Homeward Bound: Refugee Return and Local Conflict After Civil WarWhat happens when refugees return? The number of refugees worldwide has nearly doubled in the past decade. Amid this rise in forced migration, the humanitarian community touts voluntary repatriation as the preferred solution to forced displacement. The driving assumption is that most refugees will resettle peacefully in their countries of origin and stay put. But conflict between returnees and non-migrant populations is a nearly ubiquitous issue in post-conflict societies from Iraq to South Sudan and El Salvador. Why does refugee return so often lead to conflict? Homeward Bound: Refuge Return and Local Conflict After Civil War offers a theory to explain both the character and prevalence of displacement-related conflict after civil wars. Using a political-ethnographic analysis of forced migration between Burundi and Tanzania, Homeward Bound argues that return migration creates new identity divisions in post-conflict societies based on where individuals lived during the war, in-country or abroad. Conflict between these groups can fuel local-level violence and spur repeat forced migration. The findings from Homeward Bound constitute a call to policy makers to rethink how to protect refugees’ right to return while also innovating alternative solutions to protracted displacement.
2019. Home, Again: Refugee Return and Post-Conflict Violence in Burundi. International Security 44, 110–145.
Under Review & Works in Progress
Ill-Preprepared: International Field Research Methods Training (co-authored, under review)
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.
COVID19 & Asylum Norms (co-authored, under review)
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
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? We 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. Using data on instances of deterrence and refoulement since 1990, we extend existing explanations of the transformation of the refugee regime by demonstrating how, counter-intuitively, the strength of non-refoulment undermines broader refugee protection goals. The findings contribute to broader understandings of international refugee politics and compliance with international human rights law.
"Is Refugee Return Good Public Relations? Conceptualizing tactics of return without refoulement in the Global South."
While scholars have examined tactics used by countries in the Global North to avoid their asylum obligations through the non-entrée regime, less is understood about state responses to avoid refugee hosting in the Global South. Like states in the Global North, however, many governments in the Global South are reluctant refugee hosts. The differences in the processes of seeking refuge in the Global South, however, preclude the use of strategies of non-entréee. Namely, because the vast majority of these states share borders with refugee sending countries, and use group refugee status determination processes rather than individual status determination, they cannot prevent a majority refugees from crossing borders and receiving refugee status. Instead, I introduce a set of tactics used to avoid hosting refugees which I call ‘return without refoulement,’ including revoking group refugee status and coercing ‘voluntary’ return. I note that refugee-sending states also play a role in return without refoulement, and explore refugee-sending states incentives to use refugee return as a public relations strategy. I illustrate these tactics through a case study of the treatment of Burundian and Congolese refugees in Tanzania between 2015 and 2020. The findings further our understanding of the weaknesses in the global refugee protection regime by centering state responses in the Global South.
- Youth in Post-Conflict Reconstruction: Agents of Change (Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 2010).
- “Dowry and Division: Youth and State-Building in South Sudan,” with Marc Sommers. U.S. Institute of Peace Special Report, 295: November 2011.