e-Discussion: Forced migration and development
Please note, that the e-discussion now has been closed. To read the consolidated reply please click here.
In collaboration with UNHCR Brussels, the Joint Migration and Development Initiative (JMDI) is pleased to launch this e-discussion on “Forced Migration and Development”.
The specific focus on forced migrants becomes necessary when recognizing that within the wider migration and development discussion refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, such as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), are a distinct group. Although it is sometimes difficult to make a clear distinction between forms of forced and voluntary migration due to the mixed, complex and shifting motivations of migrants as well as mixed migration movements, the motivation of most voluntary migrants is to find work, earn a better income or enjoy education, while forced migrants flee from their homes due to armed conflicts, violence, fear of persecution or natural or human made disasters and are therefore in need of protection, shelter and the assistance in meeting their basic needs.
Forced displacement means loss of housing, land and property, jobs, physical assets, social networks and resources, and changes in family dynamics and traditional gender roles. It has been documented that too often displacement also results in food insecurity, increased morbidity and mortality, and social marginalization. Often access to services such as education and health becomes exceedingly difficult because the displaced may have left behind the necessary personal documentation, may not be recognized as having any entitlements under the local government authority where they now reside, or because they no longer have the means to pay for school fees and health services and often lack traditional support networks in their new environment. Together these conditions push the displaced into a cycle of vulnerability, which may grow even worse in those protracted displacement situations where successive generations are affected.
In their vulnerable state, refugees and other forced migrants are beneficiaries of humanitarian aid providing short-term relief in situations of high vulnerability after being forced to flee. However, they are frequently excluded from long-term development programmes. This inadequate response to the needs of IDPs and refugees, continues to be the single major obstacle to durable solutions for forcibly displaced persons. The continued perception that concerns of forced displacement can only be addressed by humanitarian means is ill-conceived, and has resulted in the protracted displacements of millions of forcibly displaced persons, unable to find solutions for their displacement that can assist them to break from the cycle of dependence on humanitarian assistance and to move on with their lives.
Protracted displacement means also the prolonged presence of large numbers of forced migrants which may have a negative impact on the development of host communities due to pressure on local resources, infrastructure and services, along with environmental degradation. In this regard we have to bear in mind, that the majority of the hosting countries are developing and poor countries. Today of an estimated 214 million people living outside their country of origin, some 34 million are people of concern to UNHCR (including refugees, asylum-seekers, returnees, IDPs and stateless persons, while not including refugees under the mandate of UNRWA). Whether in urban contexts or in camp setting, the vast majority of them live in developing countries, primarily in Africa and Asia, which are themselves often struggling to meet the basic needs of their own populations.
Supporting forced migrants to find solutions through self-reliance and livelihoods, in return or in host countries, not only enables them to make their own living while helping to reduce the compulsion for secondary movement, but allows them also to contribute to developing the local economy and communities. Too often, the productive and peacebuilding potential of forcibly displaced is disregarded. That is why integrating refugee or returnee programmes into national development plans is important for maximising gains to both forced migrants and local populations. In this sense it would be a mistake to ignore the forced migrants’ strength to contribute to development or to neglect them in the migration and development discussion. It is this concept of forced migrants being “agents of development” that we would like to explore in the context of this e-discussion.
The e-discussion will last three weeks, from 10 to 7 February 2011. Please feel free to answer during this period as many, or as few of the questions raised below. We warmly encourage you to participate in the e-discussion by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or posting your comments online in the Migration4Development forum here. Please note that responses to the e-discussion are not automatically shared but go to the facilitation teams for compilation.
Who are forced migrants?
- Who is a refugee, an asylum seeker, an internally displaced person (IDP) and a returnee?
Forced migrants’ contribution to development
- Can you share any examples of how forced migrants use their skills and capacities to contribute to development and post-conflict reconstruction?
- What are the necessary conditions for forced migrants to contribute to the development of their host states/regions/communities as well as those of origin?
Supporting forced migrants’ contribution to development
- Is it necessary to develop specific migration and development programmes for forced migrants? Can you share any specific examples with the e-discussion?
- Why is it so difficult to include forced displacement on the development agenda of donors, governments and development agencies’ programmes and funds?
- Even where forced migrants receive some assistance for return, why are the longer-term needs of the returnees not systematically integrated into the reconstruction planning?
- How can humanitarian actors adapt their programmes further to facilitate early recovery without compromising humanitarian principles?
- How can additional, flexible and timely transitional and development assistance be ensured for refugees who are non-citizens?