Homeward Bound: Refugee Return and Local Conflict After Civil War
2019. Home, Again: Refugee Return and Post-Conflict Violence in Burundi. International Security 44, 110–145.
Conflict between returning refugees and nonmigrant populations is a pervasive yet frequently overlooked security issue in post-conflict societies. Although scholars have demonstrated how out-migration can regionalize, prolong, and intensify civil war, the security consequences of return migration are undertheorized. An analysis of refugee return to Burundi after the country's 1993–2005 civil war corroborates a new theory of return migration and conflict: return migration creates new identity divisions based on whether and where individuals were displaced during wartime. These cleavages become new sources of conflict in the countries of origin when local institutions, such as land codes, citizenship regimes, or language laws, yield differential outcomes for individuals based on where they lived during the war. Ethnographic evidence gathered in Burundi and Tanzania from 2014 to 2016 shows how the return of refugees created violent rivalries between returnees and nonmigrants. Consequently, when Burundi faced a national-level political crisis in 2015, prior experiences of return shaped both the character and timing of out-migration from Burundi. Illuminating the role of reverse population movements in shaping future conflict extends theories of political violence and demonstrates why breaking the cycle of return and repeat displacement is essential to the prevention of conflict.
Under Review & Works in Progress
"Return without Refoulement: How States Avoid Hosting Refugees after Recognition"
The current refugee protection regime is founded upon the norm of non-refoulement, the international legal prohibition against returning refugees and asylum-seekers to territories in which their life or liberty are in danger. Conventional wisdom holds that countries in the Global North can avoid their non-refoulement obligations by preventing refugees from arriving at their borders, but that states in Global South have no choice but to host refugees. I argue, however, that many governments in the Global South use a parallel strategy of ‘return without refoulement’ to expel refugees and asylum-seekers already in their territory. I illustrate the return without refoulement strategy using a within-case comparison of Tanzania’s treatment of Burundian and Congolese refugees and migrants between 2015 and 2020. Recognizing return without refoulement as a strategic response to asylum-seeking furthers our understanding of how international law shapes state behavior and is critical to accurately diagnosing the pathologies of the asylum regime.
COVID-19 and the Devolution of Asylum Norms (with Lama Mourad, working paper)
Across the world, border closures have prevented those in need of refuge from seeking international protection, countries have halted conducting asylum interviews, and international refugee resettlement programs have effectively ceased. Using newly released cross-national data from the UN Refugee Agency and qualitative analysis of reports by human rights organizations, this article documents the effects of the COVID19 on asylum seeking in the first six months of the pandemic. We then triangulate this data with existing theory on norm devolution and an analysis of the state of asylum norms prior to January 2020, to posit preliminary hypotheses on the situations in which asylum-related restrictions are likely to endure. We argue that the pandemic represents an inflection point in the lifecycle of the global refugee protection and asylum regime, and reflect on the potential for the crisis to presage the end of asylum as we know it.
Non-Refoulement and the Hollowing Out of International Asylum Protections (data collection in progress)
Non-Refoulement, the prohibition against sending refugees back to territories in which their life or liberty is in danger is considered one of the strongest norms in international human rights law. At the same time, many states successfully avoid their non-refoulement obligations, either by deterring refugees from crossing their borders or re-categorizing asylum-seekers as migrants to enable deportation. How is it that non-refoulement can be one of the strongest norms in the international legal system while so frequently flouted? I argue that current behavior reflects a hollowing out of asylum norms, made possible by the privileging of non-refoulement over other obligations enshrined in the international refugee protection regime, such as the obligation to uphold freedom of movement, non-discrimination, and access to courts.
Ill-Prepared: International Field Research Methods Training (with Kate Cronin-Furman, working paper)
Political science values international fieldwork as a source of academic credibility, particularly for scholars studying violence and related topics. Yet the training for conducting this type of research remains piecemeal. In this paper, we present the results of a targeted survey of International Relations and Comparative Politics faculty and graduate students on their attitudes towards, and preparation for, international field research. We find a prevalent belief that fieldwork is highly advantageous for scholars of violence. At the same time, most graduate students have not had formal training in conducting fieldwork, instead relying on women faculty and peers for informal advising. These dynamics endanger scholars and the communities in which they work, and perpetuate inequalities within the discipline. We argue that treating fieldwork preparation as methodology will improve safety and research quality, and have distributional benefits, promoting consistency in access to training and valuing the work that goes into providing it.
Policy Publications (Selected)
Youth in Post-Conflict Reconstruction: Agents of Change (Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 2010).
Although much has been written about cases of children as soldiers and slaves in recent conflicts, these cases are but one example of the impact of conflict on a subset of the youth population. Youth and Post-Conflict Reconstruction: Agents of Change goes beyond these highly publicized cases and examines the roles of the broader youth population in post-conflict scenarios, taking on the complex task of distinguishing between the legal and societal labels of child, youth, and adult. In the post-conflict population, youth constitute a reservoir brimming with potential energy, ready to be channeled for good or ill. What causes some young people to return to the life of a fighter while others choose to work for a better future? And what can domestic and international actors do to help youth move toward an education, work to support their families, and become active contributors to building peace and reconstructing their countries? Youth and Post-Conflict Reconstruction: Agents of Change uses three cases of post-conflict reconstruction Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Kosovo to explore how youth affect the post-conflict reconstruction process, and how domestic policy, NGO programming, international interventions, and cultural contexts may change that role. The hypotheses drawn from these comparisons will be useful both in guiding future research on youth s role in post-conflict reconstruction and in helping reconstruction actors facilitate the youth population s transition from war to peace.
"Sending Refugees Back Makes the World More Dangerous." Foreign Policy. November 27, 2019.
Repatriating refugees to dangerous situations violations international law and breeds conflict, instability and future crises. Regional work visas and long-term integration into host countries are more promising solutions.
“Dowry and Division: Youth and State-Building in South Sudan,” with Marc Sommers. U.S. Institute of Peace Special Report, 295: November 2011.
As South Sudan becomes an independent country in 2011, most South Sudanese youth are undereducated and underemployed and their priorities and perspectives largely unknown. To address this critical knowledge gap, the authors conducted field research between April and May 2011 with youth, adults, and government and nongovernment officials in Juba and two South Sudanese states. The authors found that there is an increasing inability of male youth to meet rising dowry (bride price) demands. Unable to meet these demands, many male youth enlist in militias, join cattle raids, or seek wives from different ethnic groups or countries. Skyrocketing dowry demands have negatively and alarmingly affected female youth. In addition, new postwar identities involving youth returning from Khartoum, refugee asylum countries, and those who never left South Sudan, are stimulating hostility and conflict.