On public lectures: Navigating Nakivale @ RCC

Morten Bøås gave a lecture at the Oxford Refugee Studies Centre on “Navigating Nakivale: the borderland economy of a refugee camp” on 13 November 2015.

The talk focused on how the combination of conflict + different types of interventions produces outcomes: “what matters is not only the cards you were dealt, but your ability to play them”.

It was his introductory remarks about the current status of refugees worldwide that caught my attention, @17:30 —

So it’s a combination of the fact that some places are completely full, and the local integrative capacity has been completely overloaded for too long. And we have contributed to this by underfunding the agencies who could have, at least in theory, contributed against this. And in addition, the conflicts that produce refugees do not come to a conclusion.


Bøås goes on to issue a warning call: If Uganda forcibly closed Nakivale, if Kenya forcibly closed Dadaab, if Lebanon expelled all Syrians — what would happen? Everyone needs to pay attention to the local + regional areas that have absorbed the majority of the world’s refugees.

Thus, the current refugee crisis is really global: “not a European crisis, or Norwegian, or Northern Norwegian, or Storstog refugee crisis. Only a very very few can afford to take these routes,” aiding the development of a “hierarchy of suffering”. Those left behind in camps must not be forgotten.



On conferences: Guterres @ 12th Annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference

On 29 October 2015, António Guterres gave the lunchtime keynote lecture at the 12th Annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference (video available).

The High Commissioner echoes many of his statements from his Georgetown lecture; the quotes I’ve transcribed dive deeper into securitization, resettlement + US influence —

On the US [@ :23:20] —

Guterres: You have a very important resettlement program (by far, the largest in the world). I can only hope that as debates that now exist in relation to resettlement can move in the right direction, which means more resettlement opportunities. I saw in these days people asking for more resettlement, and also people asking for ‘be careful, don’t bring us Muslims because they can be terrorists!’ and the only thing I can say about that is that if that is entirely true then there are 7000 potential terrorists entering Germany every single day, and I don’t think that we have seen the impact. So, with very careful screening, methodology that is what is inherent to the US resettlement process, I don’t think that terrorists will be so stupid to be so effectively scrutinized and to wait 18 months to come to the United States. I think they will try to fly one of the airlines that exist with a nice passport, a good visa that they can obtain probably in a much easier way than through resettlement.

I think the same in relation to Europe. I don’t see terrorists being so stupid: instead of flying Turkish Airlines from Istanbul to Berlin to get into the hands of a smuggler, cross into Greece, pay $5000 instead of $50 in a low-cost, risk to die in the crossing, and then spend one or two weeks painfully going country by country one after another until finally they have some chance to Germany. I think we are dealing today with a global network of terrorist organizations that are well organized and have much easier instruments to become a danger than through what it is, I believe, one of the safest processes in place which is the US resettlement process. So, again, hoping for also good news in relation to resettlement in the US, I am very encouraged by these three days of visits that I had in Washington and am hoping that the US will remain the leading country in the world in relation to refugee protection: inside the US, resettling from outside, and supporting protection and humanitarian activities all over the world.

Q: On the impact of US leadership on resettlement [@:27:25] —

Guterres: First of all, I am a fanatic supporter of resettlement. I know that it is not the only solution and its probably not the only solution for the overwhelming majority of refugees; voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity is obviously the most common, and for many clearly the best choice. Local integration in many cases – we had recently success in Tanzania with the Burundian in ’72 gaining nationality. But, I mean, when we come to the US… I remember a visit to Chicago, visiting several resettled families; or, to Canada, I had that opportunity also several times in Ottawa and Montreal; or, to Australia I had that opportunity in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne; and several European cities. And you see a resettled family coming from one of these dramatic situations — like Somalis from Dadaab, or Eritreans from Sudan, or Syrians from Zaatari — and see them with the children in school, with the good job or sometimes a business, good perspectives for life, and you compare with what was their life without a meaning in many of the refugee situations — I think we can only consider that even if it is just for a little, a small percentage of the refugees, resettlement is a fantastic instrument, changing completely the lives of people. So, I’ve always said that resettlement for us should not only be a protection instrument, but a strategic solution.

In these contexts, resettlement today, in relation to Syrians, has two very important consequences. First, it’s a form to show to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey that we also want to assume their responsibility and co-assume their responsibility. I remember with the Iraqis, the resettlement of Iraqis, that was a very important program a few years ago, was an excellent tool gave us enormous leverage with the negotiations with Syria and Jordan to preserve the asylum space for the Iraqis in those countries. The same applies today in relation to the Syrians. In the other hand, it is a very important tool to make sure that the European borders remain open for Syrians. The debate in Europe is becoming a very difficult debate. And, to show that other part of the world — fortunately we had Australia offering 20,000 opportunities, Canada.. I had yesterday contact with the Canadian government and the new government wants to have 25,000 [?] spots by the end of the year which I sincerely don’t know exactly how they are going to manage, but shows a commitment. Obviously, 70% of the resettlement opportunities in the world come from the United States, so whatever the United States does defines the rules of the game. So the importance of a bold US approach to resettlement of Syrians, in the attitudes of other parts of the world, in particular in Europe, will be enormous. So I can only encourage that bold initiative, and I am very hopeful that the internal debate with all its complexities that is normal in a democratic society, will lead to a positive result.

(In the absence of an official transcript the quotes above were transcribed; emphasis added.)

On public lectures: Guterres @ Georgetown

News to me: according to John J. DeGioia’s introduction to António Guterres’ lecture at Georgetown on 28 October 2015, Dr. Susan F Martin will be the editor-in-chief of the 2016 ed. of UNHCR’s State of the World’s Refugees.

A few quotes from the lecture —

(@17:30) On inequality:

Guterres: … And, one of the problems is there has been an acceptance about the need for global governance of financial markets. There has been an acceptance for the need for global governance for the markets related to trade, services and goods but there has been a rejection in relation to any attempt to create a global governance system for migration.

Migration has always been considered an inter-governmental issue and never a multilateral issue. There is a forum, but the forum is strictly inter-governemntal. And there has been a radical opposition by a majority of political leaders to any kind of international regulation of the migration phenomenon. And this is I think a very serious question that needs to be seriously addressed.

Q: (@0:31:15) On protracted refugee situations —

Guterres: …and it is important to make sure that those situations that are, as you mentioned, protracted are kept on the international agenda and they receive the attention and support they need. Unfortunately this is not happening. Unfortunately, we are having a very dramatic lack of resources when addressing, for instance, the old crises in Africa. We can only do it because we are able to use our annual earmarked funding for those crises because, just to give an example, the Central African Republic situation is funded for UNHCR at 20% of the level of the needs. This gives you an idea of what is the neglect of the international community in relation to those other situations that are not in the limelight.

If you allow me to be a little bit cynical, today it is very interesting: refugees are in the center of the global public debate. But last year it was not the case. What has changed is not that the refugee problem became all of a sudden much more dramatic; what has changed is that refugees for the first time came in big numbers to the rich world, to Europe. And so, if you recall, for two or three months, all news around the world in global media, in the national media would open with the European refugee crisis. The European refugee crisis is of course a serious crisis, we are talking about 700,000 people that came into Europe, but the EU has 550 million people; In Lebanon it’s three Lebanese for each refugee. But they came to the rich world, and because of that there is a lot of attention and because of that the Syria refugee situation that is largely responsible for this is now getting much more attention again and much more funding. We received about $137 million for the Syria situation in three weeks. But, zero for Central African Republic. And zero for the other situations: Somalia situation and other protracted situations or Afghanistan. It is absolutely essential to make people understand that — not because of general solidarity, but strictly on a consideration of enlightened self-interest — all crises are becoming interlinked: from Nigeria to Mali, from Mali to Libya, from Libya to Somalia, but also to the Sinai or to Yemen and then to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan; all these things are interlinked; the Central African Republic becoming part of it. And, not only they are interlinked, but they represent a threat to global peace and security. And to think that we can address one crisis and forget about the others is completely stupid. So, I think there are very good reasons to make the international community understand that it is absolutely essential not to let protracted situations, in such a dramatic development, that despair becomes widespread and then people will be ready to do anything to overcome that problem.

Q: (@1:09) On fear (in the press, etc) of the migrant crisis being used by Islamic fundamentalist organizations to place fighters in foreign countries —

Guterres: We take those things seriously. We have an anti-terrorism cell in our protection department and we work with states and exchanging information on things. But, let me be very clear: If you are a terrorist, I don’t recommend you to try the refugee way to go to whatever country. First, if you try resettlement, you are going to be scrutinized, I mean, in the most terrible way. If you ask for asylum in any place, you will be immediately fingerprinted, whatever, you’ll be interviewed, you’ll be…I mean, you’ll be followed, everybody will know where you are… When we sometimes discuss resettlement in the US today and one of the arguments by some voices is to say ‘oh, if we have Syrians resettled there is a risk of terrorists coming’. Are you aware that, if that reasoning is correct, 7000 terrorists are entering Germany every day in the last three months — and I don’t yet see any bomb exploding. No. Why? Because terrorists are not going that way. I presume they have the capacity and the instruments and the money to have either a passport or a good forged passports and they will fly, as fighters are flying, if you read what is happening the foreign fighters coming into Syria, they fly to Istanbul, then [hand motions]. They probably fly business class, some of them, because of the money they make; they don’t put themselves in the hands of smugglers risking to die in the Mediterranean to then go to a Greek island, from the Greek island to the Continent, from there to Macedonia, from Macedonia to Serbia, from Serbia to Croatia, from Croatia to Slovenia, from Slovenia to Austria, from Austria to Germany; I mean, being registered all the way on.. they are not stupid, I can guarantee they know very well what they are doing. And indeed, my belief is that even if we are attentive, even if we are in favor of all the measures of intelligence and scrutiny to be in place, I believe that the risk of terrorist organizations using the refugee protection mechanisms is relatively minor compared with other risks that are very clear in societies.

(In the absence of an official transcript, I transcribed the above quotes.)