f_0010081_7828 - Changing Patterns of Flight Refugees in...

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Fall 2008 The Ambassadors REVIEW 17 Changing Patterns of Flight: Refugees in the 21 st Century Samuel M. Witten Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration his summer I visited Somali refugees at Dadaab camp in Kenya. Conditions were rough, and familiar from the news coverage we have all seen: people lined up for food rations in the blistering heat; very rudimentary housing, health clinics and latrines; and an atmosphere pervading the camp that had components of both restlessness and relief at finding safe haven. But these classic, even iconic images of refugees, and the relief they receive from international donors, belie the way refugee issues are changing around the world. International migration has soared, and not just from poor countries to wealthier ones. The Internet and other advances have made communication and travel easier for all sorts of people. Without a Cold War balance of power, the nature of conflict has changed and refugee flows have grown increasingly diverse and complex. As we confront threats of terrorism around the world, distinguishing those who would harm us from those who need our protection has become crucial. As I see it, three major trends are emerging as forces creating new dynamics in the refugee world in the 21 st century: First, the distinction between those who have fled across an international border and those who have sought refuge from conflict within their own country has blurred. In some areas, such as the area where Chad, Sudan, and Central African Republic meet, some of the displaced people have crossed an international border, and some have not. But they have similar needs. The global number of people who have fled abuses and become internally displaced far exceeds the number who have crossed international borders and become refugees. But unlike the refugee regime, the international architecture to protect internally displaced persons (IDPs) is fragmented—each state applies its laws without a framework of international law specific to IDPs, and there is no single humanitarian agency or unified system for responding to IDP needs. Second, more refugees find themselves in protracted situations that occasionally flare into emergency situations, as festering conflicts explode into violence, and then subside. How do we provide assistance to displaced people in areas that are still very unsafe—both for the refugees and the humanitarian aid workers trying to help? We face this challenge in protracted crises in Gaza and the West Bank, Lebanon, Colombia, Pakistan, the Caucasus, and elsewhere. Third, as globalization fuels international migration, refugees are increasingly caught up in the midst of so-called “mixed flows,” along with economic migrants, smugglers, victims of human trafficking, traffickers, stateless persons, tourists and T
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Fall 2008 The Ambassadors REVIEW 18 other travelers—some with valid documentation, some with fraudulent documenta- tion, and some without any documents at all. At the end of 2007, there were over 16 million refugees worldwide, out of an
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f_0010081_7828 - Changing Patterns of Flight Refugees in...

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