Conflict, Human Displacement, and Integration: Exploring the Vulnerability of Refugees

Conflict, Human Displacement, and Integration: Exploring the Vulnerability of Refugees

Cuneyt Gurer (University of Siegen, Germany) and Arif Akgul (Indiana State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9627-1.ch002


International and regional conflicts have been the most significant source of forced displacement and mass migration for decades. In a globalized world, human displacement reached its highest numbers and conflict became the number one reason for people to leave their home countries. This chapter analyzes the relationship between conflict and human displacement in a globalized context and demonstrates different stages of displacement. Each stage is connected with relevant levels of analysis (international, state, society, and individual) and the chapter argues that refugees become subjects of different risks at international, state, and societal levels during and after the displacement process. At each level, the nature of vulnerability changes and refugees are mostly affected by several external conditions, of which they have very limited control. By looking at the human (forced) displacement as a phenomenon from global to regional than local will help us to understand how the displacement process itself increases the vulnerability of displaced groups and individuals.
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Human displacement is a historical phenomenon experienced for centuries. Reasons, consequences and means of displacement changes over time and in most cases displacement happens due to a number of factors such as natural disasters, economic changes, wars, and armed conflicts. Forced displacement is also connected with economic, political, technological and other systemic changes at the global level. What makes displacement today different than earlier times has various explanations; the establishment of migration and refugee regime after WWII created normative boundaries of migrants refugees affecting their international rights, applications of stricter border regimes of States created an illegal business of human trafficking and smuggling which made journeys of displacement more dangerous and made migrants and refugees, especially women and children, more vulnerable, developments in communication and transportation technologies made journeys easier for those who could afford to benefit from these developments. Migration, as a general term, has been part of the human development at all ages; however, refugees are the creation of the modern world (Adelman, 1999; Haddad 2008).

Refugees become an issue of international politics after the creation of modern Westphalian State system1 which has the presumption that every individual should be part of a State through citizenship, and the State has the main responsibility to protect its citizens against various threats. According to Adelman (1999, p. 90) refugees becoming a modern phenomenon is not related to the fact that modernity created more conflicts but it is mostly related to the creation of self-governing modern states and assuming those states would protect the rights of their own citizens. When a State fails to protect its own citizens, and people start fleeing from conflict or persecution, they enter into another State which has the sovereign right to permit those people to stay or not. International Refugee Regime which has been created with 1951 Refugee Convention (also known as Geneva Refugee Convention of 1951) and its 1967 Protocol provided a framework for the rights of those people who cannot go back to their home country and challenging the sovereignty of the host State by crossing the borders without initial permission. However, refugees are part of a small set of actors in international society and they do not fit into the system perfectly (Orchard, 2014). As indicated by several scholars (Haddad, 2008, p.7; Keely, 1996; Orchard, 2014, p. 1046) “as long as there are political borders constructing separate states and creating clear definitions of insiders and outsiders, there will be refugees.” Therefore, within the framework of the new definition, refugees are created because of the protectionist nature of the Westphalian state system.

The complexity of human displacement at the international level has its consequences both at the national level related to the legal and administrative structure of the host State and at the societal level. According to Grant and Short (2002) global and local are not two distinct analytical categories but instead, the global is conceptualized as already embedded in the local. There are multiple relationships between global and local and migration and refugee issue are one of those relationships between them. This chapter will examine the refugees between global and local levels, by mainly looking at how refugees become vulnerable at different stages of displacement. In order to examine this relationship, this study develops a model that considers conflict as an intervening variable between refugees and globalization.

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