Palestinians register: doing research with refugees

Most research on refugees is conducted by people who are not refugees. This is not necessarily a problem and much of this work is of great value due to its rigour and ethical approach. But another way to do research on refugees is to do the research along with refugees, identifying refugee researchers or training refugees in research skills and methods. While several unique benefits arise from this approach, it also faces many obstacles and presents significant challenges to researchers trying to co-ordinate such a project.

An example of this approach is the Palestinians Register, a participatory civic needs assessment undertaken in 2004 and 2005 to provide a voice to Palestinian refugees and exiles, the results of which have been recently published on FMO. The consultation and research was conducted by refugees themselves and the report authors claim that they have uncovered not only the aspirations of participants but also the means to achieve them. The report is huge and wide-ranging and appears (I confess to not having read it all) to contain a richness of data and analysis that is perhaps enabled by this research approach. It will be interesting to see the impact that is has.

In a review of Doing Research with Refugees, Cindy Horst provides a brief discussion into the noted challenges and opportunities of this approach to refugee research, suggesting that further discussion and evaluation is required on these methodological challenges. The reaction to the Palestinian Register may throw up some answers and probably some more questions on this subject.


Asylum update – 25th January 2008

UNHCR’s parliamentary briefing on the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill

Older Refugees
A working paper from the Refugee Council on the older refugees programme – a literature review and interviews with refugees

Section 4 support
The Immigration and Asylum (Provision of Services or Facilities) Regulations 2007 will come into force on 31st January. They cover needs not connected with accommodation for those supported under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, including travel for specified journeys, telephone calls/letters and allowances for pregnant women and for children.

BIA and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will be merging later this year.
Press release and Border review.

Call for Papers
Return and Onward Migration Workshop
School of Social and Political Studies, University of Edinburgh 9th-11th April 2008

We welcome abstracts of up to 250 words for papers from all relevant social science disciplines and with any geographical focus on the following suggested themes: In/voluntary repatriation; Return of repatriates; Resettlement policies; Un/official dispersal; Beyond “the myth of return”; Migrant identities. Please send abstracts (including your name, email address, and institutional affiliation) by Friday 1st February 2008 to:

Contact: and Leverhulme Early Career Fellows School of Social and Political Studies University of Edinburgh

Event – Challenges and Solutions: Undocumented migrants and failed asylum seekers
Saturday, 2 February 2008 2:00pm to 5:00pm
Praxis Community Projects, Pott Street, London, E2 0EF

–          Presentation on the legacy asylum case resolution

–          Presentation on the ongoing campaign for a regularisation

–          Brainstorming sessions to discuss issues faced by undocumented migrants and those who work with them

–          Opportunity for migrants to network with support organisations, and for organisations to discuss best practices

–          Medecins du Monde medical clinic open for migrants who need medical advice

For further information contact Kathryn Dennler:
020 7749 7615

A bill of rights and responsibilities?

A couple of weeks back, this blog discussed a piece by Julian Baggini on the libertarian and communitarian approaches to rights, which describes the two as providing the new cleavage in politics but suggests that the way forward is to borrow from both traditions. The communitarian argument, as Baggini points out, has always been an undercurrent of New Labour’s, particularly ‘Blairite’, political philosophy. Monday’s speech by Justice Minister Jack Straw suggests that this strain of thought is to become more explicit, though his speech is illustrative of the challenges presented by attempting to combine aspects of the libertarian and the communitarian.

Straw proposed a Bill of Rights and Responsibility. He dismissed the proposals of the Conservatives to repeal the Human Rights Act (HRA) and replace it with a Bill of Rights, suggesting that such a move would mean delays in justice and actually surrender influence to European jurisprudence, pointing to Germany as an illustration of this. While acknowledging that the HRA has its critics, notably amongst the general public and the media, Straw is convinced that the balance to the libertarianism of the HRA is an explicit spelling out of the responsibilities of citizens in the UK, currently these are only implicit. There are two complications with this proposal.

First, he is not explicit on what these responsibilities are. It appears from the speech that determining these responsibilities should be left to Britons themselves, allowing them to ‘have an emotional stake in, and be connected with’ the new Bill. This may be an attempt to combine a communitarian approach to responsibility with a libertarian approach to rights but there has been widespread scepticism towards suggestions that we should attempt to pin down Britishness or core values. Secondly, much of the criticism of the HRA is born out of the perception that certain ‘non-fundamental’ rights are afforded to people who have either done nothing to earn them or have relinquished them due to their actions. While there is probably popular support for the substance of some fundamental human rights, there is concern over the universal application of these rights across civil, political and economic spheres, most notably the perceived change in the focus on delivery of the NHS from contribution-based to needs-based.

There has been little evaluation of the reality of these claims, but the perception here is important. Perhaps, as Bikhu Parekh has suggested in his contribution to this volume, there is a need to rescue core, fundamental human rights from commoditisation (a situation where, Straw says, rights are to be ‘claimed’) and restore them to the centre of this debate. These most basic rights are perhaps the universal and the libertarian, with further rights and responsibilities the conditional and communitarian. For asylum seekers and refugees this is already the case. Asylum seekers are deprived of certain rights, many of which, advocates would argue, are rights that should be fundamental and universal. Refugees have access to more social and economic rights, with further civil and political rights available on being granted citizenship. ICAR’s refugee rights and responsibilities project is currently exploring how refugees perceive these rights and the new responsibilities that come with them. Would a more explicit understanding of what is expected of refugees and other long-term migrants aid their integration or would it be thought of as top-down assimilation?

Displacement and Iraq

To get a sense of the extent and magnitude of the displacement crisis unfolding and reproducing in Iraq, take a look at this briefing from MPI. In addition to providing a statistical breakdown by region and religion of the estimated more than 4.5 million people displaced from Iraq, the report also suggests that a number of factors are exacerbating the situation and making its resolution more difficult and less likely.

Firstly, as a consequence of some weaknesses in the nascent central administration and remaining security concerns in some regions, controls on population movements within and between Iraqi Governorates have increased. This means that those displaced have little recourse to a safe route out of or reasonable protection within Iraq. The humanitarian situation is made worse by the urban nature of much of this displacement. As the report reminds us, while refugee camps can generate their own problems, they do present aid workers with a discrete focus for support.

The report also criticises the international response. Less than 5,000 refugees had been relocated to third countries as part of formal resettlement schemes by December 2007. We have posted on ICAR blogs previously about the campaign to resettle Iraqi interpreters and how, if successful, this would just be the tip of the iceberg. These figures bear this out with stark clarity.

Asylum update – 18th January 2008

UNHCR’s Statistical Yearbook 2006, published December 2007

Home Office

Ten point plan for border protection and immigration reform. Read a recent Refblog entry on the plan.

Women’s Asylum News
Latest edition of Women’s Asylum News, January 2008


Colloquium – ‘Other Europes’: Agents of Transformation

Institute for the Study of European Transformations
London Metropolitan University
31 January – 1st February 2008 9.30-6pm

Elmar Altvater, Birgit Mahnkopf, Peter Gowan, Kate Soper, John Palmer, Donatella della Porta, Jill Rutter, Sonia Mckay, Patrick Stevenson, Jean-Léo Léonard, Sara Silvestri, Gino Raymond, Judy Batt, Geoffrey Pridham, Tim Haughton


  • Religion and Secularity
  • Migration, Mobility and Social Cohesion
  • Language and Identity
  • Politics in the new EU member states

For further details of the entire programme and to register click here

Museums & Refugees: Keeping Cultures Conference
13 & 14 March 2008
Museum in Docklands, London

This conference will explore the changing shape of community cultures and how museums and heritage sector agencies respond to complex historical, ethical, legal, social and political issues.
Welcome by Professor Jack Lohman, Director of the Museum of London
Keynote speeches by Bemma Donkoh, UNHCR Representative to the UK (invited) and Clara Arokiasamy, Chair of the Heritage and Diversity Task Force, GLA

BIA’s priority is protection, but of what?

The ten point plan for reforming asylum and immigration, released in a speech this week by Immigration Minister Liam Byrne, was largely predictable: Police-like powers for border forces, deportations of illegal immigrants and foreign prisoners, removals of failed asylum seekers, e- and biometric border control. The press release lists countless targets met in recent months, largely targets that are proof of increased restrictions, containment and control. It is certainly the role of the BIA to perform these functions competently, and the emphasis of the ten-point plan is clarified by four priorities: ‘protection, prevention, accountability and compassion’.

Surprisingly, the Refugee Council blog appears to see this as a cause for praise suggesting that ‘it was good to see that Mr Byrne put protection first. In recent years politicians have focused heavily on the need to increase border control and eliminate abuse of the system.’ This seems to be a misinterpretation of the priorities. When Byrne mentions protection, surely he means of borders, not of refugees. Furthermore, while compassion may be one of the priorities, it doesn’t seem to be the basis for many of the ten points of the plan – here.

Byrne’s plan is definitely compact and structured. One of the main problems for asylum and immigration policy in recent years has been its disjointed delivery and often knee-jerk basis. While there may be little reference in the policy detail to the ‘compassion’ of Byrne’s speech, restoring confidence in the government’s ability to manage the immigration and asylum systems may be a first necessary step in the evolution of a system that genuinely promotes compassion and prioritises refugee protection.

Asylum update – 14th January 2008

Audit of race relations across the immigration detention estate
An audit report of race relations across the immigration detention estate conducted by Focus Consultancy Ltd has been published.
Download the full report at:

Asylum seeking children

Refugee Council briefing on the project for families whose asylum claims have been refused.
This briefing sets out information about the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) Clannebor pilot in Leeds, which intends to work with families so that they depart from the UK.

Case resolution and unaccompanied children
Refugee Children’s Consortium’s
briefing on case resolution on asylum applications made by unaccompanied children and young people seeking asylum

briefing folder on Iraq
UNHCR has started to produce Country Briefing Folders on the top countries of origin. The Country Briefing Folders contain general background information, information relating to the legal context of the country, human rights, international protection considerations regarding particular groups, and additional information.

The progressive immigration policy debate – public meeting in Parliament

Compass and the Barrow Cadbury Trust are holding a debate entitled ‘Towards a progressive immigration policy’, on Tuesday 29 January 2008, 6pm, Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House, SW1.

Speakers include: Liam Byrne MP, Immigration Minister; Jon Cruddas MP; Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian; Sukhvinder Stubbs, Barrow Cadbury Trust; Neil Jameson, London Citizens; Don Flynn, Migrants Rights Network; Polly Toynbee, The Guardian (Chair)

Attendance is free and open to all. However, please RSVP