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In what ways and with what consequences are responses to forced migration in the Global South and Global North linked
Forced migration has become a major issue in international law and politics. The incidence of forced migration has been exacerbated globally due to the rise in situations involving armed conflicts, human rights violations and environmental degradation in various parts of the world. However, forced migration is also a result of economic conditions, which force people to leave their homes. Forced migration is particularly an issue for the Global South, many parts of which are the most impacted by worsening security and environmental conditions. Consequently, there are many countries within the Global South that have also had to share the burden of forced migration. Forced migration has also become an important political and social issue for many countries in the Global North that are faced with an increasing number of refugees and asylum seekers, particularly from the Global South. The developed nations cannot isolate themselves from the humanitarian problems that lead to displacement of people and as many of these countries are also parties to the global international regime on refugee protection, they are bound to accept the responsibility to host refugee populations. The responses to forced migration from both the Global South and the North provide important linkages. When faced with rising incidence of forced migration, both the Global South as well as the North are forced to respond to the situation by hosting more refugees and asylum seekers. However, the economic and political burdens of hosting large refugee populations has meant that the developing countries in the South have been unable to respond to the refugee crisis, and a greater responsibility has fallen on the Global North (Long, 2010). A consequence of the same has been that there is now a growing opposition to incoming immigrants from the Global South into the North, with objections relating to integration and security issues being prominent (Bakewell, 2008). This essay argues that the increased incidence of conflict, development and environmental related forced migration from the South has led to a refugee crisis for the North, with certain consequences for the immigrants. This essay also contends that the misplaced response to these situations that argues that North is responsible for creating conditions that have led to the creation of the forced migration problem, therefore, the North must share the larger part of the burden of the refugee problem, is counter-productive. These arguments are counter-productive because ultimately, the immigrants are the people who face disadvantages of this approach. They are increasingly the victims of xenophobia in the Northern countries of their refuge. The essay emphasises that the responses to the forced immigration need to be more nuanced and simplistic arguments about whose responsibility the immigrants are, have failed to provide real solutions.
Forced Migration: Causes, Concerns and Problems
Forced migrants is a wide term that can be used to describe refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, development induced displaced persons, environmental refugees and victims of human trafficking (Benz & Hasencleaver, 2011, p. 186). Therefore, forced migration can be caused due to a number of reasons. Such migrations can be the result of war and armed conflicts which lead to refugee flows from the affected region. In that case, forced migration can see an increase in the number of asylum seekers, and refugees from the region affected by such disturbances (Castles, 2003). Forced migration can be the result of development-induced displacement, which has also seen a considerable rise in the post-Cold War era. In the recent period, scholars have also brought attention to the issue of forced migration as a result of the rapid alterations to ecosystems within certain societies (Boano, et al., 2007). The term ‘environmental refugees’ may be used to describe the people who are forced to migrate from their homes due to the direct and indirect impacts on their societies of such ecological changes that their coping mechanisms are also overcome and such societies are left with no choice but to migrate (Boano, et al., 2007). The term ‘environmental refugee’ has little basis for definition in international law, as such refugees are not really recognised by the principal international conventions in this field, the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees 1951. However, the term has been defined by el-Hinnawi as follows: “those people who have been forced to leave their traditional habitat, temporarily or permanently, because of a marked environmental disruption (natural and/or triggered by people) that jeopardised their existence and/or seriously affected the quality of their life” (el-Hinnawi, 1985, p. 4). Economic factors are also usually responsible for creating situations that lead to forced migration. The societies forced to migrate, do so for economic reasons where the need to migrate has been brought about by lack of development or environmental factors. As ecological changes impact the homelands of people making it hard for them to secure livelihood due to onsets of “droughts, soil erosion, desertification, deforestation and other environmental problems, together with associated problems of population pressures and profound poverty. In their desperation, these people feel they have no alternative but to seek sanctuary elsewhere, however hazardous the attempt” (Myers, 2005, pp. 6-7). The Global South has seen the highest incidence of forced migration in recent times and there are a number of reasons for this, grounded in factors related to peace and conflict, economy and ecology (Betts & Loescher, 2011, p. 20). The problems associated most with the changes in climate and ecology are the most visible in their effects in the Global South with lack access to potable water; deforestation; problems with reduced productivity in agriculture and fisheries are all most prevalent in their effects with respect to the Global South (Boano, et al., 2007, p. 14). According to one study the period between 1980-2000, saw the displacement of 141 million people in 3,559 natural hazard events, with 97% of those affected living in developing countries (Gilbert, 2001, p. 1). This is just an indication of the problem that is created by ecological changes or events that have the potential to displace people from their homes. Global South remains the region that is the most affected by conflicts, that have also compounded the refugee crisis (Zetter, 2007). Many countries in the Global South are some of the world’s poorest nations, with decreased opportunities for development and sustenance (Castles, 2009). The relationship between migration and development has received a lot of attention in the recent times, and the relationship has certain implications for North-South relations (World Bank, 2007). Earlier discourse on the issue viewed the inter-relationship between migration, mobility and development (Bakewell, 2008). In this context, forced migrations from situations wherein the people of a place find themselves unable to make a living become pertinent. At the same time, it is important to note that economic refugees do not really find recognition under the present structure of refugee recognition and protection under the international law. Therefore, the problems of forced migration become more complex when viewed from the perspective of international law, which only recognizes certain kinds of situations as giving rise to refugee status. This leads to the automatic exclusion of people who are forced to migrate from their homelands due to economic or environmental reasons, from the protective mechanism of the international law on refugee protection. The denial to accept economic migrants as refugees is deliberate. This denial is based on the compunctions to address the need to accommodate more migrants than necessitated by the obvious needs created by war and armed conflicts. The conflicts that have caused the major forced migrations in the recent past, all exist in countries in the Global South, but the movements of the migrations have been towards the North (Long, 2010). This may be partly due to the fact that conflicts in the Global South have shown a tendency to spill over into neighbouring countries (Long, 2010). Regionalisation of conflict in the Global South has led to the larger refugee movements from these areas (Long, 2010). Due to regionalisation of conflict, the movements of refugees is transnational, where refugees try to reach safe zones across many conflict ridden states (Hettne, et al., 2008). This situation is particularly seen in the Syrian crisis (Reese, 2013), where conflict caused due to the Islamic State has spilled over in the neighbouring regions due to arms transfer, movement of armed groups and collusion between state governments (Long, 2010).
Responses to Forced Migration in the Global South and the Global North: The Linkages
The issue of forced migrations is one that involves trans-national concerns and responses. The international community has time and again been forced to respond to the issue of forced migrations by establishing the international law regime on forced migration and then extending or adjusting it as the situations demanded (Benz & Hasencleaver, 2011). This includes specifically the international law responses to the refugee issue, specifically the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees 1951 and the 1967 Protocol to the Convention. However, the problems that are associated with forced migrations to a specific country and that country’s responses to the migrants, are complex and seen in the context of North-South contexts, these problems are magnified by issues of colonialism and attribution. The responses to forced migration that postulate that the Global North must share a greater responsibility for the forced immigrants due to its participation in complex issues of colonisation, intervention in domestic politics and globalisation, are misplaced. These responses do not solve the problem for the forced migrants, which is one of forced displacement. In the North, the consequences of sharing the greater burden of hosting forced migrants, are increasingly negative for the immigrants. These consequences include restrictive immigration laws and policies by states. For instance, UK has recently passed the Immigration Act 2016, which seeks to create greater restrictive controls with respect to immigration. This is accomplished by the Act by making UK less attractive to immigrants by denying certain services such as housing to those who do not have right to rent (Vargas-Silva, 2015, p. 2). Moreover, the Act makes several provisions to prevent and punish illegal immigration (Crawford, et al., 2016). Here, the term illegal immigration is deceptive because, the Act does not really differentiate between illegal immigrants and forced migrants. Similarly, in the United States, mandatory immigration detention is done under the statutory provisions (8 U.S.C. § 1227(a) (2012)), which is detention “without the right to an individualized bond hearing as to their risk of flight or danger to the community” (Das, 2013, p. 138). Mandatory detention regime too seeks to restrict the number of immigrants and detains immigrants without permits, including families fleeing from violent situations in their countries. The growing opposition in the North to immigrants from the South is based on complex issues that relate to security, race and xenophobia. In recent times, there has been a greater opposition to immigration from the South on the claims that the immigrants fail to integrate in the Western society; and the increased securatisation in the Western nations due to the perceived fears of Islamic fundamentalism. These fears and concerns have led to stringent anti-immigration measures, such as, detention laws or social control that impact immigrants and actually impede their assimilation in the Western society. The issue of forced migrations has become an integral part of North-South relationships and is closely linked to current processes of global social transformation (Castles, 2003). The complex inter-relationships between the Global North and South on the issue of forced migration sees the responses to forced migrations being made within these complexities. The Global South considers the Global North to be in part responsible for many of the factors that force people to migrate in the first place and the Global North considers the problems of the South to be something that has to be dealt with within that region. In context of environmental refugees, the forced migrations from the Global South are already in the process (Boano, et al., 2007). The migration is taking place towards the North and the developed countries have not been able to isolate themselves from the problems of forced migration. One commentator says: “Developed countries cannot isolate themselves from distress and disaster in developing countries: already there are sizeable numbers of environmental refugees who have made their way, usually illegally, into OSCE countries and today's stream will surely come to be regarded as a trickle when compared with the floods that will ensue in decades ahead”. The complex responses by the Global North to the forced migration from the Global South have in recent years varied from welcoming refugees and asylum seekers to demanding restrictions on the number of refugees that can come in. Although, forced migration is seen as a global problem, the responses to the problem are particularly domestic as these responses involving creating a regulatory mechanism within a state for allowing refugees and other migrants to come into the state. Recently, there has been an increase in the claims for restricting refugees in many countries of the Global North (Zetter, 2009). These claims have also been made with appeals to political and at times a racist rhetoric that focusses on the “scale of irregular and unregulated migration, the purported abuse of the refugee convention and the impacts on domestic social cohesion” (Zetter, 2009, pp. 2-3). Admittedly, the demand of restrictionism is not limited to the developed countries of the world. Similar demands of restrictionism are made by many countries in the developing world as well, which have specifically faced significant number of refugee populations. The international law approach, and one which has seen acceptance by both the Global North as well as the South, has been to reconceptualise the responsibilities of individual states towards issues related to forced migration through the evolution of the ‘responsibility to protect’ principle. The ‘responsibility to protect’ principle has been the formulation of the Outcome document of the World Summit 2005. Under this principle, states have the responsibility to protect people from crimes such as, genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This principle therefore, puts a specific responsibility on the individual state as per which the state is supposed to ensure that its people are not threatened by these crimes and the consequences of these crimes. As states themselves may be unable to or unwilling to abide by its responsibility to protect its people, the international community too has certain responsibilities under the principle, specifically the responsibility “to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” (Outcome Document, para 39). As mentioned earlier, the principle of ‘responsibility to protect’ in theory has received acceptance from both the Global North as well as the South. However, in practice, there are complex reactions or response to the principle. Many countries within the Global South have shown willingness to deal with forced migrations by allowing people to come into their territories only if the international community meets the needs of such refugees and that is a condition for these countries to admit and refrain from refoulement of refugees (Slaughter & Crisp, 2008). A consequence of the refusal at times of a developing country to take on the responsibilities of forced migrants has been the shifting of more and more responsibilities. These responsibilities have been taken on by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, so that the gaps that are left by the host states in the upholding of the rights of the refugee populations within their borders, are filled by the UNHCR itself (Slaughter & Crisp, 2008). This has led to the fostering of a regime in many developing countries with refugee populations, where the only response by the host state would be to refrain from making restrictive immigration laws, whereas the actual financial burden of responding to the needs of the refugee population are met by the international community through the UNHCR (Slaughter & Crisp, 2008). Therefore, the greater involvement of the UNHCR in the response to refugee problems are an evidence of the burden shifting towards the UNHCR (Long, 2010). A case in point is that of Pakistan, which has been hosting Afghan refugees starting from the 1970s. The Afghan refugee problem is a classic case of waves of forced migrations that have happened from Afghanistan since the 1970s. These waves of forced refugees and asylum seekers have usually moved towards Pakistan in the hope of finding a refuge and for its part Pakistan has hosted millions of refugees from Afghanistan since the 1970s. It is noteworthy that Pakistan is not a state party to the 1951 Refugee Convention although, it has been pointed out that Pakistan has usually treated Afghan refugees well better in Pakistan than they would be in Afghanistan (Lischer, 2006). Pakistan has on occasion spoken out against the burden that hosting Afghan refugees puts on its economy and has even taken preventive measures from time to time to prevent an influx of Afghan migrants through its borders (Adelman, 2016). Therefore, a noteworthy response from the Global South to the issue of forced migration has been to put more onus on the Global North for the responsibility of the migrants. The rising incidence of forced migration towards the Global North has also brought to fore the complex North-South cultural differences, with the consequence that one of the commonly stated objection to migration from the South in the North is the issue of integration and assimilation of the refugees. Public discourse in the Western nations off late has focused on the inability of the refugees from developing nations to integrate in the Western societies and this is used as one of the principal arguments for restricting refugees’ entry into the Western nations (Long, 2010). Growing Islamic presence in the Western nations and perceived fears of Islamic fundamentalism are usually the basis for such arguments relating to integration (Long, 2010). A consequence of this has been more political, social and economic marginalisation and stigmatization for the forced migrants, especially those who are from Islamic nations. There is a purposive strategy employed by many Western countries such as United States and the United Kingdom for the restriction of immigrants from Islamic nations, linked to issues related to securitization in the face of increasing fears of fundamentalism and terrorism. Usually, the methods of restrictions have been used against immigrants or refugees from Islamic nations with increasing use of detention, deportation and denaturalisation procedures, so that the non- citizens can be removed from state territory (Long, 2010). Immigration control has become common in these countries as they respond to balancing the growing refugee populations and asylum seekers with the needs for securitisation (Gibney, 2008). Amidst all of this, the debate on who bears a greater responsibility for the displacement of people and therefore for hosting them, continues. A common argument heard in the debate is that because countries in the North have created problems in the Middle East or in Africa, these countries must bear the burden of the ensuing forced migrations (Walt, 2015). These arguments have not really addressed the real problem, that is, the problem of displacement. Instead, the growing numbers of forced migrants have forced public debates on immigration issues, leading to states becoming more restrictionist in their approach to the issue of forced migration. This is seen in the laws passed by states, such as United States and United Kingdom, which make it more and more difficult for people fleeing situations of conflict and environmental disasters to find a refuge in these nations.
The inter-linked responses between the South and the North to the problem of forced migration, with the South demanding more from the North and the North responding with greater restrictionist laws, have not helped the real victims in the problem, that is, the forced migrants. Therefore, the responses are wrong and misplaced as they fail to resolve the problem of displacement or respond to those who are displaced, with humanity. In the recent time, there have been debates on immigration control in most of the countries in the North. The overarching issue in these debates has been the need to control the growing immigration into the states of the North. The reasons for such demands are complex and are based on issues that relate to race, needs for securitisation and the perceived problems of assimilation of the immigrants into the Western society. There is a rise in xenophobia and demands for curtailing immigration and states have responded to such demands by making stricter laws on immigration control. In such a climate, the argument that the North should shoulder a greater burden for the rising costs of wars, armed conflicts and environmental damage, as manifested in the growing numbers of migrants, does not work. While the merits of the argument are not disputed, the complex responses in the North to the refugees and migrants, are also worth considering.
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