Survival Migration

Survival Migration: Failed Governance and the Crisis of Displacement

Alexander Betts
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Survival Migration
    Book Description:

    International treaties, conventions, and organizations to protect refugees were established in the aftermath of World War II to protect people escaping targeted persecution by their own governments. However, the nature of cross-border displacement has transformed dramatically since then. Such threats as environmental change, food insecurity, and generalized violence force massive numbers of people to flee states that are unable or unwilling to ensure their basic rights, as do conditions in failed and fragile states that make possible human rights deprivations. Because these reasons do not meet the legal understanding of persecution, the victims of these circumstances are not usually recognized as "refugees," preventing current institutions from ensuring their protection. In this book, Alexander Betts develops the concept of "survival migration" to highlight the crisis in which these people find themselves.

    Examining flight from three of the most fragile states in Africa-Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia-Betts explains variation in institutional responses across the neighboring host states. There is massive inconsistency. Some survival migrants are offered asylum as refugees; others are rounded up, detained, and deported, often in brutal conditions. The inadequacies of the current refugee regime are a disaster for human rights and gravely threaten international security. In Survival Migration, Betts outlines these failings, illustrates the enormous human suffering that results, and argues strongly for an expansion of protected categories.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6896-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Maps
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    States are primarily responsible for ensuring the human rights of their own citizens. Sometimes, though, the assumed relationship between state and citizen breaks down and states are unable or unwilling to provide the rights of their citizens. Through malevolence, incompetence, or lack of capacity, many governments cease to ensure that their citizens have access to the fundamental conditions for human dignity. That people who cannot access basic human rights in their own country are entitled to run for their lives is widely recognized and accepted as an important part of what makes the international society of states both legitimate and...

    (pp. 10-28)

    In the context of the changing nature of forced displacement, who should have an entitlement to cross an international border and seek asylum? Given that the refugee regime was a product of its time and mainly provides protection to only a narrow group of people fleeing targeted persecution, how can we conceptualize the broader category of people who today cross an international border and are in need of protection because of serious human rights deprivations? If “refugee” is a legal-institutional category defined by state practice, how can we stand apart from that and render visible the situation of the many...

    (pp. 29-53)

    Survival migration represents an emerging challenge in world politics. It matters because of its implications for human rights and security. Yet there is no clearly defined international institutional framework to address the issue. The refugee regime exists to protect and assist people who cross borders in desperate circumstances, but it focuses on protecting only a very small proportion of those who flee desperate human rights deprivations, those defined as refugees. Nevertheless, sometimes people who fall outside the dominant legal interpretation of who is a refugee do receive protection from the refugee regime. The refugee regime has sometimes adapted at the...

  8. 3 SOUTH AFRICA: The Ad Hoc Response to the Zimbabwean Influx
    (pp. 54-77)

    Since the start of the millennium, Zimbabwe has gone from being one of the most developed countries in Africa to one that is mired in economic and political crisis. After the government of Robert Mugabe initiated a wave of land invasions to transfer white-owned farms to its political supporters in 2000, the resulting international sanctions, capital flight, declining agricultural productivity, and hyperinflation conspired to plunge living standards to a level that ranks the country alongside the most fragile and failed states in the world. In addition to widespread political violence and the persecution of people associated with the political opposition,...

  9. 4 BOTSWANA: The Division of Zimbabweans into Refugees and Migrants
    (pp. 78-89)

    South Africa has not been the only state affected by the Zimbabwean influx, although it remains the most high profile of the receiving countries. Zimbabwean survival migrants have dispersed throughout southern Africa, including to Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, and Namibia. Second to South Africa, Botswana has been the primary destination. Although far smaller than the movement to South Africa, the number of people crossing the border has been significant relative to Botswana’s overall population. At the height of the crisis in 2008, it is estimated that some 1 million individuals crossed the border, and between 40,000 and 100,000 Zimbabweans were...

  10. 5 ANGOLA: The Expulsion of the Congolese
    (pp. 90-116)

    Between 2003 and 2009, the government of Angola (GoA) rounded up, detained, and deported between 300,000 and 400,000 Congolese from the diamond mining areas on its territory. While the use of deportation by states is not unusual, the scale of the expulsions, the methods used to deport, and the vulnerabilities of many of those deported sets this case apart from most state practices of deportation. The range of human rights violations that took place in the process of deportation include the systematic use of gang rape, sexual violence, beatings, unhygienic body cavity searches, mutilation, extended periods of detention, and women...

  11. 6 TANZANIA: The Paradoxical Response to Congolese from South Kivu
    (pp. 117-134)

    This chapter tells the story of survival migration from the Congolese province of South Kivu to the Kigoma region of Tanzania.¹ South Kivu was a focal point of the two Congo Wars (1996–1997 and 1998–2003), during which the spillover of Tutsi-Hutu violence from the Rwandan genocide was manipulated by a range of state and nonstate actors for economic and political gain (Lemarchand 2004, 62; Vlassenroot 2002, 501). The Congo Wars led to massive human displacement, including the outflow of refugees (Lischer 2007, 151). Around 150,000 Congolese refugees crossed Lake Tanganyika to the Kigoma region, where many have been...

  12. 7 KENYA: Humanitarian Containment and the Somalis
    (pp. 135-159)

    Since the collapse of Siad Barre’s authoritarian regime in Somalia in 1991, civil conflict and interclan violence have led to state collapse, destroying the governance structures that characterize most functional nation-states. The formal institutions that usually guarantee property rights, ensure law and order, and enable markets to exist have given way to an anarchical territory in which constantly shifting distributions of power among rival groups undermine security.

    Without a functioning state, people have lacked the most basic institutions to ensure their fundamental human rights. Faced with a lack of access to food, water, physical security, or a viable livelihood, with...

  13. 8 YEMEN: Contrasting Responses to Somalis and Ethiopians
    (pp. 160-172)

    Somalis have dispersed throughout their own region and beyond because of the failure of their state. Just across the Gulf of Aden, Yemen has been the most immediate destination outside East Africa. It hosts an estimated 220,000 Somalis,¹ and it represents a transit country on the way to the Middle East, the Gulf states, and Europe. The opportunity for transit coupled with a sizable and well-integrated Somali diaspora makes it an attractive destination. Somalis fleeing to Yemen face a treacherous route, however, as they travel northward across Somalia to coastal ports such as Bosaso or even Djibouti. Using smuggling networks,...

    (pp. 173-187)

    The six previous chapters highlight an immense regional and global challenge. People who flee state persecution across international borders are relatively consistently recognized as refugees, but those who flee serious rights deprivations face a much more inconsistent response. While those who flee targeted violations by the government generally obtain access to asylum, those who flee the state’s inability or unwillingness to ensure people’s rights face a far more mixed and uncertain response.

    This matters because although the number of repressive states in the world may be in decline, the number of weak states—so-called fragile and failed states—represents a...

    (pp. 188-198)

    This book began with a simple observation. Many people are fleeing fragile and failed states across international borders because they cannot access their most fundamental human rights at home. And yet because the modern refugee regime was created at a particular historical juncture and for a particular period, its definition of a refugee excludes large numbers of these people. While one would imagine that people facing a serious threshold of human rights deprivations for which they have no access to a domestic remedy would be refugees, in practice many are not. The refugee regime was created to protect people fleeing...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 199-212)
  17. References
    (pp. 213-226)
  18. Index
    (pp. 227-234)