Category Archives: Refugees in Focus, Winter 2017

A University in Every Refugee Camp

The Syrian Civil War provides an opportunity to re-think the role of higher education in supporting reconstruction and the ongoing refugee crisis.

By Juda Jelinek.

It seems obvious that in various post-war environments—such as East Timor, Nicaragua, Bosnia, Lebanon, and Iraq—the quality of higher education has deteriorated. In the context of state collapse or instability, usually unaccredited and often low-quality institutions outside of official regulatory control expand to fill or even exploit the gap. In post-conflict rebuilding, higher education is traditionally but wrongly treated as a secondary priority. The reality is that while education provides limited short-term gains, it is an important factor in long-term growth.

When measuring the human cost of conflict, lives lost are surely the most important factor. But in the aftermath, when the process of rebuilding takes priority, the long-term effects of a diminished capacity to provide higher education cannot be understated. A lost generation, coming of age without access to opportunity, will cost a nation for decades to come. If an end to the Syrian Civil War may be near, it is important to investigate the role of higher education in reconstruction efforts. However, even if the region remains unstable, higher education should be considered among the strategies necessary to alleviate the ongoing refugee crises.

One of the dilemmas is that in many post-conflict scenarios, physical and civil reconstruction relies on expensive foreign technical assistance rather than on developing training institutions for local individuals. In the cases of Afghanistan and Iraq, many ministries employed foreign experts rather than hiring locally, creating unsustainable institutions and furthering a state of dependency. The solutions may be to start investing in the education of refugees immediately during a conflict, when much of the world feels otherwise unable to help.

In the case of Syria, the importance of supporting higher education is emphasized by the fact that before the war began, more than 25 percent of 18-24 year old Syrians were enrolled in higher education. It is estimated that 150,000 Syrians were engaged in tertiary education or were intending to begin shortly when the conflict erupted. Their education has now been interrupted for nearly six years. Higher education professionals have also suffered the consequences of the institutional breakdown, and it is estimated that …

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Indefinite Detention in the Land of the Free

Donald Trump’s deportation promise threatens everything America stands for.

By Alexander H. Maurice.

Throughout his election campaign, Donald Trump hammered home his promise to detain and deport up to 3 million people from America. This is not a simple task. Even now America detains more immigrants than any other country. Increasing this number dramatically would be expensive, logistically difficult, potentially unconstitutional, and grossly inhumane.

Before anyone can be deported, they must be detained and processed. The system is already stretched to its limits, and some people have been languishing for years in detention facilities that were designed for short stays. Refugees whose claims are rejected in the United States often cannot even be returned to their home countries because those countries countries deny their nationality. Instead, they are held indefinitely without trial or release. The Global Intelligence has interviewed people currently held in immigration detention facilities in the United States, and their stories are shocking. If Trump is to fulfill his campaign promise, there will be a real human cost and, inevitably, human rights and constitutional rights violations.

Failed System

Immigration detention in the U.S. is handled by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). In 2003, this agency was formed as part of the Department of Homeland Security. Within ICE, the Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) administers the detention and deportation of people taken into custody by ICE. ERO currently oversees 209 detention centers, some of which are privatized. However, these facilities are already stretched well beyond their capacities. “The United States operates the world’s largest immigration detention system,” according to the Global Detention Project, a research center based in Geneva, Switzerland, that investigates the use of immigration-related detention as a response to global migration—and this was before Trump’s proposed plans.

Part of the reason is a policy known as the detention bed quota. This was …

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Strife in the Buddhist State

Rohingya Muslims are fleeing a violent campaign ethnic cleansing in Buddhist Myanmar.

By Sazzad Haider.

On the border regions of Myanmar, thousands of the minority Rohingya population are fleeing across the Naf river into Bangladesh to escape what UNHCR calls “ethnic cleansing”. In Myanmar, the Muslim Rohingya are denied citizenship by the Buddhist-majority state and face regular persecution from security forces. Those who have fled to Muslim-majority Bangladesh, however, are illegal immigrants. They are offered no asylum by the state, and many have been rounded up and deported back to Myanmar.

Since October, the Myanmar military has coordinated massive offensives against Rohingya villages in the border state of Rakhine, ostensibly in reprisal for the killing of nine border guards. Myanmar security forces have now allegedly killed over 500 people, raped hundreds of women, and burned down over 2,500 Rohingya houses, according to estimates from Rohingya sources. The military operation forced many of the Rohingya Muslims to flee their frontier homes. The extent of the strife is not fully known, but U.S.-based Human Rights Watch has released satellite images showing that over 1,000 Rohingya homes have been destroyed in five Rakhine villages.

The recent operation by the Myanmar military has displaced up to 250,000 people and affected thousands more. The situation is dire, according to John McKissick, the UNHCR head in Bangladesh:

“Rohingya Muslims in Burma are being ethnically cleansed. Myanmar security forces have been killing men, shooting them, slaughtering children, raping women, and burning and looting houses, forcing these people to cross the river illegally into Bangladesh.”

When the military dictator Ne Win took power in Myanmar (then Burma) in 1962, he …

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