed little from military missions.144  The deployment of this sort of combination of military, paramilitary, and militarized law enforcement, and the provision of funds and equipment to support such measures, is indicative of the US strategy of securitizing the region. Rather than simply overt military occupation, the US “provides assistance” in the form of monetary and non-monetary aid toward military and non-military matters.145


When Haiti gained its independence from the French empire following a slave rebellion at the end of the eighteenth century, France left a debt so large it took 150 years for Haiti to pay it off. The US occupied the country for 20 years, also leaving the Haitians with a debt of $40 million. Despite the formal end to US occupation in 1934, US imperial influence continued throughout the twentieth century through the imposition of puppet dictatorships and neoliberal debt regime.132

Haiti ranks 145 out of 169 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index, the lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Such dismal conditions with regard to housing, nutrition, healthcare, have exacerbated the impact of natural disasters that have struck the country. A devastating earthquake in 2010 claimed tens of thousands of lives (estimates but on the high end are over 300,000) and displaced more than 1.5 million people initially. The result was a crisis of displacement that the country was ill-equipped to handle.133

WHO Among the world’s poorest nations, the experience of poverty and displacement is generalized throughout Haiti. However, the tradition of discrimination between Haiti’s black and mulatto population that France left behind has left Haiti’s black population worse off amidst such poverty, dearth, and displacement. 

HOW MANY Internal displacement: Following the 2010 earthquake, more than 1.5 million Haitians were living in some 1,500 camps in Port-auPrince and surrounding towns. As of mid-2016, there are 33,258 IDP households.134

Refugees: As of mid-2016, there are 33,258 refugees from Haiti.135

WHERE TO AND WHY Most refugees from Haiti are predominantly going to the United States and Brazil.

Brazil: Haitians started migrating to Brazil in large numbers after the earthquake, with over 65,000 Haitians arriving between 2011 and November 2015 according to data from Brazil’s Federal Police.136  At the time, and with the World Cup and the Olympics approaching, the Brazilian economy was growing, fueling its need for cheap labor. Many Haitians were granted humanitarian visas that allowed them to work, but with the end of the World Cups, and amidst Brazil’s economic and political downturns over the last two years, many Haitians lost their jobs and sank deeper into poverty.137

United States: Many Haitians have already sought refuge in the United States from Brazil: on the San Diego border, 4,346 Haitians arrived as of September 1, 2016— with tens of thousands more expected to be en route— while only 339 arrived there in all of 2015.138  Following the devastating 2010 earthquake, Haiti was added by the US government to the list of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designated countries. TPS beneficiaries are temporarily granted relief from deportation and given work authorization until their TPS designation expires. Since early summer, most have been given permission to remain in the country for as long as three years under a humanitarian parole provision, although as of September 2016, Haitians seeking entry now are subject to a fast-track process called Expedited Removal that entails immediate detention, likely followed by deportation.139


Conflict has been a constant in Colombia since the mid-twentieth century, beginning with the 1948 assassination of populist political leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, who was set to have been elected president.

Following the US-backed anti-communist repression in rural Colombia in the 1960s, liberal and communist militants re-organized into the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), fueling decades of low-intensity war between Colombian governments, paramilitary groups, and crime syndicates, and left-wing guerrillas such as the FARC and the National Liberation Army.

Both guerrilla and paramilitary groups have been accused of engaging in terrorism and drug trafficking. All of the parties engaged in the conflict have been criticized for numerous human rights violations.148

In a bid to end a half-century of conflict, Colombia’s congress ratified a new peace deal with FARC in late 2016. Although rebel commanders accused of war crimes will still go before special tribunals, the Colombian Congress passed an amnesty bill that allows rank-and-file guerrillas to return to civilian life.149

WHO Villagers, peasants, and indigenous people living in rural and forest areas are often forcibly displaced by guerrillas and other groups trying to grow coca plants and extract other resources. These people are also displaced by government forces themselves that seek to contain the spread of such guerilla groups.

In Colombia’s porous border areas where many flee, Colombian children are particularly vulnerable to targeting and recruitment by Colombian armed groups.150

HOW MANY It is the largest displacement crisis in the Western Hemisphere, and constitutes the seventh largest refugee population in the world.151

Internal displacement: As of mid-2016, there are around over 7 million internally displaced people inside Colombia, around 13% of the entire population.152

Refugees: As of mid-2016, there are 89,823 refugees from Colombia.153

WHERE TO AND WHY Colombians fleeing the war have landed primarily in Ecuador, Venezuela, and Panama. In all three countries, the conflict has greatly impacted the areas bordering Colombia, though refugees have also fled to major cities and other areas far from the border. At the same time, many have chosen to return to Colombia because of the discrimination, xenophobia, and lack of job prospects they face in their countries of asylum. Thus, for some Colombian refugees, resettlement to a third country is the only option that will allow them to receive adequate protection.154

Ecuador: Hosting the largest number of refugees in Latin America, as of 2016, Ecuador shelters around 257,000 Colombians who have fled the prolonged conflict.155  Of these, approximately 60,500 are registered refugees and 175,000 are asylum-seekers. Most refugees in Ecuador lack legal status, and as a result many find it difficult to work, enroll their children in school, and access healthcare.156

Venezuela: According to the UNHCR, in 2016 Venezuela was home to around 170,000 Colombians in need of international protection.157  In 2015, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro closed the Veneuzla-Colombia border and deported thousands of Colombians following the shooting of three Venezuelan soldiers on the border between the two countries, highlighting the volatile nature of Venezuela’s support and the uncertain position of Colombia refugees.158

Panama: Panama has done little to support Colombian refugees. In 2010, for example, only 2% of applicants were granted refugee status in Panama.159

 The relationship being forged between the US and those security forces it finances under the banner of counter-narcotic efforts is apparent in Mexico too. The US government has spent more than $2.3 billion on counter-narcotic operations over the last eight years, yet rarely criticizes the abuses committed by such security forces. Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s assault on the country’s cartels, continued by his successor Enrique Peña Nieto, has cost more than 100,000 lives and forced many to flee.146  Mirroring earlier migrations from across the region, for the last five years, Honduras, Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala have topped the list of countries from which the US receives the most asylum applications, totaling nearly 120,000 in 2014.147

Beyond solely causing mass displacement, the Latin American case highlights the ways in which neoliberalization and securitization also structure the management of displaced peoples. For example, alongside the intensification of anti-narcotic efforts is the militarization of the US-Mexico border, which most emigrants from Mexico, Central America, and South America pass. According to the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR), border militarization resembles the “systematic intensification of the border’s security apparatus, transforming the area from a transnational frontier to a zone of permanent vigilance, enforcement, and violence.”160  The militarization of the US-Mexico border—a border significant to all of Latin America—dates back to the 1970s (and likely earlier, given the establishment of the US Border Patrol in 1924) yet it was not until the early 2000s, following the attacks of September 11, 2001, that national security concerns placed the US-Mexico border under unprecedented military escalations, shaping the lives and restricting the movement of peoples fleeing years of US activity in the region. With the reconfiguration of immigration services, the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2003, increased funding and expanded jurisdiction of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the force President Trump has put behind his pledge to start construction on a wall along the 2,000 mile US-Mexico border, this trend has only increased.161  Such security measures, new and old, would work in conjunction with the longstanding US practice of not granting refugee status to asylum seekers from Mexico, further constraining the movement of those people displaced by years of uneven trade policies and the “War on Drugs."162

Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa

Many countries in the Global North have come to know displacement in the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa in the twenty-first century through what is commonly referred to today as the “European refugee crisis.”163  The crisis began in 2015 when a rising number of refugees and migrants made the journey to the European Union to seek asylum predominantly from countries across the Middle East, South Asia, and much of Africa, though many have also come from the Western Balkans. According to the UNHCR, the top three nationalities of the over 1.3 million Mediterranean Sea arrivals in 2015 were Syrian (49 percent), Afghan (21 percent) and Iraqi (8 percent)—78 percent of all refugees of the refugees and migrants arriving in Europe by sea in 2015. 


For over half a century, Palestinians have made up the largest refugee population in the world. With the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 came massive expulsions of the Palestinian population, which continue to this day. Although international law upholds the right of Palestinian refugees to return to Palestine, they continue to be systematically denied this right and remain a stateless people. Their numbers continue to grow in refugee camps in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza. The lack of protections for Palestinians has been exacerbated by Israel’s decades-long military occupation, in addition to other regional conflicts that continue to sweep across the region, especially in Syria and Iraq.

WHO According to the UNRWA, there are 5,094,864 displaced Palestinians.

Palestinian refugees fall under the mandate of the UNRWA, not the UNHCR. The UNRWA is the only UN agency created specifically for a certain region or conflict. Significantly, the UNRWA does not share the same policies with the UNHCR including its mandated mission to eliminate refugee status with resettlement, integration, or repatriation of refugees. 

HOW MANY The ongoing occupation of Palestine continues to create severe consequences for Palestinian refugees, who are forced to endure multiple displacements, without any sufficient legal protections or final status agreements in sight. Currently, Palestinian refugees are internally and externally displaced in the following regions:

Gaza: 1,258,559

West Bank: 762,288

Syria: 526,722

Lebanon: 449,957

Jordan: 2,097,338

WHERE TO AND WHY Given their lack of status, Palestinians have been blocked from legal pathways for asylum in other countries.

In Syria, the Palestinian refugees have not been granted citizenship, so they remain without nationality. More than half of the Palestinians in Syria have been displaced both internally and beyond Syria’s borders. 

In Greece, the asylum cases of Palestinians from Syria have been frozen, despite the fact that their condition of statelessness makes them some of the most vulnerable of displaced populations.


Modern Afghanistan’s ongoing refugee crisis began with the 1979 invasion by the Soviet Union. Following the Soviet departure, other conflicts have forced millions to flee violence, including civil war, Taliban conquest, and the US-led invasion after September 11, 2001. Collectively. The result has been in constant warfare and displacement. Although many Afghan refugees return during times of relative peace, renewed fighting has almost always means such safety is short-lived.174

WHO One of the world’s most protracted conflicts, Afghanistan remains a country plagued by war and poverty. According to a 2012 report by the Feinstein International Center, one in three Afghan children are malnourished, 15 percent of the population lacks access to even basic healthcare services, and in areas where fighting continues, militants lack respect for the neutrality of health care facilities, making visiting these facilities dangerous.175  As such, the experience of destitute conditions, violence, and displacement are relatively generalized. 

HOW MANY Internal displacement: As of mid-2016, there are 1,323,391 people internally displaced in Afghanistan.176

Refugees: As of mid-2016, Afghanistan form one of the world’s largest refugee populations, with 2,685,784 refugees worldwide. Before the recent violence and war in Syria and Iraq, the UNHCR reported that Afghanistan remained the world’s top producer of refugees for the 32nd year in a row.177

WHERE TO AND WHY The largest and most protracted refugee population under UNHCR’s mandate, since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, a total of about 6 million Afghan refugees have settled in neighboring Pakistan and Iran. This population constitutes 95% of Afghan refugees globally.178

Iran: Iran hosts 840,158 refugee as of 2014 statistics.179  However, many Afghan refugees in Iran face forceful deportation every year. In 2006, about 146,387 undocumented Afghans were deported and, since then, newly arriving Afghans has been denied the ability to register as asylum seekers.180

Pakistan: Pakistan hosts 1,615,876 Afghan refugees.181  In 2012, the governments of Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan, along with the UNHCR, adopted the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR), which outlines the need for increased voluntary repatriation, but also makes clear the need for enhanced resettlement as a means of international responsibility sharing.182

US and EU: In the last 20 years, the US has taken in less than 20,000 Afghan refugees. The US has allocated only 7,000 or so visas to Afghans, with most visas offered to translators and guides for the armed forces.183  In 2015, 213,000 Afghans arrived in Europe and 176,900 requested asylum that year. At least half of such requests by Afghans have been denied so far, meaning that tens of thousands of people could be returned to Afghanistan.184


The Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, and Yemen inspired protests in Syria. Yet, followed by intervention by the Syrian Army, Syria descended into civil war, quickly becoming divided into a complex patchwork of shifting alliances—most recently between the Assad regime, Russia, and Iranian militia, and Syrian rebel groups, partly supported by the US, European, Turkey, and Arab Gulf states. Initially, a US-led coalition was providing non-lethal aid to the Free Syrian Army but that support has waned, giving the Russian-backed Syrian army a greater ability to retake rebel strongholds. The US has provided military aid to Kurdish Peshmerga forces fighting ISIS.

UN Security Council resolutions have resulted in temporary ceasefires in order to allow humanitarian aid to enter bombed cities and for injured and sick Syrians to be attended to, yet death and displacement continue relatively unabated.

WHO The refugees are mainly residents of rebel held strongholds such as Aleppo, as well as Homs and Kobane that have been hit, with Syrians also fleeing border towns with Iraq due to persecution by ISIS. Aleppo has recently been reclaimed by the Syrian army with substantial assistance from the Russian military and Iranian-backed rebels.

Religious minorities such as Shi’a Muslims and Yazidis have been most affected by ISIS persecution.

HOW MANY Internally Displaced: 6,563,462 as of mid2016.18

Refugees: 5,259,126 as of mid-2016.190

WHERE TO AND WHY Most of Syria’s 5.2 million refugees are going to Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan. In 2016, pledges have been made by various nations to permanently resettle 170,000 registered refugees.

Turkey: Turkey hosts 2,973,980 registered refugees. Nearly one-third live in 22 government-run camps near the Syrian border. Turkey is home to the highest number of Syrian refugees.191

Lebanon: As of December 2016, Lebanon has taken in approximately 1 million Syrian refugees. Initially, there were no entry or renewal restrictions as compared to Turkey and Jordan. However, with increasing refugee numbers, visa requirements were instituted in January 2015. After such requirements were instituted, Syrian refugees in Lebanon have been forced to either find a Lebanese sponsor, which can result in exploitation, or receive UNHCR certification, which means they are not able to work while in Lebanon.192

Jordan: Jordan has taken in approximately 658,015 Syrian refugees. The country extended the grace period for work permits for Syrian refugees, at least until the end of 2016.193

US, Canada, and the European Union: Countries in the Global North such as Canada and Germany have also taken in tens of thousands of refugees. Financial aid from other countries has been limited, though in November 2015, the EU promised 3,200,000,000 in financial aid toward Syrian refugees.194

However, there is a much longer history of forced migration from and within the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa.164  The causes of displacement range from colonial experiences (as in the case of Palestinians expelled from the territory that became Israel), “post-colonial” contexts (such as Sahrawi and Kurdish refugees),165  civil war (as is the case for Lebanese and Syrian refugees), and military intervention and civil conflict post-military intervention situations (such as Iraqi refugees).166

As a key part of the histories and dynamics of forced migration across these areas, this section focuses on oil and water—two natural resources that have long informed strategic thinking and political, economic, and military interventions in the region. Oil has been important because of its abundance, and water has been important because of its scarcity.167  The many operations tied to these resources illustrate and enunciate the colonial histories of accumulation and militarization that have defined the web of US- and European-led interventions in the region, and played a significant part in mass displacement from and within the region. Operations tied to these resources also highlight how colonial histories of accumulation and militarization in the region structure the central dynamics of forced migration today.

The centrality of oil to US strategic thinking and policymaking in the region is illustrative of how US militarism has historically been a central strategy for the consolidation of US power in the region. Fostering and preserving the security of the entire Persian Gulf region and the flow of oil from it were among top US political and economic concerns during the first half of the twentieth century.168  During this time, the US did not wage war in order to establish direct control over oil fields. Instead, US activity in the region has largely been about securing amicable relationships with the region’s oil producers, though not necessarily to guarantee such oil made its way to the US (though meeting basic domestic energy was an important matter for consideration). Keeping prices stable, not low, and keeping pro-US regimes in power were central to US strategic policy.169

As in the Asia-Pacific region, it was from the mid-twentieth century onward that colonial militarization in the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa rapidly advanced, merging with regimes of colonial accumulation in the region. In short, it was the late 1960s and early 1970s that marked a transformational period in the United States’ approach to regional stability.

In the 1960s, governments of oil-producing countries within the region had already begun to express dissatisfaction with the monopolistic control over the means of production and pricing exercised by major oil companies for much of the twentieth century. In 1960, in an effort to drive oil prices higher, several major oil producers established the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Led by Saudi Arabia, and in response to US support for Israel in the 1973 Egyptian and Israeli conflict known as the Yom Kippur War, key oil producers and oil companies in the region orchestrated an embargo on Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States, leading to the decrease of supply and increase in prices otherwise known as the 1973 oil crisis. Further, by securing the direct control over production and pricing mechanism, such oil-producing countries were able to attain a massive increase in oil revenues. The embargo and its impact on domestic politics troubled US officials, who struggled to rebuild relations with allies in the region while deepening its commitment to maintaining peace and order.170

The convergence between colonial accumulation and militarism continued on into the 1970s. Specifically, although direct corporate and US political control over oil in the region ended in the 1970s, and although the waves of independence and nationalism ultimately helped dismantle a longstanding geopolitical framework that had largely served US oil interests, the authoritarian regimes remained. The US government sought to do new kinds of business with such regimes, and by arming them and positioning them as surrogates for US interests and power they laid the ground for a weapons pipeline between them.171  The pattern of militarism that began in the Persian Gulf in the 1970s has thus partly been the product of US support for, and deliberate militarization of, brutal and vulnerable authoritarian regimes, and the lasting relationships the US would pursue.172

The effects of such oil-driven colonial accumulation and militarization have been far reaching, as the United State’s weapons sales to leaders in the region—and efforts to develop a geopolitical order that depended on and empowered such leaders—resulted in a heavily militarized and fragile balance of power. From the 1970s on, many countries within the region experienced domestic unrest, invasion, and regional or civil war, and although much of the turmoil experienced resulted from internal dynamics, the United States’ militarization of the region exacerbated and accelerated those uncertainties and helped further destabilize the region.173  Such strategies and implications of US involvement across the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa continued unabated through the 1980s and 1990s—spanning various contexts such as the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the US funding of Afghan insurgents, the US involvement in the Lebanese Civil War (1982-1984), and the Gulf War (1990-1991), among others.


With the Houthi overthrow of its government, a Zaydi Shi’a movement, and a Saudi-led counteroffensive, Yemen is experiencing a massive crisis. Worse yet is that there is minimal progress on reinstating the internationally recognized government in the capital of Sana’a. The fighting, and a Saudi-imposed blockade meant to enforce an arms embargo, has brought famine and a host of other devastating humanitarian consequences.200

As a result of the situation in Yemen, which continues to deteriorate since fighting intensified in late March 2015, more than 5,800 people have been killed, 22 million face severe food shortages, and millions have been displaced, internally and across Yemen’s borders.201

WHO Although suffering is widespread, not as many people have sought or been able to find refuge outside of Yemen. Bordered by ocean and desert, with only Saudi Arabia and Oman as direct neighbors, Yemenis have no easy outlets, though the Saudi government allows those already in the kingdom to stay. Departures from its previous support, Jordan now demand visas and sets tough conditions for asylum-seekers.202

HOW MANY The UNHCR estimates that 21.1 million people—80% of the population—require some form of humanitarian protection or assistance, and the United Nations has designated the humanitarian emergency in Yemen as severe and complex as those in Iraq, South Sudan, and Syria.203

Internal displacement: As of mid-2016, there are 2,139,268 Yemeni refugees.204

Refugees: As of mid-2016, there are 268,486 Yemeni refugeess.205

WHERE TO AND WHY Countries who receive most of Yemen’s 268,486 refugees are: Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, and Oman, followed by Somalia, Ethiopia, and Sudan.206

Saudi Arabia: 39,880 Yemeni have arrived in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Arabian government has provided a six-month visa to more than 465,000 Yemenis to regulate their stay in the country, and when the violence escalated in Yemen, special consideration was given at the Yemeni-Saudi border to evacuate close to 10,000 third country nationals.207

Djibouti: As of November 2016, 36,603 Yemeni have arrived in Oman. Most of the Yemenis who fled to the Horn of Africa arrived in Djibouti given its close cultural, social, and linguistic links to Yemen, and its open door policy.208

Oman: As of November 2016, 51,000 Yemeni have arrived in Oman. Oman allows access to those with family links in the territory and transit for third country nationals. Oman reported that over 51,000 third-country nationals have transited since March 2015.209

United States, Canada, and the European Union: Very few Yemenis have sought refuge in the US, Canada, and the European Union, although the Obama administration issued a directive to grant Temporary Protective Status (TPS) to Yemeni nationals currently residing in the United States, according to an order approved by the Department of Homeland Security. 

Next to oil, the centrality of water to US strategic thinking and policymaking in the region is also illustrative of the colonial histories of accumulation and militarization that have defined the web of US-led engagements in the region and that have long structured mass displacement within and from the region.185  Unlike oil, however, it is the scarcity of water in the region that has shaped such histories. In The Conflict Shoreline, Eyal Weizman outlines how colonial powers have historically traced the border of the desert in the Middle East and North Africa according to the so-called “aridity line,” areas where there is on average 200 millimeters of rainfall a year, which is considered the minimum for growing cereal crops on a large scale without irrigation.186

These meteorological boundaries are not fixed and have fluctuated for various reasons. The population centers that fall on the aridity line often do not fare well because of such fluctuations.187  Weizman highlights how the city of Daraa, Syria— where Syria’s record-breaking drought displaced countless farmers in the years leading up to the outbreak of Syria’s civil war, and where the Syrian uprising itself broke out in 2011—is directly on the aridity line. Although the drought was not the sole reason for the conflict, an estimated 1.5 million people were internally displaced in Syria because of it, it was indeed significant.188

All along the entire aridity line—from parts of Libya and Palestine, to parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan—not only is there drought, high heat, and unrest.195  There has also been US military involvement. Specifically, Weizman highlights, many US drone strikes within the region– from South Waziristan through northern Yemen, Somalia, Mali, Iraq, Gaza and Libya– have been directly on or close to the 200 mm aridity line.196  From US fighter jets following the abundance of oil in previous years, to US drones closely shadowing areas experiencing drought at present, US regional involvement highlights how environmental crises intersect with the colonial histories of accumulation and militarization, and how, together, they structure the central dynamics of forced migration today—neoliberalization, securitization, and the climate crisis.197

In this light, what has been referred to as the Global War on Terror (GWOT), led by the US following the attacks on September 11, 2001, reflects most clearly the transition from what was more readily apparent as militarization toward a more expansive view of war itself that still serves US regional and global interests. Specifically, according to Jonathan Hafetz, the US war-making position no longer rests on a target’s connection to a particular conflict, but rather to an amorphous, global, armed conflict against al-Qaeda, ISIS, and “associated groups”—a conflict that has proven sufficiently malleable to accompany the shifting focus of US counter-terrorism operations from Afghanistan and Iraq to Yemen and the Horn of Africa.198  The distinction is important because outside of armed conflict, peacetime law applies and prohibits extrajudicial killing absent exceptional circumstances.199

Such modes of policymaking, strategic thinking, and intervention in the region have been devastating for the people living there, forcing many to flee their homes, communities, and countries. Afghans have been on the move to escape war almost continuously since 1979, and the ongoing US war in Afghanistan—the longest in US history—has extended this reality into the foreseeable future. As of mid-2015, there were nearly 2.6 million Afghan refugees, with most having sought refuge in Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan.210  As of mid-2016, there were more than 1.2 million internally displaced people in Afghanistan itself.211  Additionally, on the border of the region, millions of Pakistanis have been on the move, attempting to escape violence since 2004. In July 2014, before the peak of the flight due to Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the UNHCR counted 1.2 million internally displaced persons in Pakistan, which itself already hosts 1.6 million refugees from neighboring countries (mainly Afghanistan, Somalia, and Iraq) for a total of more than 2.8 million refugees and internally displaced persons inside the country.212  It is these refugees, and refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the region, that are some of the prime targets of travel restrictions and anti-immigrant sentiment and policy-making throughout Europe and the United States.213

Sub-Saharan Africa

Over the past several decades, displacements have reached daunting proportions in Africa and in Sub-Saharan Africa in particular. According to Francis Deng, the first representative of the UN Secretary-General on IDPs, between 1969 and 1994, the number of internally displaced persons in Africa soared to between 10 and 15 million. In 1994, the longstanding and alarming increase in IDPs prompted the Organization of African Unity to state that internal displacement is “one of the most tragic humanitarian and human rights crises in Africa today.”214

These trends continue today. As of 2015, there were 12.5 million Internally Displaced Persons in the 21 sub-Saharan countries that the IDMC monitors—more than any region in the world, more than a third of the global total, and vastly larger than the population of three million refugees that Africa hosts.215

From government corruption to protracted inter-ethnic conflict to natural disasters, many cite the proximate causes of displacement in order to explain crises of migration in Africa and elsewhere. Yet in doing so they often elide the generations-long and reiterative processes of colonial accumulation and militarization, and environmental factors, that have helped underwrite such mass expulsions, displacement, and deaths.


Citing proximate causes, however, has merit. The most pervasive proximate causes for displacement in the region have been economically-induced expulsions and conflict-induced displacements.216  Regarding the former, economic crises have frequently led to violence against, and displacement of, those seen as “foreigners” or “outsiders.” At times of economic recession, for example, many countries have sometimes taken radical measures, such as the mass expulsion of 200,000 Nigerians and other foreigners from Ghana in 1969.217  In 1983 and 1985, Nigeria followed Ghana’s example, with its military government expelling over 1.2 million Ghanaians, accusing them of taking jobs from Nigerians.218

Yet, by and large, it is conflict that is the primary proximate cause of displacement. The civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia clearly illustrate the impact conflict can have on displacement. At their peak in 1996, these wars induced the displacement of around 755,000 Liberians and 355,000 Sierra Leoneans to neighboring countries.229

The nature of conflict-induced displacement has varied across time. Until the late 1980s, such conflicts generally remained localized in otherwise stable regions, ultimately causing more internal displacement than cross-border refugee flows. In West Africa, for example, apart from the liberation struggle of Guinea-Bissau, most conflicts have been intrastate—largely related to nation-building HAASINSTITUTE.BERKELEY.EDU Sub-Saharan Africa processes and struggles over the control of power and resources, and articulated around ethnicity or religion. The secessionist movements like the Biafra war in Nigeria (1967–70), for example, make this case clear. Political tensions have at times also arisen from the militarization of the political sphere or from post-election crises.230

Yet by the mid-1990s regional displacement dynamics had evolved significantly and moved away from largely intrastate affairs: the increasing involvement of intrastate conflicts by various actors, including humanitarian organizations, ECOWAS, the UN, or other states; massive cross-border refugee movements which have sometimes fomented new tensions and displacements; and conflicts fueled by historical links between cross-border populations.231  The development of the Casamance independence movement and conflict in Southern Senegal (1980– present) reflects this evolution. The impact of the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia on Côte d’Ivoire make this case clear as well, where the concentration of Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees in the West of the country significantly increased an already important demographic pressure on land at a time when Côte d’Ivoire was experiencing a major economic crisis and the redistribution of power among its elites.232  Their presence exacerbated of ongoing regional conflict and helped foment civil war in Côte d’Ivoire (2002–2007, 2010–2011), which further displaced Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees but also led to the massive expulsions of Ivoirians of Burkinabe origin, the internal displacement of thousands of Ivoirians, and the flight of 250,000 others abroad.233

While these conflicts that have been the proximate cause of displacement hold much explanatory power, external, historical factors such as European and US colonial influence that have long underwritten, and continue to underwrite, Sub-Saharan Africa’s manifold economic- and conflict-induced displacements. Specifically, “accumulation by dispossession” and its legacies in Africa, according to Patrick Bond, dates back many centuries to the point when value transfers began via enslavement and appropriations of antiquities, precious metals, and raw materials—laying the ground for the unequal trade and investment relationships between Africa and the Global North. These unequal relationships, with deep roots in the history of colonialism, extended into the twentieth century and become intensified under contemporary forces of neoliberalization and securitization. These continue to serve as proximate reasons for displacement by fomenting further resource scarcity and conflicts of various sorts.

The history and impact of contemporary “land grabs” in particular are illustrative of this continuity between colonial histories of accumulation and today’s resource and power conflicts, and the significance of such links vis-à-vis forced migration. Land grabs—the acquisition of local land by foreign governments and foreign firms, and the displacement and expulsion of people living and working on that land—is a centuries-old process in much of the world. But, according to Saskia Sassen, there are specific phases in the diverse histories and geographies of such acquisitions. According to Sassen, the large-scale acquisition of foreign land since the 1980s have been structured by a few key things specific to this era of neoliberalism—namely, that the IMF and World Bank restructuring programs implemented in much of the Global South in the 1980s that have helped weaken and impoverish national governments in much of the Global South, have ultimately provided a critical entry point for the IMF, World Bank, and a range of other actors—including foreign governments and firms—to acquire land.245

Further, since 2006, a new phase of land grabs has been inaugurated. This phase has been marked not only by a rapid increase in the volume and geographical spread of foreign acquisitions, but also by an increase in the diversity of the buyers, which included purchasers from countries of origin that range from China to Sweden, and firms from sectors as different as biotechnology and finance. “Land grabs” can also be carried out by way of local governments where, for example, many of the areas being “grabbed” are leased by the government for various types of development that involves state and non-state, and local and non-local actors.246

The scale and impact of land grabs during this latest phase has been unprecedented: more than 200 million hectares of land are estimated to have been acquired from 2006 to 2011 by foreign governments and firms” globally—much of this acquired land being in Africa.247  Such land grabs 

have also led to the forceful eviction and displacement of entire communities. For example, part of the Ethiopian government’s ambitious plan for economic development, the massive hydroelectric dam known as Gibe III has been under construction since 2006 and led to the displacement of 270,000 indigenous peoples from the Western Gambella and Omo regions to new villages by the government of Ethiopia in conjunction with foreign partners. Such populations experience loss of livelihoods, deteriorating food situations, and ongoing abuses by the armed forces against the affected people.


Largely missing from assessments of the proximate causes of displacement and mass expulsion are the historic processes of colonial accumulation and violence that have helped underwrite such contemporary experiences. Accounting for forced migration in Africa especially today requires accounting for the colonial histories.

This history of accumulation and violence is most notably rooted in the transatlantic slave trade, which was foundational to the development of capitalism, the wealth of the Western world, and the world as we know it today, more broadly. The trans-Saharan slave trade had long supplied enslaved African labor to work on sugar plantations in the Mediterranean alongside white slaves from Russia and the Balkans. This same trade also sent as many as 10,000 slaves a year to serve owners in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Iberian Peninsula.242

But the slave trade vastly expanded with the colonization of the Americas. From 1492 to 1776, 5.5 million people who survived the crossing of the Atlantic were enslaved Africans.243

Significantly, each plantation economy in the Americas—from sugar in Haiti, Brazil, and Cuba, to cotton, tobacco, rice, and indigo in the United States—was part of a larger national and international political economy. The case of cotton makes this clear: by the 1830s, slave-produced cotton was the foundation of the antebellum Southern economy. US financial and shipping industries, and the British textile industry, were also dependent on slave-produced cotton. These national and international ties consolidated between 1870 and 1930 helped prop up the US amidst the turn-of-the-century competition for global political-economic leadership.244

Not only did the histories of colonialism and enslavement ravage the African continent and peoples, they made possible US global power in the modern era, the same power that has fomented the forcible displacement of many people around the world.

The unequal trade and investment relationships between Africa and the Western world that were rooted in this history of colonialism extended into the twentieth century, intensified under contemporary neoliberalization and securitization, and continued to underwrite the proximate reasons for displacement by fomenting further resource scarcity and conflicts of various sorts.248

Further, conflict is not only caused by such acquisitions and longstanding forms of accumulation, it also helps secure them. According to Sassen, “it is easier for rich foreign governments and investors to acquire vast stretches of land in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Latin America and Asia if their dealings are with weakened and/or corrupt governments and local elites, with little if any voice and political representation left for the population.”249  The continuity of colonial accumulation within Africa and the extension of such relations up into the early-twenty-first centuries, of which land grabs represent just one part, has had drastic effects on living conditions in the region.250  Although since the mid-1970s there have been significant improvements in the Human Development Index (HDI) score of people across the world, Africans— and sub-Saharan Africans in particular—are the notable exception.251  In fact, 36 of the world’s 44 Low Human Development countries are found in Africa, with the vast majority found in Sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, while the life expectancy of people in Global South countries are moving closer toward that of Global North, such is not the case in sub-Saharan Africa.252  As of 2006, according to the UNDP, life expectancy in that region was retrogressing, with the region as whole recording lower life expectancy than it was roughly thirty years ago.253

South Sudan

In January 2011, 98.83% of the South Sudanese population voted for independence from Sudan. By December 2013, fighting had broken out between government and anti-government forces—the South Sudanese Civil War engulfed the country in violent conflict. With the collapse of a peace deal in July 2016 and the massive surge of deaths and displaced peoples, the UN has stated that both genocide and ethnic cleansing could potentially envelop the country.

Exacerbating this situation, serious food insecurity, caused by war and drought, has been a longstanding issue in South Sudan. As of early 2017, the famine has been estimated to affect almost five million people, roughly 40% of the South Sudanese population.234

WHO Although both side of the civil war have supporters from across South Sudan’s ethnic divides, rebels have been targeting members of Kiir’s Dinka ethnic group and government soldiers have been attacking Nuers. 

According to Leo Dobbs, spokesperson for the UNHCR, “Most of those fleeing South Sudan are women and children. They include survivors of violent attacks, sexual assault, children that have been separated from their parents or travelled alone, the disabled, the elderly, and people in need of urgent medical care.”235

HOW MANY South Sudan has now joined Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia as countries, which produced more than a million refugees.

Internal displacement: As of mid-2016, there are 905,000 IDPs within South Sudan..236

Refugees: As of June 2017, there are 1,794,572 refugees from South Sudan.237

WHERE TO AND WHY As of June 2017, most of the 1,794,572 who have fled South Sudan to neighboring countries, especially Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda.

Ethiopia: As of February 2017, about 286,578 refugees from South Sudan were living in Ethiopia, yet many lack water, food, and sanitation, and are suffering from emergency medical conditions, according to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).238

Kenya: According to the UNHCR, over 44,000 South Sudanese refugees arrived to Kenya in the first two years of the Sudanese Civil War, and as of April 2017, there are 63,808 South Sudanese refugees in Kenya. The Kenyan Kakuma camp in particular, home to hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese refugees escaping conflict and hunger, is anticipating an influx of refugees as fighting in South Sudan persists.239

Sudan: According to the UNHCR, as of April 2017 there are over 379,692 in South Sudanese refugees in Sudan. The UNHCR and other organizations are experiencing funding shortfalls that are affecting the assistance that is being provided to South Sudanese refugees in Sudan.240

Uganda: According to the UNHCR, Uganda hosts 795,771 South Sudanese refugees. Uganda opened four reception centers for South Sudanese refugees in 2014, though some have become overcrowded, such as the Dzaipi settlement, which has been roughly 22,000 people over its 3,000 person capacity.241

Democratic Republic of Congo

Since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and its 75 million residents have experienced numerous protracted economic slumps, and violent political and economic crises.219

Growing dissatisfaction with the Mobutu regime, and with democratization coming to a standstill during 1990s, led to riots in the capital, Kinshasa. In 1994, an armed campaign against President Mobutu was successfully launched by Laurent-Désiré Kabila yet not without devastating consequences. The rebellion, which lasted from 1998 to 2003, led to more than 1.2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs).220

WHO The Congolese refugee population mainly consists of those who fled the first and second Congo Wars in 1996- 1997 and 1998-2003. The eastern provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu, and the ethnic minorities living there, bore the brunt of the violence of the decades of armed conflict and unrest in the DRC.221

HOW MANY Internal displacement: As of mid-2016, there are 1,722,082 internally displaced people in Congo.222

Refugees: As of mid2016, there are 535,866 refugees from the DRC.223

WHERE TO AND WHY As of 2016, more than half a million refugees had fled the DRC making the DRC refugee population the sixth largest in the world. The primary countries receiving refugees from the DRC are those neighboring it—Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Burundi. However, according to the UNHCR, largescale local integration of Congolese refugees in these countries has not taken place. This is due to a lack of economic and professional prospects, access to land, and de jure and de facto integration, which hinders them from becoming self-sufficient.224

Uganda: As of November 2016 there are over 224,000 Congolese refugees in Uganda. The vast majority of them live in settlements and the rest live in the urban center, Kampala.225

Rwanda: As of November 2016 there are over 73,100 Congolese refugees in Rwanda.226

Tanzania: As of November 2016 there are over 62,500 Congolese refugees in Tanzania.227

Burundi: As of November 2016 there are over 54,900 Congolese refugees in Burundi228

Policy Intervention: Toward a TwentyFirst Century Refugee Rights Framework

This report has provided an analysis of global forced migration that looks at the broader dynamics of the unevenness of forced migration, with an emphasis on the legacy of European and US colonialism, neoliberalization, securitization, and the climate crisis. In this last section, we envision a set of policy interventions that could help establish a more equitable and comprehensive social, political, economic, and legal framework for identifying and supporting refugees. We recognize the issues and dynamics at the heart of forced displacement today are too large for any changes in solely refugee laws, policies, and institutions to transform. The goal of this section is not to pose recommendations that would first and foremost stop the production of refugees. Rather, we offer recommendations that help humanize refugees, and that account for the factors that have both caused mass displacement and that have undermined the potential for more comprehensive and equitable responses to such crises by community, state, national, and international actors.

POLICY INTERVENTION 1: National Management and Integration of Refugees and Asylum Seekers

CONTEXT There is the common misconception that, on the whole, refugees are a financial burden on countries within the Global North. Yet according to 2014 OECD study, the fiscal impact of the cumulative waves of migration that arrived over the past 50 years in OECD countries is on average close to zero; rarely exceeding 0.5 percent of GDP in either negative or positive terms, thus highlighting how immigrants are neither a burden to the public purse nor are they a panacea for addressing fiscal challenges.254

At the same time, a 2016 study from the IMF, drawing on data from on existing immigrants to Europe from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, and the former Yugoslavia—used as proxies for the latest wave of refugees—found that people from those countries who have been in Europe for less than six years are 17 percentage points more likely to rely on benefits as their main source of income and 15 percentage points less likely to be employed. The study ultimately found that this gap does shrink the longer the migrants have been in Europe.255

As such, it is clear that integration is the policy and political terrain on which the benefits of immigration for receiving communities and societies may be unlocked, and on which the knowledge, skills, and training that refugees bring with them can be utilized to help fill gaps in the labor market.256  Further, successful integration improves the opportunities available to those asylum-seekers themselves as well as their children.

Thus, governments and humanitarian actors will need to manage both the provision of short-term, emergency care—how the “European refugee crisis” and other such crises of forced displacement are currently understood— and the creation of long-term opportunities. The cost of not doing so would not only be the erosion of public trust in the governance of migration and support for migration itself, but also the loss of security for those who struggle to find it elsewhere, as well as the loss of the potential benefits to be derived from long-term residency in their place of asylum.257

RECOMMENDATIONS This report recommends policies that encourage national and local governments, as well as local communities, to take it on themselves to facilitate integration, namely: 

  • Policies that benefit society (and disadvantaged groups within it) and unlock the multiplier effects of integration: National and local governments and communities should consider innovative ways to empower newcomers to support the communities in which they live. Such support, for example, could range from refugee-centered employment opportunities to community-centered initiatives and volunteerism of all forms.258  A truly collaborative policy design and delivery that involves all levels of government, local businesses, community members, and a wide range of other stakeholders would not only facilitate successful integration. It would also encourage everyone to feel they have a stake in such integration, and ultimately support asylum-seekers themselves.259
  • Policies that reduce the criminalization of asylum seekers: Such policies would not only build public trust, they are also key to integration itself. Securitization—“ethnocidal” spatial segregation, militarized raids on immigrant communities and crackdowns on those cities and communities that where they are—not only fuels and is fueled by anti-immigrant stigma. It also undermines integration itself and fractures the well-established and longstanding connections asylum-seekers and immigrants of various sorts have to their communities.

POLICY INTERVENTION 2: Cross-Sector Governance of Refugees and Asylum Seekers

CONTEXT In the context of massive refugee flows into the Global North, there has been great pressure placed upon the infrastructure designed to manage such flows, such as asylum, reception, and integration systems. Further, the growth of refugee populations, and immigration populations in general, has put pressure on local schools and housing. Even further, these various pressures are distributed unevenly across geographies, exposing faults in systems of multilevel migration governance. For example, some national governments have been made to craft new agreements with local governments to help address the uneven distribution of refugees, making refugee acceptance compulsory when simple encouragement through financial incentives would fail.260

On top of this strain in governance, new partners have entered the picture, seeking to engage with refugee issues. Such groups, ranging from volunteers to social enterprises and private companies, have ultimately made migration management and integration systems more complex and unwieldy. Thus, there is a need for national and local governments to not only recalibrate existing relationships but also accommodate new ones. Such goals and aspirations regarding the recalibration of governance should ultimately seek to be universal in its aspirations—to the benefit of societies as a whole. Yet, because of social, political, and economic disparities, they need be targeted—uplifting refugee communities and other immigrants in particular while understanding that such efforts will benefit the whole of society.261

RECOMMENDATIONS With national and local governments, and other transnational authorities (e.g. EU, AU, ASEAN, etc.), increasingly working in conjunction with new partners, we have highlighted the need for policies that increase the number, effectiveness, and resilience of such connections, namely:

  • Policies that incentivize the involvement of new actors: Civil-society and private sector actors bring much to settlement efforts, from enthusiasm and energy to media attention. Yet pending coordination of their efforts by policymakers, such civil-society and private-sector actors can also drastically increase the capacity for managing massive flows of asylum-seekers and facilitating their long-term integration. Such coordination efforts would need to incentivize longterm investment by such actors and thus ensure that support remains after the initial moment of crisis and after the novelty of support around it has worn off.262  Such coordination structures would be key to ensuring that refugees have a path to full social, political, and economic integration and inclusion, and that such structures are resilient.

POLICY INTERVENTION 3: International Accountability to the Crises of Forced Migration 

CONTEXT The recent and ongoing mass influx of displaced people has placed various pressures upon countries in the Global North in ways that are distributed unevenly between countries, thus exposing even more faults in existing systems of multilevel migration governance. The effects of the “European Refugee Crisis” at the EU level, and tensions over the fair distribution of asylum seekers and burden-sharing, have come to a head over EU-wide relocation efforts.263  Beyond the role that national and local actors must play, this report also points to the need to encourage effective international governance that places pressure on such actors in ways that account for the difference between countries, and, more critically, the historical backdrop of the manifold refugee crises at hand and the management of such crises. 

As this report outlined, the social and political origins of this mass number of forcibly displaced peoples are widespread, emerging in part from factors “external” to the countries and regions from which people have fled. Such external factors include imperial and colonial policies and practices of Europe, the United States, and other actors largely in the Global North—from military interventions and sprawling networks of military encampments, to global economies, trade policies, and other indirect forms of influence. In other words, the factors that have historically caused mass displacement and laid the ground for (and exacerbated) internal mechanisms of displacement need be figured into interventions in the global refugee regime.

RECOMMENDATIONS Forcibly displaced populations, including IDPs, are the world's shared responsibility and the burden must be lifted off countries in the Global South that host more than their fair share of such people. Guided by the structural inequity of both the origins of the conflicts that have displaced people as well as the origins of protections seemingly designed to protect them, this report highlights the need for reimagining international refugee governance in the Global North and the Global South, respectively. It recommends policies that account for differences between the two regions, historically and today, and the relative responsibility each has to manage contemporary crises of forced migration, namely:


  • Policies that expand resettlement: As a matter of historical relations and current capacity born of such relations, countries in the Global North should greatly expand their resettlement programs to increase the number of places available beyond the pledge to resettle or allow the lawful admission of some 360,000 refugees—still only a fraction of the 1.2 million refugees that required resettlement at the time of the 2016 pledge.264  Such expansions should be commensurate with capacity, as the inability to provide housing, work, and services to incoming asylum-seekers may undermine their integration. Such measures of capacity could include GDP as a percentage of population, the Human Development Index, and the availability of housing and services.
  • Policies that redistribute resources within the Global North toward resident refugee populations: New commitments from large private sector firms alongside other financial mechanisms may be used to redistribute resources from the general population toward refugee populations in the Global North. Such measures may include the imposition of additional taxes on transnational financial institutions (e.g. banks, Western Union, Money Gram, Xoom, etc.) that have benefited from the large cash remittance flow from immigrant communities to the countries from which they came. Such efforts could also be developed in conjunction with efforts to: provide refugees the legal right to work, for legal access to jobs allows individuals to support themselves and their families; facilitate opportunities for refugee entrepreneurship, which would avoid long-term dependence and create job opportunities for the host community; and expand access to education, a key determinant of life chances.265
  • Policies that expand responsibility sharing: While a global burden-sharing mechanism—one that sees countries accept refugees based on capacity, and that concentrates resources within the Global North where refugees are—may be politically out of reach, the international community could appeal to countries that accept fewer refugees to provide greater financial assistance for the principal refugee-hosting states, especially those in the Global South.266  Such financial assistance can be used to enact the same sort of policies that focus resources on the support and integration of resident refugee populations within the Global South.

Collectively, such measures would expand refugee protections to refugees, reduce the risk that comes with seeking asylum far from home, and improve the quality of life and life chances of displaced persons globally.267


  • Policies that end the neoliberal debt regime: The international debt-financing regime has put governments, firms, and households across the Global South under enormous pressure to survive.268  Becoming a part of global labor migrations has become one such survival strategy for people in these countries.269  Efforts should be made to push countries in the Global North to write off the excess debts of countries in the Global South, freeing them up to spend their money on development instead of interest payments on old loans and undermining the push for populations to become part of global labor migrations. Further, as the flight of capital is not always through legal means, efforts should be made to place penalties on bankers and accountants who facilitate illicit outflows, as should efforts to undermine the tax havens and “secrecy jurisdictions” that are key to such outflows.270
  • Policies that join sustainable development goals with refugee governance: In addition to dismantling the current debt regime that much of the Global South is locked into, and in addition to efforts to provide greater financial assistance to the principal refugee-hosting states in the Global South, as stated above, countries in the region should enact policies that strengthen the infrastructure and capacity for providing services and prospects for reliable employment to their respective populations, which would in turn help allow the integration of asylum-seekers and refugees. Thus, needed are efforts that move countries toward the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals reflect the understanding that ending extreme poverty, itself a core driver of forced migration globally, must go hand-in-hand with strategies that ensure sustainable economic advancement and that address a range of social needs, including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities.271

POLICY INTERVENTION 4: International Accountability to Environmental Crises and the Crises of Climate Change 

CONTEXT The UN Sustainable Development Goals also urge action to combat climate change and its impacts by regulating emissions and promoting developments in renewable energy—thus meeting human development needs while sustaining the natural resources and ecosystem services upon which global and national economies and societies depend.272  In other words, sustainable development, according to the UN, is the organizing principle for meeting human development needs while at the same time sustaining the balance of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services upon which economies and societies depend.273  Yet global climate change has contributed to mass migrations and triggered manifold new conflicts, disproportionately affecting resource-poor communities in the Global South in particular. Thus, although sustainable development is a key entry point into the climate crisis and other such environmental crises, it must be carried out alongside other measures.

RECOMMENDATIONS As a result of the ways in which climate change—and current economic activities that undergird it—functions as a positive feedback loop for new and existing processes of displacement, and as a result of the ways in which global climate change has disproportionately affected resource-poor communities in the Global South, this report recommends policies that expand support for those affected by the climate crisis and other environmental crises. Namely, it recommends:

This infographic includes a map which showcases the fortressing of Europe.

  • 1“The World in Numbers,” UNHCR Population Statistics (Geneva: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 2017), http://popstats.unhcr.org/en/overview#_ga=1.188888619.167594781.1485995…; Phillip Connor and Jens Manuel Krogstad, “Key Facts About the World’s Refugees,” Pew Research Center, October 5, 2016, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/10/05/key-facts-about-theworl…
  • 2Though there are of course other factors involved in emigration. For example, researchers have found that increased economic development in an origin country actually increases emigration, with the reasoning being that if there is more basic infrastructure such as roads and people have higher wealth accumulation, it is easier for people to flee. Michael Clemens, “Does Development Reduce Migration?,” Working Paper (Geneva: Center for Global Development, March 2014), https://www.cgdev.org/sites/default/files/does-development-reduce-migra…
  • 3A significant part of this report, climate change has contributed to the mass displacement of people by way of both abrupt environmental disasters and long-term, slowly occurring environmental changes. Further, it has disproportionately impacted resource-poor communities in the Global South and triggered manifold new conflicts.
  • 4Alexandra Bilak et al., “Global Overview 2015: People Internally Displaced by Conflict and Violence” (Geneva: The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, May 2015).
  • 5“Global Refugee Crisis – By the Numbers” (London: Amnesty International, 2016), https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/10/global-refugee-crisis-by…
  • 6“Mid-Year Trends: 2016” (Geneva: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 2016), http://www.unhcr.org/statistics/unhcrstats/576408cd7/unhcr-global-trend…
  • 7Patrick Kingsley, “Europe’s Failure on Refugees Echoes the Moral Collapse of the 1930s,” The Guardian, April 26, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/commentisfree/2016/apr/26/europe-stan…
  • 8Violence and displacement within Europe was not new, of course, as World War I, the Napoleonic Wars, the 30 Years War, and other such wars make clear. As the section outlines though, it was the particular ideologies held and practices enacted during World War II, and the protections to emerge thereafter, that set it apart from these earlier conflicts
  • 9Lyndsey Stonebridge, “What History Tells Us About the Refugee Crisis,” New Humanist, December 14, 2015, https://newhumanist.org.uk/articles/4972/whathistory-tells-us-about-the…
  • 10World War II saw the figure of the “refugee” or “stateless person” entered European political thought. Hannah Arendt, a German-born political theorist who escaped Europe during the Holocaust was among the first to describe how incredibly vulnerable refugees had become during the era. Italian Political theorist Georgio Agamben elaborated upon those ideas put forth by Arendt and argued that refugees expose the key contradiction of the liberal democratic nation-state: the principle of national sovereignty to exclude anyone from citizenship or entry, and the support commitment of said state to universal individual rights. This contradiction, they argue, highlights the limits of liberal efforts to assimilate refugees. Ibid.
  • 11The Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, also known as the 1951 Refugee Convention, is a United Nations multilateral treaty that defines who may qualify as a refugee and the responsibilities of nations that grant asylum. The Convention builds on Article 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes the right of persons to seek asylum from persecution in other countries.
  • 12While consolidated into a comprehensive human rights regime after World War II, such refugee protections have their roots in the institutions that arose in wake of World War I (1914-1918), the Balkan Wars (1912-1913), as well as the wars in the Caucasus (1918-1921) and the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922). These conflicts caused considerable displacements in the countries involved, particularly in the Russian Empire, where between 1 and 2 million fled Russian territories from 1918 and 1922, seeking asylum in Europe, Asia Minor, and Central and East Asia. These wars led to the creation of the League of Nations (1921-1946) and the mass displacement in particular fomented the creation of several institutions designed to perform some or all of the tasks of the High Commissioner for Refugees: the Nansen International Office for Refugees (1931-1938), the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees coming from Germany (1933-1938), the Office of the High Commissioner of the League of Nations for Refugees (1939-1946) and the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees (1938-1947). Gilbert Jaeger, “On the History of the International Protection of Refugees” 83, no. 843 (September 2001).
  • 14Specifically, prior to being expanded, the 1951 convention referred to “events occurring in Europe before 1 January 1951.”
  • 15Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harvest, 1966), 444, https://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/currentstudents/pg/masters/…
  • 16Achilles Mbembé and Libby Meintjes, “Necropolitics,” Public Culture 15, no. 1 (2003): 18.
  • 17Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism (Paris: Présence Africaine, 1955), 20.
  • 18Lisa Lowe, “The Intimacies of Four Continents,” in Haunted by Empire: Geographies of Intimacy in North American History, ed. Ann Laura Stoler (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006), 30.
  • 13“Resettlement and Development: The Bankwide Review of Projects Involving Involuntary Resettlement, 1986-1993” (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, March 31, 1996), http://www-wds.worldbank.org/servlet/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/1996/03/0…
  • 21Randy Lippert, “Governing Refugees: The Relevance of Governmentality to Understanding the International Refugee Regime,” Alternatives: Global, Local, Political 24, no. 3 (1999): 295–328; Cited in: Yen Le Espiritu, Body Counts: The Vietnam War and Militarized Refugees (Oakland: University of California Press, 2014), 8.
  • 22Espiritu, Body Counts, 8.
  • 23Carl J. Tempo, Americans at the Gate: The United States and Refugees During the Cold War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14682740903398904; Cited in: Espiritu, Body Counts, 9.
  • 24Thomas E. Ricks, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq (New York: Penguin, 2006), http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00396330601062857.
  • 25Sadako Ogata and Kofi A. Annan, The Turbulent Decade: Confronting the Refugee Crises of the 1990s (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2005).
  • 26Ibid.
  • 27Ibid.
  • 28Robert Mackey, “Hungarian Leader Rebuked for Saying Muslim Migrants Must Be Blocked ‘to Keep Europe Christian,’” The New York Times, September 3, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/04/world/europe/hungarian-leader-rebuke…
  • 29“Annual Report: Hungary, 2016/2017” (London: Amnesty International, 2017), https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/europe-and-central-asia/hungary/re…
  • 30Matthew Weaver and Patrick Kingsley, “Expel Hungary from EU for Hostility to Refugees, Says Luxembourg,” The Guardian, September 13, 2016, sec. World news, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/13/expel-hungary-from-eu-for…
  • 31Such sentiment is of course not recent nor is it limited to Hungary. For example, in Germany during the early 1990s, anti-migrant and anti-refugee populism from mainstream politicians grew alongside waves of street violence and arson attacks in towns such as Hoyerswerda, Rostock, Solingen and others. Grounded in generally hostile sentiment toward non-Europeans, many politicians, large sections of the media, and the general public all saw asylum seekers as legitimate targets for criticism because asylum seekers often required state aid, seemingly offered little by way of visible economic benefits to the host state, and arrived uninvited.
  • 32William Thomas Worster, “The Evolving Definition of the Refugee in Contemporary International Law,” Berkeley J. Int’l L. 30 (2012): 96.
  • 33Ibid., 97
  • 34According to Worster, such exceptions include those who “pose a compelling threat to national security or public order, present a danger to the security of the country of refuge, or have been convicted by a final judgment of a particularly serious crime and constitute a danger to the community of the country of refuge.” Ibid., 103.
  • 35Ibid., 140.
  • 36Thus, despite the fact that no state is entirely safe, “safe third country tests” can be used as a means to refuse claims outright without analysis if the individual is coming from a country that has been deemed safe (a possibility often paired with expedited processing procedures). Courts have demanded, however, that such claims be assessed on their merits rather than procedurally refused based on the stated country of transit and other criteria. Therefore, Worster argues that “the definition of refugee as a person outside his country of nationality has evolved to cover only a person outside his country of nationality who has not arrived in any other safe country yet.” Significantly, under certain circumstances, states have also imposed certain regulations that entirely prohibit the filing of an application for refugee status . According to Worster, these provisions do not narrow the definition of “refugee,” rather they “assess the broader scope of refugee status.” Ibid., 149.
  • 37Ibid., 94
  • 38Lucy Hovil and Zachary Lomo, “The Role of Citizenship in Addressing Refugee Crises in Africa’s Great Lakes Region” (Kampala: International Refugee Rights Initiative, June 2014), http://www.refugee-rights.org/Publications/Papers/2014/Citizenship%20po…
  • 39Ibid.
  • 44The acceptance of refugees from Vietnam, Loas, and Cambodia from the mid-1970s onward clarified both the political utility (vis-à-vis the Cold War) of accepting refugees as well as the imperial origins of such refugees vis-à-vis the U.S. intervention in the affairs of the Global South. See: Mimi Thi Nguyen, The Gift of Freedom: War, Debt, and Other Refugee Passages (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012).
  • 45“Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2015.
  • 46 Raziye Akkoc, “What the Refugee Crisis Looks Like Across Europe Over Four Weeks in Six Charts,” The Telegraph, April 14, 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/14/what-the-refugee-crisislooks…
  • 47Saskia Sassen, Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2014), 55.
  • 48Wendy Brown, “Neo-Liberalism and the End of Liberal Democracy,” Theory & Event 7, no. 1 (2003), https://muse.jhu.edu/article/48659/summary; Cited in: Lowe, “The Intimacies of Four Continents,” 197.
  • 49Sassen, Expulsion, 55.
  • 50David Lloyd and Patrick Wolfe, “Settler Colonial Logics and the Neoliberal Regime,” Settler Colonial Studies, 2015, 1, doi:10.1080/2201473X.2015.1035361.
  • 51Sassen, Expulsions, 55.
  • 52Ibid., 88.
  • 53Ibid., 84–85.
  • 54Ibid., 55.
  • 55Ibid., 88.
  • 56Lowe, “The Intimacies of Four Continents,” 197.
  • 57Lloyd and Wolfe, “Settler Colonial Logics and the Neoliberal Regime,” 3.
  • 58Ibid., 1
  • 59Ibid., 7.
  • 60Gonzalo Cavero, “The True Cost of Austerity and Inequality: Greece Case Study” (Oxford: Oxfam, September 2013), https:// www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/cs-true-cost-austerity-inequali…; Valeria Guarneros-Meza, “The Austerity-Security Symbiosis” (Leicester: De Montfort University, Centre for Urban Research on Austerity (CURA), February 24, 2016), https://cura.our.dmu.ac.uk/2016/02/24/the-austerity-security-symbiosis/.”plainCitation”:”Gonzalo Cavero, “The True Cost of Austerity and Inequality: Greece Case Study” (Oxford: Oxfam, September 2013
  • 61Lloyd and Wolfe, “Settler Colonial Logics and the Neoliberal Regime,” 3, 8.
  • 62Ibid., 1.
  • 63an Gordon and Tasneem Raja, “164 Anti-Immigration Laws Passed Since 2010,” Mother Jones, accessed April 17, 2017, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/03/anti-immigration-law-databa….
  • 64David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 66.
  • 65Jason Hickel, “Aid in Reverse: How Poor Countries Develop Rich Countries,” The Guardian, January 14, 2017, sec. Global Development Professionals Network, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/20…
  • 69Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism
  • 70Further, under Trump’s latest “immigration ban,” new applicants will be admitted on a case-by-case basis, travelers from countries that do not provide sufficient information for screening by the end of the review may still be barred from entering the United States. Anjali Singhvi and Alicia Parlapiano, “Who Would Be Barred by Trump’s Latest Immigration Ban,” The New York Times, March 6, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/03/06/us/politics/trump-travel…
  • 71Lloyd and Wolfe, “Settler Colonial Logics and the Neoliberal Regime,” 6.
  • 72“Violence’” here includes a range of activities, from the use of force in an overt, physical sense to the use of institutions, laws, and social norms to control behavior. See: Richelle M. Bernazzoli and Colin Flint, “From Militarization to Securitization: Finding a Concept That Works,” Political Geography 28, no. 8 (November 2009): 449– 50, doi:10.1016/j.polgeo.2009.08.003.
  • 73Espiritu, Body Counts, 19
  • 74Lloyd and Wolfe, “Settler Colonial Logics and the Neoliberal Regime,” 4.
  • 66“G4S: Globalising Injustice,” War On Want: Fighting Global Poverty, June 23, 2015, http://www.waronwant.org/g4s.
  • 67A 2008 agreement between Union Network International (UNI) and G4S would theoretically cover the entire G4S workforce, pushing G4S to respect rights defined by International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions regarding freedom of association, the use of forced labor and child labor, and discrimination at work, although the agreement has done little to ensure G4S will comply with international labor standards and local labor laws. Ibid.
  • 68“Stop G4S,” BDS Movement, April 12, 2016, https://bdsmovement.net/stop-g4s
  • 75“Nansen Conference on Climate Change and Displacement in the 21st Century” (Oslo: Norwegian Refugee Council, June 2011), http://www.unhcr.org/protection/environment/4ea969729/nansen-conference…
  • 76Volker Turk et al., “UNHCR, the Environment, and Climate Change” (Geneva: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, October 2015), http://www.unhcr.org/protection/environment/540854f49/unhcr-climate-cha…
  • 78“Sea Level Rise,” National Geographic, January 13, 2017, http://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/sea-level-…; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “Guidance on Protecting People from Disasters and Environmental Change Through Planned Relocation” (Geneva: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, October 2015), http://www.unhcr.org/protection/environment/562f798d9/planned-relocatio…
  • 79“Climate Refugee,” National Geographic Society, June 17, 2011, http://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/climate-refugee/
  • 80John Tanzer et al., “Living Blue Planet Report: Species, Habitats, and Human Well-Being” (Gland: World Wildlife Fund, n.d.).
  • 81“Climate Refugee.”
  • 82Lester R. Brown, “Chapter 6 - Environmental Refugees: The Rising Tide,” in World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse, 1st edition (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2011).
  • 83“Climate Change Creating Millions of ‘Eco Refugees,’ UN Warns,” National Geographic News, October 28, 2010, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/11/1118_051118_disaster_re…; Brown, “Chapter 6 - Environmental Refugees: The Rising Tide.”
  • 84Tamer Afifi et al., “Climate Change, Vulnerability and Human Mobility: Perspectives of Refugees from the East and Horn of Africa” (Geneva: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, June 2012), http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/East%20and%20H…
  • 96Rafiqul Islam, “To Help Climate Migrants, Bangladesh Takes Back Land From the Sea,” Reuters, September 9, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-bangladesh-clmate-land-idUSKCN0R90U22…
  • 97Jane McAdam, “No ‘Climate Refugees’ in New Zealand” (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, August 13, 2014), https://www.brookings.edu/blog/planetpolicy/2014/08/13/no-climate-refug…
  • 85Brown, “Chapter 6 - Environmental Refugees: The Rising Tide.”
  • 86Ibid.
  • 87Ibid.
  • 88Glaucia Boyer and Matthew McKinnon, “Development and Displacement Risks,” Forced Migration Review, no. 49 (May 2015), http://www.fmreview.org/climatechange-disasters/boyer-mckinnon.html.
  • 89“Rural Poverty,” United Nations, accessed April 17, 2017, http://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/rural-poverty/index.html
  • 90Ibid.
  • 91 a b “Nansen Conference on Climate Change and Displacement in the 21st Century (Oslo, 6-7 June 2011).
  • 92Ibid.
  • 77“A Brief History of Climate Change,” BBC News, September 20, 2013, http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-15874560.
  • 93Robert P. Marzec, Militarizing the Environment: Climate Change and the Security State (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015).
  • 94Norman Myers and Jennifer Kent, Environmental Exodus: An Emergent Crisis in the Global Arena (Washington, D.C.: Climate Institute, 1995).Norman Myers and Jennifer Kent, Environmental Exodus: An Emergent Crisis in the Global Arena (Washington, D.C.: Climate Institute, 1995).
  • 95“Climate Refugee.”
  • 98Setsu Shigematsu and Keith L. Camacho, Militarized Currents: Toward a Decolonized Future in Asia and the Pacific (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), xx.
  • 99Yet, of course, the historic role of U.S. militarism and the development of U.S. influence in the region goes back further. In 1898, following the Spanish-American War, the United States took possession of the Philippines, but not without resistance. The Philippine- American War (1899- 1902) that followed resulted in the death of about a million Filipinos and the U.S. territorial annexation of the Philippines, ultimately enabling the United States’ establishment of its first military bases there and what would later be some of the United States’ largest overseas air force and naval bases. These bases would be key to U.S. imperial influence in much of the Asia-Pacific region. Espiritu, Body Counts, 28.
  • 100Ibid.
  • 101Shigematsu and Camacho, Militarized Currents, xix.
  • 102The Fena Caves Massacre in Guam, for example, occurred on July 23, 1944. Shortly after U.S. troops invaded the island, Japanese soldiers killed more than thirty people from Agat and Sumay in the caves near Fena Lake. Such moments are reflective of the violence of the experience of dual U.S. and Japanese military invasion, occupation, and violence faced by these populations in the Asia-Pacific. Further, none have no receive U.S. or Japanese apologies, monetary redress, or reconciliatory arrangements for their activities. See: Shigematsu and Camacho, Militarized Currents
  • 103Espiritu, Body Counts, 27–28.
  • 104Not only a window into how the U.S. would manage refugee populations, the “Indochinese refugee crisis” had a major effect on U.S. refugee resettlement policy itself. While the U.S. resettled hundreds of thousands of Indochinese refugees in the late 1970s and early 1980s, some argue that the 1980 Refugee Act was a means for reducing the influx of these refugees. In fact, after 1980 the inflow of refugees declined consistently until the Balkan wars. See: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “Chapter 4: Flight from Indochina,” in The State of The World’s Refugees 2000: Fifty Years of Humanitarian Action (Geneva: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 2000), http://www.unhcr.org/publications/sowr/3ebf9bad0/state-worlds-refugees-…
  • 105Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh et al., The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 50.
  • 108Penny Green, Thomas MacManus, and Alicia de la Cour Venning, “Countdown to Annihilation: Genocide in Myanmar” (London: International State Crime Initiative, 2015).
  • 109“Operation: Myanmar,” 2017 Planning Summary (Geneva: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 2016), http://reporting.unhcr.org/sites/default/files/pdfsummaries/GA2017-Myan…
  • 110“The Rohingyas: The Most Persecuted People on Earth?,” The Economist, June 13, 2015, http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21654124-myanmars-muslimminority-hav…
  • 111“Mid-Year Trends, 2015” (Geneva: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, June 2015), http://www.unhcr.org/statistics/unhcrstats/56701b969/mid-year-trendsjun…
  • 112Ibid.
  • 113“First Myanmar Refugee Returns from Thailand Under Way,” UN High Commisioner for Refugees, October 25, 2016, http://www.unhcr.org/news/briefing/2016/10/580f1c0d4/first-myanmar-refu…
  • 114“10,000 Rohingya from Myanmar Have Landed in Bangladesh: UN,” Radio Free Asia, November 30, 2016, http://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/myanmar-bangladesh-113020161649…
  • 115“Bangladesh Pushes Back Rohingya Refugees Amid Collective Punishment in Myanmar,” Amnesty International, November 24, 2016, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/11/bangladesh-pushes-back-r…
  • 116As of early 2017, Bangladesh’s government is moving forward with a plan to relocate Rohingya refugees staying in camps near the country’s largest tourist resort towns to a remote island that is underwater for much of the year. Maher Sattar, “Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh to Be Relocated to Remote Island,” The New York Times, January 31, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/31/world/asia/rohingya-refugees-banglad…
  • 119“Assessing the Evidence: Migration, Environment, and Climate Change in Papua New Guinea” (Geneva: International Organization for Migration, 2015).
  • 120Ibid.
  • 121Ibid.
  • 122Ibid.
  • 123“Pacific Islanders Reject ‘Climate Refugee’ Status, SIDS Conference Hears,” ABC News, September 5, 2014, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-05/pacific-islanders-reject-calls-fo…
  • 106Espiritu, Body Counts, 28.
  • 107Ibid., 30.
  • 117Shigematsu and Camacho, Militarized Currents, xxii.
  • 118Ibid.
  • 124Espiritu, Body Counts, 17
  • 125This is due in part to the Mexican Revolution and other instances of Latin American opposition to U.S. regional influence.
  • 126Greg Grandin, Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2007), 27.
  • 127Ibid.
  • 128Peter Rosset, Raj Patel, and Michael Courville, eds., Promised Land: Competing Visions of Agrarian Reform (Oakland: Food First Books, 2006), 41.
  • 129Raymond Bonner, “Time for a US Apology to El Salvador,” The Nation, April 15, 2016, https://www.thenation.com/article/time-fora-us-apology-to-el-salvador/.
  • 130POV, “In Context: Immigration to the United States from Guatemala,” PBS, January 19, 2012, http://www.pbs.org/pov/sinpais/photo-gallery-in-context.
  • 131Faren Maree Bachelis, The Central Americans (Chelsea House Publishers, 1990), 10.
  • 140Eric Draitser, “The US and the Militarization of Latin America,” TeleSUR, September 2, 2015, http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/The-US-and-the-Militarization-…
  • 141Julia E. Sweig and Julia E. Sweig, “What Kind of War for Colombia?,” Foreign Affairs, September 1, 2002, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/colombia/2002-09-01/what-kind-w…
  • 142Draitser, “The US and the Militarization of Latin America.”
  • 143Michael Shifter, “Plan Colombia: A Retrospective,” Americas Quarterly, Summer 2012, http://www.americasquarterly.org/node/3787.
  • 144Draitser, “The US and the Militarization of Latin America.
  • 145Ibid.
  • 132“Poverty in Haiti: The Impact of Aid, Earthquakes & Imperialism,” Poverties, May 18, 2013, www.poverties.org/blog/poverty-in-haiti.
  • 133“Haiti Earthquake Facts and Figures,” Disasters Emergency Committee, February 6, 2015, http://www.dec.org.uk/articles/haiti-earthquake-facts-and-figures.
  • 134“Haiti” (Displacement Tracking Matrix, December 2016), http://www.globaldtm.info/haiti/.
  • 135“Mid-Year Trends, 2015.”
  • 136Gabriela Bazzo, “Haitian Migrants Pouring Into Brazil Don’t Find A Warm Welcome,” Huffington Post, February 8, 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/haitians-migrants-brazil_us_56b4ca4…
  • 137Kirk Semple, “U.S. to Step Up Deportations of Haitians Amid Surge at Border,” The New York Times, September 22, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/23/world/americas/haiti-migrants-earthq…
  • 138Sandra Dibble, “Uncertainty for Haitians in Tijuana,” San Diego Tribune, September 23, 2016, http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/border-baja-california/sdme-ha…
  • 139Chiamaka Nwosu and Jeanne Batalova, “Haitian Immigrants in the United States,” Migration Policy Institute, May 29, 2014, http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/haitian-immigrants-united-states.
  • 148“Colombia: Events of 2015” (New York: Human Rights Watch, January 6, 2016), https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2016/country-chapters/colombia.
  • 149Mark Katkov, “Colombia’s Congress Ratifies Second Peace Deal With Marxist Rebels,” NPR, December 1, 2016, http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/12/01/503950505/colombias-c…
  • 150“Colombian Refugees: No Solutions in Sight,” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2016, http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/migrants-…
  • 151Yet, highlighting the potential for Colombia’s crisis to shift and spread, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in 2013, Peru overtook Colombia as the world’s largest coca producer. The once-powerful Maoist rebel group Shining Path—which has been on the U.S. state department’s list of terrorist organizations since 1997—has been a significant part of Peru’s narcotics trade. For its involvement with cocaine production and distribution, it was recently designated by the United States treasury department as a “significant foreign narcotics trafficker.” “US Designates Peru’s Shining Path ‘Drug Traffickers,’” BBC News, June 2, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-32973483.
  • 152“Mid-Year Trends, 2015.”
  • 153“Mid-Year Trends, 2015.”
  • 154“Colombian Refugees: No Solutions in Sight.”
  • 155http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/news/latest/2016/7/577beb714/unhcr-chief-hig…
  • 156“Our Programs: Ecuador,” Asylum Access, 2014, http://asylumaccess.org/program/ecuador/.
  • 157Adrian Edwards, “UNHCR: Include Refugees and Displaced in Colombia Peace Talks,” UN High Commisioner for Refugees, April 12, 2016, http://www.unhcr.org/news/latest/2016/4/570cf4706/unhcr-include-refugee…
  • 158“Venezuela Manufactures a Dispute with Neighboring Colombia,” The Washington Post, September 1, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/venezuela-manufactures-a-disput… html; William Neuman, “In a Venezuelan Border Town, a State of Emergency Is Barely Perceptible,” The New York Times, August 29, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/30/world/americas/in-a-venezuelan-borde…
  • 159“Colombian Refugees: No Solutions in Sight.
  • 146In the context the “War on Drugs,” the proximate reasons for displacement are varied. Displacement, for example, has been spurred by fighting between cartels over control of the routes into U.S. drug market, by the intimidation tactics of local brutal street gangs, and by attacks upon the civilian population by government forces.
  • 147Roque Planas, “Want To Reduce Illegal Immigration? End The Drug War.,” Huffington Post, August 29, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/want-toreduce-illegal-immigration-e…
  • 160“Border Militarization Policy,” National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, accessed April 17, 2017, http://www.nnirr.org/drupal/border-militarization.
  • 161Ibid.
  • 162Conversely, the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees was a non-binding declaration signed by 10 Latin American countries that attempted to expand the definition of refugee to include those who fled “generalized violence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violation of human rights or other circumstances which have seriously disturbed public order.” See: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b36ec.html
  • 163The Middle East and North Africa are used here to refer to the countries of: Morocco, Western Sahara/Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt), the Levant (also known as the Mashreq: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Palestine/the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and Israel) and the Gulf (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, and Kuwait). This region is typically referred to as MENA. Yet for the purpose of naming the structures and histories that join these regions, this report includes South Asia, which includes Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan.
  • 174Hiram Ruiz and Margaret Emery, “Afghanistan’s Refugee Crisis,” Middle East Research and Information Project, September 24, 2001, http://www.merip.org/mero/mero092401.
  • 175Prisca Benelli, Antonio Donini, and Norah Niland, “Afghanistan: Humanitarianism in Uncertain Times” (Somerville: Feinstein International Center, November 2012), http://fic.tufts.edu/publication-item/afghanistan-humanitarianism-in-un…
  • 176“Mid-Year Trends, 2015.”
  • 177Ibid.
  • 178Rachel Westerby and Sophie Ngo-Diep, “Afghan Refugees in Iran & Pakistan,” in Welcome to Europe: A Comprehensive Guide to Resettlement (Geneva: European Resettlement Network, 2013), http://www.resettlement.eu/page/afghan-refugees-iran-pakistan-0.
  • 179Ibid.
  • 180“Unwelcome Guests: Iran’s Violation of Afghan Refugee and Migrant Rights” (New York: Human Rights Watch, November 20, 2013), https://www.hrw.org/report/2013/11/20/unwelcome-guests/irans-violation-…
  • 181Westerby and Ngo-Diep, “Afghan Refugees in Iran & Pakistan.”
  • 182Ibid.
  • 183Claire Gordon, “Coming to America: The 5 Biggest Refugee Groups of the Last 20 Years,” Al Jazeera, October 13, 2016, http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/america-tonight/america-tonigh…
  • 184Rod Nordland and Mujib Mashal, “Europe Makes Deal to Send Afghans Home, Where War Awaits Them,” The New York Times, October 5, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/06/world/asia/afghanistan-eu-refugees-m…
  • 190Ibid.
  • 191“UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response” (Geneva: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 2017), http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php.
  • 192Ibid.
  • 193Ibid.
  • 194James Kanter and Andrew Higgins, “E.U. Offers Turkey 3 Billion Euros to Stem Migrant Flow,” The New York Times, November 29, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/30/world/europe/eu-offersturkey-3-billi…
  • 164Many people in the region have experienced not only forced migration but also “forced sedentarization,” a problem for mobile and nomadic populations in particular for whom movement and mobility are central parts of their lives and livelihoods
  • 165Sahrawi people—who live in the western part of the Sahara desert—constitute one of the most protracted refugee situations in the world, with many remaining in the camps in Tindouf, Algeria which many found refuge in after having fled invading Moroccan forces in Western Sahara during the Western Sahara War (1975– 1991).
  • 166Sari Hanafi, “Forced Migration in the Middle East and North Africa,” in The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, ed. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199652433.001…
  • 167Naomi Klein, “Let Them Drown: The Violence of Othering in a Warming World,” London Review of Books, June 2, 2016.
  • 168Further, the British have also had a history of conflict and intervention in the Persian Gulf. For example, in an effort to secure and expand their own supplies in the region, the British captured Baghdad in 1918 and projected power in the region from there for much of the twentieth century. Toby Craig Jones, “America, Oil, and War in the Middle East,” Journal of American History 99, no. 1 (June 1, 2012): 208, doi:10.1093/jahist/jas045.
  • 169Ibid., 210.
  • 170Ibid., 211.
  • 171Specifically, the rapid increase in prices ultimately pushed U.S. policymaker to convince leaders in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, and elsewhere in the Gulf to use the wealth generated from high oil prices in the West on Western products. Most significant to growing trade relations would be U.S. weapons, thus creating of a weapons pipeline deepened the ties between the United States and Gulf oil producers (Jones).
  • 172Following mass critique of the war in Vietnam, Richard M. Nixon drove this new militarization strategy in 1969 by establishing the Nixon Doctrine, which called on U.S. allies to bear a greater burden in providing for their own defense. This strategy would have a life beyond Vietnam itself, with U.S. policy makers observing the doctrine in the Gulf by keeping U.S. military forces “over the horizon” while pushing the build up of local militaries in order to maintain regional order.
  • 173Jones, “America, Oil, and War in the Middle East,” 210.
  • 200Zachary Laub, “Yemen in Crisis” (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, April 19, 2016), http://www.cfr.org/yemen/yemen-crisis/p36488.
  • 201Yemen Situation Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan” (Geneva: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, December 2015), http://reporting.unhcr.org/node/9982; “UN Report: Yemen War Abuses Require Investigation,” Al Jazeera, January 27, 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/01/yemen-war-abuses-160127143831060….
  • 202Alistair Lyon, “Yemen War Generates Widespread Suffering, But Few Refugees,” Reuters, March 9, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-cornered-idUSKCN0WB0IL.
  • 203“Yemen Regional Refugee Response” (Geneva: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 2017), http://data.unhcr.org/yemen/regional.php.
  • 204“Mid-Year Trends, 2015.
  • 205Ibid.
  • 206Somalia, Ethiopia, and Sudan were also major recipients of Yemeni refugees. Somalia: As of November 2016, 34,453 Yemeni have arrived in Somalia, 89 percent of whom were Somalis who themselves were recognized as refugees in Yemen. Reintegration of Somali returnees poses additional challenges as the widespread conflict and political strife have crippled essential infrastructure and more than three quarters of the population in Somalia lack access to healthcare, proper sanitation and safe drinking water. Ethiopia: As of November 2016, 13,309 Yemeni have arrived in Ethiopia. In Ethiopia, the Government recognizes Yemenis as prima facie refugees following nationality screening procedures and registration. Those arriving through Jijiga, at the border with Somalia, cannot get assistance from UNHCR until they are registered by the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA.) Yemeni refugees can reside in the urban areas, a privilege denied to Somalis. Ethiopia is also facing a food insecurity crisis. Sudan: As of November 2016, 6,766 Yemeni have arrived in Sudan. The open door policy and the policy of the Government of Sudan has generally allowed Yemenis to work and to move freely, though they have been denied some assistance granted to refugees of other nationalities. “Yemen Regional Refugee Response.
  • 207Ibid.
  • 208Ibid.
  • 209Ibid.
  • 185Regional leaders have also used war to deflect internal challenges to their authority. Further, international political rivalries, such as Cold War rivalries between the United States and Soviet Union, has also helped facilitate insecurity and displacement in the Middle East. Jones, “America, Oil, and War in the Middle East,” 217.
  • 186Eyal Weizman and Fazal Sheikh, The Conflict Shoreline: Colonialism as Climate Change in the Negev Desert (Göttingen: Steidl, 2015).
  • 187These reasons range from Israel’s efforts at “greening the desert” to cyclical drought increasing desertification. For example, projections show that the flows of the Jordan and Yarmuk rivers are likely to decrease, worsening the water shortages in both Israel and Jordan. Exacerbation of water shortages in those two countries and in Oman, Egypt, Iran, and Iraq— and the salinization of coastal aquifers—are likely to threaten agricultural production in those regions. Klein, “Let Them Drown: The Violence of Othering in a Warming World”; Valerie Yorke, “Politics Matter: Jordan’s Path to Water Security Lies Through Political Reforms and Regional Cooperation,” Working Paper (Geneva: Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research, April 2013), http://www.nccr-trade.org/fileadmin/user_upload/nccr-trade.ch/wp5/worki…
  • 188Weizman and Sheikh, Fazal Sheikh/Eyal Weizman; Klein, “Let Them Drown: The Violence of Othering in a Warming World.”
  • 195Climate change has also impacted much of Africa, with similar effects. For example, in late 2010 and throughout 2011 severe droughts and civil strife forced a mass exodus of Somalis to Kenya, Ethiopia, and elsewhere. East Africa and the Horn of Africa are experiencing ongoing droughts, desertification, flash floods and land degradation. In 2007 the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that the region is projected to be impacted the most negatively by climate change in the future. Gaim Kibreab, “Forced Migration in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa,” in The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, ed. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199652433.001…; Baher Kamal, “Africa: War On Climate Terror (II) - Fleeing Disasters, Escaping Drought, Migrating,” ReliefWeb, August 11, 2016, http://reliefweb.int/report/world/africa-war-climate-terror-ii-fleeing-…
  • 196Weizman and Sheikh, Fazal Sheikh/Eyal Weizman; Klein, “Let Them Drown: The Violence of Othering in a Warming World.
  • 197Klein, “Let Them Drown: The Violence of Othering in a Warming World.
  • 198As is the case with the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa, much of sub-Saharan Africa is also imbricated within the U.S.-led, Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). The GWOT has taken shape in Africa as Operation Enduring Freedom– Trans Sahara (OEF-TS), the military operation conducted by the United States and partner nations in the Sahara/Sahel region of Africa. Specifically, these operations have consisted of counterterrorism efforts and policing of arms and drug trafficking across Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Nigeria, and Morocco. It has also taken shape as Operation Enduring Freedom–Horn of Africa (OEF-HOA), the U.S. military operation against “militant Islamism” and “piracy” across Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Seychelles, and Kenya. Outside this Combined Joint Operating Area, the CJTF-HOA has operations in Mauritius, Comoros, Liberia, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. The U.S. contribution to the operation has consisted of advisers, supplies, and other forms of non-combat support, as well as drone strikes targeted at Al-Shabaab. Taken together, and as with the Middle East and North Africa, the militarization of sub-Saharan Africa has ranged from the propping up of local regimes favorable to U.S. regional interests, to the extrajudicial detainment and killing of those deemed threatening to U.S. domestic, regional, and global interests.
  • 199Jonathan Hafetz, “Targeted Killing and the ‘War on Terror,’” Al Jazeera, November 19, 2011, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/10/2011101872910456159.ht….
  • 210Neta C. Crawford, “War-Related Death, Injury, and Displacement in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2014” (Providence: Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University, May 22, 2015).
  • 211IDMC also estimates that at least 948,000 people were internally displaced by conflict and violence as of July 2015, a dramatic increase from some 500,000 in 2013. As of mid-2016, that number has increased to 1.2 million people. “Afghanistan IDP Figures Analysis,” Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 2015, http://www.internal-displacement.org/south-and-southeast-asia/afghanist…; “Afghanistan: Number of People Internally Displaced by Conflict Doubled to 1.2 Million in Just Three Years,” Amnesty International, May 31, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/05/afghanistan-internally-d…
  • 212The death toll from the Global War on Terror has also been immense. From 2003 to 2015, according to Physicians for Social Responsibility, the war has, directly or indirectly, killed around 1 million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan—totaling around 1.3 million in these three countries alone. A potentially conservative estimate, the total number of deaths in these three countries could also be in excess of 2 million. “Body Count” (Washington, D.C.: Physicians for Social Responsibility, March 2015), https://reth.ch/static/usercontent/61a261bd3dd744946371fa5be7f19dd4/bod…
  • 213Crawford, “War-Related Death, Injury, and Displacement in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2014.
  • 214Andre-Michel Essoungou, “Africa’s Displaced People: Out of the Shadows,” Africa Renewal, April 2010, http://www.un.org/en/africarenewal/vol24no1/displaced-people.html.
  • 215“Sub-Saharan Africa” (Geneva: Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 2014), http://www.internal-displacement.org/sub-saharan-africa/.
  • 216Idimama Kotoudi, “Les Migrations Forcées En Afrique de l’Ouest” (Dakar-Ponty: The Panos Institute West Africa, 2004); Cited in: Marion Fresia, “Forced Migration in West Africa,” in The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, ed. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199652433.001…
  • 217Micah Bump, “Ghana: Searching for Opportunities at Home and Abroad,” Migrationpolicy.org, March 1, 2006, http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/ghana-searching-opportunities-ho…; Cited in: Fresia, “Forced Migration in West Africa,
  • 2186. Bump, “Ghana”; Cited in: Fresia, “Forced Migration in West Africa,” 6.
  • 229Fresia, “Forced Migration in West Africa,” 5
  • 230Ibid., 4.
  • 231Among such new tensions caused by cross-border displacements in the region is the use of refugee camps by various parties as recruitment sites for militarized regional conflicts. Ibid., 5.
  • 232Ibid.
  • 233United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “UNHCR Global Report 2011 - West Africa” (Geneva: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 2011), 110, http://www.unhcr.org/publications/fundraising/4fc880a80/unhcr-global-re…; Cited in: Fresia, “Forced Migration in West Africa,” 5.
  • 245Specifically, these restructuring programs require and stimulate the making of a global market for land. According to Sassen, they entail the development of a vast “servicing infrastructure to enable sales and acquisitions, secure property or leasing rights, develop appropriate legal instruments, and push for the making of new law to accommodate such purchases in a sovereign country,” an infrastructure that not only facilitates the purchase of land but also stimulates further foreign role in such purchases Sassen, Expulsions, 87.
  • 246Significantly, host African governments are themselves playing a major role in enabling land grabbing, despite its undermining the goals of Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). For instance, Mali’s government supported a 100,000 hectares allocation to a subsidiary of the Libya-based Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF). In Tanzania, the government has coerced villages to set aside land to be used by investors in seemingly mutually beneficial arrangements. In Senegal, the government has exerted considerable pressure on local communities to allocate land for biofuels production, a trend that has been observed in Ethiopia as well(Land Grabbing in Africa 8).
  • 247Sassen, Expulsions, 97
  • 242“How Slavery Helped Build a World Economy,” Jubilee: the Emergence of African-American Culture (New York: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 2015).
  • 243Ibid.
  • 244Ibid.
  • 248Malkammu Jaatee, “Land Grabbing and Violations of Human Rights in Ethiopia” (Berkshire: Anywaa Survival Organization, January 28, 2016); “‘What Will Happen If Hunger Comes?’: Abuses against the Indigenous Peoples of Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley” (Washington, D.C.: Human Rights Watch, June 2012).
  • 249Sassen, Expulsions, 87.
  • 250Joseph Mensah, Neoliberalism and Globalization in Africa (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan), 7, accessed April 17, 2017, http://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9780230607811.
  • 251Ibid., 2.
  • 252“Human Development Report” (Geneva: UN Development Programme, 2006), http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/human-development-report-2006; Cited in: Mensah, Neoliberalism and Globalization in Africa, 2.
  • 253According to the World Bank, however, not one sub-Saharan country saw life expectancy fall between 2000 and 2014. Steve Johnson, “Africa’s Life Expectancy Jumps Dramatically,” Financial Times, April 25, 2017, https://www.ft.com/content/38c2ad3e-0874-11e6-b6d3-746f8e9cdd33.
  • 234“Famine Hits Parts Of South Sudan,” World Food Programme, February 20, 2017, https://www.wfp.org/news/news-release/famine-hits-parts-south-sudan.
  • 235“UN: One Million Refugees Have Fled South Sudan,” Al Jazeera, September 16, 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/09/million-refugees-fled-south-sudan…
  • 236“Mid-Year Trends, 2015.”
  • 237Ibid.
  • 238“South Sudan Regional Refugee Response Plan” (Geneva: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, January 2017), http://data.unhcr.org/SouthSudan/regional.php.
  • 239Ibid.
  • 240Ibid.
  • 241Ibid.
  • 219Yet, as with elsewhere in Africa, contemporary displacement in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has colonial roots. Following the 1885 Berlin Conference, the Congo Free State was founded as a Belgian Colony for the extraction of its rich supplies of rubber, minerals, and oil and notorious for its abuse and exploitation of the local population. Marie-Laurence Flahaux and Bruno Schoumaker, “Democratic Republic of the Congo: A Migration History Marked by Crises and Restrictions” (Washington, D.C.: Migration Policy Institute, April 19, 2016), http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/democratic-republic-congo-migrat…
  • 220Ibid.
  • 221“Refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo” (Washington, D.C.: Cultural Orientation Resource Center, March 2013), http://www.resettlement.eu/sites/icmc.tttp.eu/files/Congolese_Backgroun…
  • 222“Mid-Year Trends, 2015.”
  • 223Ibid.
  • 224“Congolese Refugees: A Protracted Situation” (Geneva: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, January 2014), http://www.unhcr.org/558c0e039.pdf.
  • 225“Democratic Republic of Congo Regional Refugee Response” (Geneva: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, November 2016), http://data.unhcr.org/drc/regional.php.
  • 226Ibid.
  • 227Ibid.
  • 228Ibid.
  • 254“The Contribution of Labour Mobility to Economic Growth” (G20 Labour and Employment Ministers’ Meeting, Ankara, Turkey: International Labour Organisation, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, World Bank Group, 2015).
  • 255Shekhar Aiyar et al., “The Refugee Surge in Europe: Economic Challenges” (Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, January 2016).
  • 256Alice Beste, “The Contributions of Refugees: Lifting Barriers to Inclusion,” United Nations University: Institute on Globalization, Culture, and Mobility, August 28, 2015, https://gcm.unu.edu/publications/articles/the-contributions-of-refugees….
  • 257According to Papademetriou and Fratzke, managing expectations of successful integration is key. Specifically, they state that economic and social integration may not be a reasonable short-term goal for all vulnerable newcomers—especially given acute pressures on housing and services and the extent of their physicaland mental health needs. Yet public confidence relies on evidence that refugees are quickly attaining self-sufficiency. As policymakers tread the fine line between allaying immediate public fears without jeopardizing future confidence, they must emphasize refugees’ potential economic contributions without raising expectations beyond what can be delivered. Demetrios G. Papademetriou, Meghan Benton, and Natalia Banulescu-Bogdan, “Rebuilding after Crisis: Embedding Refugee Integration in Migration Management Systems” (The 16th Plenary Meeting of the Transatlantic Council on Migration, Washington, D.C.: Migration Policy Institute, 2017), http://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/rebuilding-after-crisis-embeddi…
  • 258Ibid.
  • 259A key part of this is storytelling, which can be more powerful than facts and figures or economic arguments, especially if it emphasizes individual migrants’ histories and their embodiment of the values of their new communities. Ibid.
  • 260Ibid., 9.
  • 261For more on this policymaking strategy, see: “Targeted Universalism,” Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, accessed April 24, 2017, http://belonging.berkeley.edu/targeteduniversalism.
  • 262Papademetriou, Benton, and Banulescu-Bogdan, “Rebuilding after Crisis.
  • 263Papademetriou, Benton, and Banulescu-Bogdan, “Rebuilding after Crisis,” 8.
  • 264Randall Hansen, “Constrained by Its Roots: How the Origins of the Global Asylum System Limit Contemporary Protection” (Washington, D.C.: Migration Policy Institute, n.d.).
  • 265Ibid.
  • 266As Hansen points out, some progress was made at the UN General Assembly Summit for Refugees and Migrants in September 2016 and accompanying meetings of leaders and representatives from civil society and the private sector. But while the recent summit acknowledged the importance of sharing responsibility more equitably, it did not set out how, concretely, to achieve this goal. Ibid.
  • 267Ibid.
  • 268Sassen, Expulsions, 84.
  • 269Saskia Sassen, “Two Stops in Today’s New Global Geographies: Shaping Novel Labor Supplies and Employment Regimes” (Santiago, Chile: UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, June 2008), 6, http://repositorio.cepal.org/bitstream/handle/11362/5815/1/S0800399_en….
  • 270Hickel, “Aid in Reverse.”
  • 271“United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda,” United Nations Sustainable Development, accessed April 18, 2017, http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/development-agenda/.
  • 272“Sustainable Development Goal 13: Climate Action,” United Nations Division for Sustainable Development, accessed April 24, 2017, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg13.
  • 273“Future We Want - Outcome Document” (Geneva: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs), accessed April 24, 2017, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/futurewewant.html.