Three new books examine the experiences of refugees, migrants, and their host countries in Africa and beyond. All three offer much-needed corrections to our understanding of refugee experiences. Because much of the previous research and writing on immigration has been from the perspective of Western countries receiving immigrants, we know very little about what immigration policies and immigration experiences are like in non-Western countries.
What constitutes government policy toward immigrants?
In Kelsey P. Norman’s book Reluctant Reception: Refugees, Migration, and Governance in the Middle East and North Africa, she argues that governments in the Global South strategically deploy one of these three policy actions in relation to migrant and refugee populations: a liberal policy encouraging integration; repressive politics aimed at exclusion; Or strategic indifference, which you define as the government’s choice “not to involve these populations directly” but to leave it up to NGOs to manage refugee affairs on behalf of the receiving state.
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Norman interviews political elites, migrants, and refugees in countries that are major destinations for migrants and refugees: Egypt, Morocco, and Turkey. Norman describes the three countries as transit-turned-host countries, or countries “we previously assumed were only transit countries…now hosting semi-permanent migrants and refugees”.
“The Hesitant Reception” documents how governments adopt more liberal immigration and refugee policies to avoid international vilification, but also when they believe it will lead to economic and diplomatic benefits. For example, Norman attributes the liberalization of Morocco’s immigration policy in 2013 to putting pressure on King Mohammed VI’s government through international shaming led by transnational advocacy networks.
Documenting how transit-turned-host states can choose to use repression, Norman’s chapter on Egypt shows how the 2013 coup that toppled President Mohamed Morsi precipitated a shift to a more repressive immigration policy. Norman links this shift to the Egyptian government’s post-2013 views of migrant and refugee groups as a security threat.
While Norman’s research on immigration policy makes important scholarly contributions, her book is also clearly written and accessible to a non-academic audience. Most importantly, each chapter of “The Reluctant Welcome” begins with an immigrant’s story to help readers visualize what these policies mean to those they encounter in concrete human terms.
He explained the new regional peacekeeping force for West Africa
Ethnic ties play a large role in government policies
Lamis Elmi Abdelatty’s book, Discrimination and Delegation: Explaining State Responses Towards Refugees, argues that two factors shape asylum policy in the country of destination: (1) whether refugees and residents of the destination country share a common ethnic identity; and (ii) the relations between refugees’ home and countries of destination. Her book provides a global overview with in-depth look at the refugee situation in Egypt, Kenya and Turkey.
Governments choose to control refugees through sweeping or restrictive policies - or they delegate control to an international organization. Abdel-Aty argues that when a group of refugees has an ethnic kinship with the country of destination and their country of origin has hostile relations with the country of destination, the destination government tends to have a comprehensive asylum policy. Where the two countries have friendly relations, the government of the destination country will delegate responsibility for asylum policy to UNHCR. When a group of refugees does not share an ethnicity with the country of destination, the incoming migrants may face restrictive asylum policies—particularly if relations between host and destination countries are friendly.
Abdel-Aty provides compelling evidence for her analysis. Take, for example, Egypt, which helped draft the 1951 Refugee Convention. When relations between Sudan and Egypt were hostile, Egypt delegated its asylum policy toward Sudanese to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees—Sudanese seeking asylum have no ethnic ties to Egyptians. After relations between the two countries improved in 1999, Sudanese refugees faced increasing restrictions in Egypt, marked by widespread detention and deportation.
One of the important strengths of Abdel-Aty’s book is its humility. The evidence she analyzes frequently supports her argument, but she is transparent about data that does not match her expectations.
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How do refugees describe their journeys?
Sally Hayden’s book, The Fourth Time We Drown: Seeking Refuge on the World’s Deadliest Migration Route, forces readers to grapple with the violence and brutality migrants face as they try to cross the Mediterranean. Hayden’s powerful book conveys the harrowing stories migrants shared with her of their experiences in various Libyan migrant detention centers, from suffering near-starvation conditions to torture and even death.
Through Hayden’s inclusion of quotes from refugees, we hear the voices, opinions, and thoughts of refugees. Consider, for example, how many people in the world’s richest countries see UNHCR as an advocate for refugees versus how refugees describe UNHCR in their texts to Hayden: “UNHCR doesn’t work with us - it’s a criminal organization.” ’, or ‘UNHCR they are really smugglers, but the only difference is that the source of money for them is not from us but from the European Union, they keep us here until we die in order to get that money.
Hayden links immigrant experiences to specific European policies. My Fourth Time provides an accessible, critically reported account of the formation of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), whose mission is to “deliver an integrated and coordinated response to the diverse causes of instability and irregular and forced migration”. displacement.” An Oxfam report highlighted officials’ willingness to use the EUTF to “prevent the arrival of irregular migrants and enhance return efforts.”
Hayden also details the shift in EU migration management strategies after the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2012 that refugees intercepted on boats in the Mediterranean could not be returned to Libya on European boats. Instead, EU countries began “to equip, train and support the Libyan Coast Guard to carry out the interceptions themselves”.
In celebration of International Migrants Day, we learn from these books how the choices officials make shape the experiences of millions of migrants and refugees. Destination countries - including those in Europe - do not have to choose repression or return. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, for example, European leaders granted all Ukrainians temporary protection that included the right to work, education, housing, and health care. This choice can make a world of difference to others seeking asylum.
Catch up on all the amazing books on African politics for 2022:
Is it time to rethink how we study politics?
Two new books take different approaches to understanding South Africa
What would it take to build women’s rights after the war?
No, batman didn’t save the congo and other book reviews
The harsh police culture in Nigeria arose from colonial abuses
The “Islamic State in Africa” is exploring nine militant Islamist groups
Apartheid casts a shadow over South Africa
Paul Farmer’s latest book teaches more about pandemics
“Born in Blackness” is an unforgettable compelling read
Find all the books in our ninth summer read of amazing African politics here.