Description of the GPRS Project

GPRS Project
This research program builds on extensive scholarship and experience in conflict zones and the refugee camps they spawn. The proposed research has an institutional and policy focus on United Nations (UN) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that are concerned with international assistance to long-term refugee camp populations as well as protracted refugee situations where those displaced have only limited status in the countries in which they reside. We aim to detect patterns across camps that have existed for a decade or more to determine why such chronic conditions persist. Our project addresses a crucial gap in the research on protracted refugee situations: the institutions that control and distribute development funding to refugee situations in the global South, specifically Somali refugees in Kenya, and Afghans in Iran.
Iran and Kenya have been chosen for a number of reasons. They are among those countries that have hosted the largest numbers of refugees in the world and are both considered to host major protracted refugee situations by the UNHCR. Both Kenya (Somali and Sudanese refugees) and Iran (Afghan and Iraqi refugees) are hosts to refugees from countries that are in post-conflict situations, wherein conflict continues to disrupt parts of the home countries of these refugees, making return very difficult and often dangerous. In Iran, the focus of our project is mainly on Afghan refugees and in Kenya, on Somali refugees. The Afghan return process may provide some important insights for our research in Kenya. In Iran and Kenya, refugees have been located in long term camps, as well living outside camps for well over a decade, thus UN and NGO assistance is well established in both sites. The type and extent of the diaspora related to the Afghan and Somali refugees will be different and consequently important to compare. Fieldwork in these sites is underway in 2006-07. We also explore the actions and policies of states in the global North that might contribute to refugees staying in their regions of origin, by probing readmission agreements, asylum policies, and other decisions made by donor countries.

Policy Implications
What knowledge or strategies, if any, might facilitate a greater connection between the aid policy of donor countries/UN agencies that normally assist poor countries and the humanitarian agencies that assist refugees? In our experience, there is not much traffic between these vital international actors. And yet, one important step towards reducing conflict and improving the lives of refugees in long term camp arrangements is to create a basis for new policies that could:
  • Address the issue of the lack of mobility experienced by refugees and what happens to people who are reduced to relations of dependency by well-meaning international agencies and NGOs.
  • Examine the effect of recent efforts at capacity building with respect to protection for refugees in camps and regions of origin.
  • Consider which efforts at a) resettlement in a third country b) settlement in a first country of asylum and c) repatriation have worked and why.
  • Determine the connections between peace-building efforts and repatriation, since the latter has been the solution for the vast bulk of the refugees.

Research on the rights of refugees who are located inside and outside of long-term refugee camps will contribute to scholarly debates in Refugee Studies and practice, as well as to related research on internally displaced persons, i.e. those who are not defined as Convention refugees because they are located inside their nation-state. We also expect this research will ground debates on human security through a sustained empirical exploration of what security is, and whether it exists for refugees in long-term camps and outside those camps. This research will pose a challenge to the containment paradigm that has marked most research to date on long-term refugee camps. We expect that the results of this research will be of importance to UN agencies such as the UNHCR, WFP, UNRWA, UNDP and UNICEF as well as bilateral aid agencies such as the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, as well as local NGOs, particularly in poorer regions of the world.

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