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What kind of evidence might persuade people to change their minds on refugees?

Duncan Green's picture

Oxfam Humanitarian Policy Adviser Ed Cairns reflects on using evidence to influence the treatment of refugees.

Who thinks that governments decide what to do on refugees after carefully considering the evidence? Not many, I suspect. So it was an interesting to be asked to talk about that at the  ‘Evidence for Influencing’conference Duncan wrote about last week.

When I think what influences refugee policy, I’m reminded of a meeting I had in Whitehall on Friday 4 September, two days after the three-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, had drowned.  Oxfam and other NGOs had been invited in to talk about refugees. The UK officials found out what their policy was by watching Prime Minister David Cameron on their phones, as he overturned the UK’s refusal to resettle thousands of Syrians in a press conference in Lisbon.  Even then, he and his officials refused to promise how many Syrians would be allowed. By Monday, that line had crumbled as well, and a promise of 20,000 by 2020 was announced.

The evidence of course had shown that children and other refugees had been tragically drowning in the Mediterranean for months. But it was the sheer human emotion, the public interest, and no doubt Cameron’s own compassion that made the change. Evidence and the evidence-informed discussion between officials and NGOs had nothing to do with it. More important was that a single image of a drowned boy spread to 20 million screens within 12 hours as #refugeeswelcome began trending worldwide. As research by the Visual Social Media Lab at the University of Sheffield set out, “a single image transformed the debate”.

Cairns 2


Two years later, a new Observatory of Public Attitudes to Migration has just been launched by the Florence-based Migration Policy Centreand its partners, including IPSOS Mori in the UK.  It aims to be the ‘go-to centre for researchers and practitioners’, and has sobering news for anyone who thinks that evidence has a huge influence on this issue.  Anti-migrant views, it shows, are far more driven by the values of tradition, conformity and security, and within the UK in particular, according to an IPSOS Mori study, by a distrust of experts, alongside suspicion of diversity, human rights and “political correctness”.

Engendering hope: Uganda’s progressive policies on refugee management

Varalakshmi Vemuru's picture



For several decades now, Uganda has been generously hosting refugees and asylum seekers from the conflict-affected countries in its neighborhood, especially the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi. Since achieving its independence in 1962, the country has been hosting an average of approximately 161,000 refugees per year; and the numbers crossed 550,000 in August 2016. In three weeks since the latest fighting in South Sudan broke out on 8 July, nearly 37,491 people  were forced to flee to Uganda, more than in the first six months of 2016, according to UNHCR.

World Bank supporting both displaced and host communities to alleviate the burden of forced displacement

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Every year, conflict and natural disasters force millions to flee their homes and seek refuge elsewhere, either within or beyond the borders of their country.
 
While forced displacement is nothing new, the number of displaced people has increased significantly over the last few years: according to The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), conflict and war alone had forced a staggering 60 million people away from their home at the end of 2014-the highest level ever recorded.
 
Displacement is often a traumatic experience for the displaced, who may lose their homes, livelihoods, and experience precarious living conditions. In many cases, it also puts tremendous pressure on host communities that do not always have the capacity or infrastructure to absorb a sudden influx of people.
 
The World Bank has been working alongside displaced people and host communities alike in areas such as housing, municipal services, livelihoods, land, disaster risk management, and social cohesion. Priority is given to community-driven programs that put beneficiaries in the driver's seat and empower them to develop projects tailored to their own specific needs.
 
For more information on how the World Bank is addressing fragility, conflict, and violence, please make sure to visit our new Development for Peace blog.

Don’t shut your doors to refugees

Bassam Sebti's picture
The author on the day of his graduation from the Master of Writing Studies program at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia in 2008. © Jenny Spinner


I walked among dead bodies of people blown up by bombs. I ducked and covered from bullets falling around my feet, and I was almost choked to death by an angry mourner. One of millions of Iraqis, I was trying to survive a brutal reality that never seemed to end.

I still cannot escape these images. I still smell the dead. I had to go to where death lay due to my job as a reporter. That job left many journalists, including one of my former colleagues at the Washington Post, dead.

As rewarding as it was, that job cost me my country. I had to seek refuge. Armed groups had taken every chance to attack journalists and their families, especially those who worked for American media. They kidnapped them, tortured them, and asked for ransoms to spare their lives. I did not want this to happen to my family.