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FORCED-MIGRATION  July 2011

FORCED-MIGRATION July 2011

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Subject:

Re: Request for Information: History of concept of refugee camps

From:

Forced Migration List <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Forced Migration List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 18 Jul 2011 12:04:05 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (133 lines)

 From Jeff Crisp,
Head, Policy Development and Evaluation,
UNHCR

I'd like to raise some questions about the following statement made by 
one of my former colleagues in an earlier post:

"You might also want to follow up with the sources it cites, especially 
Barbara Harrell-Bond's research on camps as manifestations of early 
1960s "modernization" development theory, abandoned by the World Bank 
but continued by UNHCR (i.e., the oddly Stalinist idea nevertheless 
embraced by Western elites that primitive peoples must have their lives 
uprooted and reordered in regimented ways in order for them to advance)."

First, I've not seen any real evidence that UNHCR embraced modernization 
theory (or that UNHCR persisted with this notion after it has been 
abandoned by the World Bank). If there is such evidence, please let us 
know where it can be found. It is true that in her 2000 paper (published 
incidentally by UNHCR) Barbara Harrell-Bond states that "UNHCR also saw 
African refugees through the lens of modernization." But she then goes 
on to make the following (and possibly contradictory) statement.

"Refugee settlement in host countries was not intended to result in 
situations of internment, which has become the norm in so many African 
countries today. Quite the contrary. Settling people in refugee camps 
was the means through which refugee livelihoods would be established and 
this new population be integrated into the host economy with some 
minimal international assistance. A settlement was defined by UNHCR as 
“a deliberate and coherent package and administrative measures whereby a 
group of refugees is enabled to settle on land, usually in an 
uninhabited or sparsely-populated area, with a view to creating new 
self-supporting rural communities that ultimately will form part of the 
economic and social system of the area."

In other words, far from embracing the idea of keeping refugees in 
closed camps, the UNHCR strategy was to promote refugee livelihoods, 
self-reliance and local settlement. While it is true to say that this 
strategy met with only modest success, was the motivation really so bad?

Second, it seems bizarre to suggest that UNHCR subscribed to the idea 
that "primitive people" had to be uprooted so that they could advance. 
While that may have been the position taken by some modernization 
theorists and the World Bank, UNHCR was dealing with people who had 
ALREADY BEEN FORCIBLY DISPLACED, and was confronted with the challenge 
of dealing with such situations. In that context, the notion of 
"creating self-supporting rural communities that ultimately will form 
part of the economic and social system of the area" does not seem at all 
Stalinist to me.

------------------------------

 >>> >>> Forced Migration List <[log in to unmask]> 18/07/2011 11:25 AM
 >>> >>>
Dear listers,

A few weeks ago I had posted a request for information regarding the
history of refugee camps. At the time many of you wrote to me saying
you'd be interested in what I found. So I am circulating the feedback
and information I received from the list. Attached (below) is a
document
compiling all the suggestions I received. I have also included a few
references from my end.

A big thank you to everyone who responded to my request.

Sincerely,

Mansha

-- Mansha Mirza, PhD Disability Studies IHS Postdoctoral Fellow Feinberg 
School of Medicine Northwestern University Phone: 312-503-6536 
------------------ I'm not sure if this helps at all, but I'm working 
right now on a dissertation about refugees in the balkans in 1875-1878. 
One thing I've found is that at least with regard to Austria-Hungary, 
there were no camps. Refugees were instead boarded with families in 
villages across the region. you see the word "internierung" or 
internment, but this refers to the moving of refugees away from the 
border, a practice that seems to derive from the international laws of 
asylum. I've often thought one way to get at this would be through 
military history--a rmies have camped forever, so here you'd get the 
technology of organization, supply, sanitation etc. But even here, the 
camp seems to come late in some respects. In the Franco Prussion war 
1870-1871 POWs were also typically boarded with locals. By world war one 
this has changed and camps were normal. Historians are increasingly 
looking outside of europe for test cases of technologies later imported 
into europe; the internment camp, for example may have been developed 
during imperial wars in africa. off the top of my head, check out 
_Absolute Destruction_ by Isabell Hull; the book is about german 
military culture, but has a fair bit on germans in Africa. I am no 
expert, but look at the concepts of quarantines in Early Modern Europe. 
I also remember that the Global Detention Project in Geneva is a good 
resource, you can contact Michael Flynn there for more information. They 
once did an even that spoke about the issue of space and refugee camps. 
The work of: Agamben, Gaim Kibreab, and Alice Sczepanikova with 
reference to the politics and ethics of camps I'm writing to you as a 
former UNHCR staff member with bits and pieces of information about the 
history of refugees and camps. You may know that these were first set up 
after WWII when the early precursors of UNHCR realized that to 'do' 
protection, you needed to assist people, so the first camps were set up 
in Eastern Europe. Ivor Jackson is an expert on this (former Deputy Head 
of the Protection Division in HCR, now retired). I am sure you could 
contact him through google or contacting HCR through their website. He 
would really be THE ultimate source for the information you are looking 
for. Article contribution – Warehousing Refugees – by Merrill Smith. You 
might also want to follow up with the sources it cites, especially 
Barbara Harrell-Bond's research on camps as manifestations of early 
1960s "modernization" development theory, abandoned by the World Bank 
but continued by UNHCR (i.e., the oddly Stalinist idea nevertheless 
embraced by Western elites that primitive peoples must have their lives 
uprooted and reordered in regimented ways in order for them to advance). 
My best bet is for you to see the work of Michel Agier, notably his most 
recent book, as well as the work of Anna Schmidt and Lisa Malkii. 
Richard Black, “Putting refugees in camps,” Forced Migration Review, 
Refugee Studies Centre, No. 2, August 1998 (Black 1998), p. 6. Gaim 
Kibreab, “Local Settlements in Africa: A Misconceived Option?” JRS, Vol. 
2, No. 4, 1989 (Kibreab 1989), pp. 473-74. Barbara Harrell-Bond, “Are 
refugee camps good for children?” UNHCR NIRR, Working Paper No. 29, 
August 2000 (Harrell-Bond 2000), p. 5. Agier (2005). On the margins of 
the world.
-- ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Note: The 
material contained in this communication comes to you from the Forced 
Migration Discussion List which is moderated by Forced Migration Online, 
Refugee Studies Centre (RSC), Oxford Department of International 
Development, University of Oxford. It does not necessarily reflect the 
views of the RSC or the University. If you re-print, copy, archive or 
re-post this message please retain this disclaimer. Quotations or 
extracts should include attribution to the original sources. E-mail: 
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