On China hosting refugees

Over at Foreign Policy, Liang Pan just posted a great overview on why China isn’t hosting Syrian refugees

China almost certainly will not adopt a refugee resettlement plan that will help relieve the heavy burden faced by the other developing countries in the region currently overwhelmed by the influx. China lacks the institutions conducive to supporting immigration on a mass scale. Although it ratified the UN’s Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1982, the country still lacks related national institutions. It was only in 2012 that China adopted a revised Entry-Exit Administration Law that allows public security authorities to issue identity certificates to refugees and refugee status applicants. According to an August 2015 UNHCR fact sheet, the Chinese government does not provide assistance to refugees in China.

Then there’s the Chinese “green card,” which provides only a “narrow path to residency,” according to a memo by Melissa Lefkowitz, a program officer at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute at the New York University School of Law. China’s official statistics show that, as of 2013, only 7,300 among 600,000-plus foreigners living in China had permanent residence. (In 2013 alone, almost a million people became permanent residents in the United States.) Naturalization is extremely rare.

Issues of political ideology, public support, religion, economics and culture are discussed further in the piece. [Links in original text]

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On studying the timing of displacement

Justin Schon over at the Monkey Cage writes about drives behind population displacement, studying Somalia using UNHCR’s Population Movement Tracking system data —

What factors influence the timing of displacement? Why do certain crises prompt displacement floods while others only elicit a trickle? Unique daily internal displacement data from Somalia in the mid-2000s, which I published in a recent article, can offer insights into these critical policy questions. Since Ethiopia’s 2006 invasion, Somalia has produced some of the world’s largest displacement flows. As Anna Lindley observes, two-thirds of Mogadishu’s population fled between the end of 2006 and the end of 2008. Somali displacement flows furthermore exhibit substantial variation over time. Its lessons may be more broadly applicable, since Somalia contains characteristics that exist in many cases of civil conflict: a weak state, proliferation of armed groups and militias, protracted conflict, poverty, and environmental challenges.

The data derives from an UNHCR project called the Population Movement Tracking system. Begun in mid-2006, the project works with 48 local partners inside Somalia to track displacement on a daily basis. Analyzing this daily displacement data reveals that there were actually 15 distinct cycles of displacement in Somalia from 2008 to 2013. The structural conflict characteristics of geographic scope and balance of power are the most important drivers of displacement timing – and not individual events, as is commonly believed.

[Links in original; emphasis added.]

On girl crushes

Three lovely bits from a recent conversation with bell hooks and Emma Watson in Paper Mag:

[bell] hooks: …I have an overall obsession in my life with beauty. I’m always wanting to surround myself with the kind of beauty that uplifts you, that runs counter to some of the stereotypes of feminist women.

[Emma] Watson: Yes, yes. In Feminism is for Everybody I found a reminder of just what you were saying, “To critique sexist images without offering alternatives is an incomplete intervention. Critique in and of itself does not lead to change.”

hooks: I was thinking about what you were saying earlier — that I am funny. A lot of people think I am, but most people don’t. [Laughs] I was telling you that when we first met. That’s a pretty big stereotype about feminists, that we’re not fun, that we don’t have a sense of humor and that everything is so serious and politically correct. Humor is essential to working with difficult subjects: race, gender, class, sexuality. If you can’t laugh at yourself and be with others in laughter, you really cannot create meaningful social change.

On Erna speaking about refugees, 2001

The perks of doing archival research is that you occasionally come across some gems:

Status of Refugees – a speech by Erna Solberg, (then) Minister of local Government and Regional Development, at the Ministerial meeting of states parties to the convention relating to the status of refugees on 12 December 2001, Geneva:

This 50th anniversary provides an excellent opportunity to assess the quality of the international regime for the protection of refugees. I agree with UNHCR that in the course of these 50 years the 1951 Convention has proved its relevance, effectiveness and flexibility, despite the ever-changing environment. The Convention will, however, only be an efficient tool as long as the states parties are fully committed to its implementation. I am happy to see that so many colleagues from other countries have reaffirmed their commitments in this regard. […]

Refugee protection predates and goes beyond the 1951 Convention. In 1921 Fridtjof Nansen was appointed as the League of Nations’ first High Commissioner for Refugees. One of Nansen’s main objectives was to help refugees to stand on their own feet as soon as their essential needs had been met. The solutions were the same as those we use today: repatriation, resettlement and local integration. Fridtjof Nansen undoubtedly contributed to setting the standard for future action on behalf of refugees and paved the way for the 1951 Convention.

The preamble to the 1951 Convention notes that the granting of asylum may place unduly heavy burdens on certain countries and that a satisfactory solution cannot be achieved without international cooperation. It does not, however, specify how such cooperation should be brought about. Therefore, it is essential that states are willing to engage in such cooperation and that UNHCR provides the necessary coordination. […]

I am pleased to see the progress being made in the global consultations on international protection. In addition to highlighting questions of interpretation relating to the Convention, the consultations have focused on protection challenges that are not clearly covered by the Convention. How to deal with mass outflow situations has been one central issue. I have noted UNHCR ‘s assurances that the Convention is sufficiently flexible to be applied effectively even in situations of large-scale influxes. I’ll bear that in mind. Nonetheless, I believe that large-scale influxes call for practical national tools, stich as temporary protection schemes. The challenge is to make them fully compatible with international protection standards.

On backlash and global opinion

A piece published at The Hill on 11 February by András Simonyi about the global backlash Denmark recently received in light of their response to an influx of asylum seekers caught my attention —

But Danes — politicians and the general public alike — need to realize something that strangely eluded them completely: that they are held to higher standards in the world than the overwhelming majority of other countries, like, say, Hungary (my native country, which has veered off-course as a fully fledged democracy). There is an expectation in the world toward it to show the way. It is seen as one of the true defenders of the liberal and democratic values of society, which includes humanitarian values. Denmark is a nation that is seen as a beacon, a standard-setter for the world for decades; its balanced, humane and tolerant policies the example for others to follow. It has worked hard to obtain this status and should do everything it can to maintain it. Together with the other Nordic countries, they hold the solutions to many of the problems of modern society, a source of inspiration for all of us who believe in freedom and democracy in the midst of the onslaught of Putin-esque illiberal thought.

Denmark’s performance in the field of human rights and social policies as a strong transatlanticist has earned the country the ability to punch above its weight in the world. This is important. Denmark has amassed enormous amounts of goodwill in the past. Its fundamental democratic values are strong. It should make every effort to hang on to them. But then, goodwill is like equity. Stocks can skyrocket based on real value added, but also perceptions. However, negative perceptions can be destructive, and a stock that was valuable one day can lose much or all of its value the next. But if the company is basically healthy, and its fundamentals strong, it will get over it.

Given, of course, that leadership is prepared to do the right things to correct mistakes.

see also: Small States Seeking Status: Norway’s Quest for International Standing (2015), edited by Benjamin de Carvalho and Iver B Neumann.

On “Resettlement Plus”

UNHCR just published their supplemental appeal, Strengthening refugee resettlement and other pathways to admission and solutions: Global Strategy 2016.

From page 4, UNCHR Strategy,

UNHCR’s response to this unprecedented level of requests for referrals of refugees for resettlement and other forms of admission centers on:

  1. The immediate scale up of capacity for resettlement processing, including through the deployment of additional resettlement, registration and community-based protection staff; and
  2. Strengthening guidelines and overall operational capacity for the long-term provisions of increased referrals for resettlement and other pathways to admission and solutions, including facilitation of new programmes.