Kolkata, 25-29 November 2019
Module A: Global Protection Regime for Refugees and Migrants
Coordinator: Dr. Nasreen Chowdhory
The Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration, mandated by the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, 2016, and currently being considered by the United Nations have been widely considered as opportunities for the world to reconsider old approaches to refugee and migrant protection. Annex 1 of the Declaration speaks of a comprehensive refugee response framework (CRRF) and the resolution invites the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to engage with States and consult with all relevant stakeholders, with a view to evaluating the detailed practical application of the comprehensive refugee response framework and assessing the scope for refinement and further development. It also specifies that the objective is to ease pressures on the host countries involved, enhance refugee self-reliance, expand access to third-country solutions and support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity. Annex II, likewise, proposes a process of intergovernmental negotiations leading to the adoption of a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration. The proposed global compact would be an important contribution to global governance and would deal with humanitarian, developmental, human rights-related, and other aspects of migration.
The Declaration is global not only because it emanates from a global institution, but also because of the following aspects, to be detailed out in course of this article: (a) First, a single declaration covering subjects of migration and forced migration is an acknowledgement of the reality that the two have deep relations, and that population flows are increasingly mixed and massive in nature defying neat categorization. (b) Second, the Declaration also highlights the limits and or unwillingness of States to carry primary responsibility of the refugees and migrants, and hence opens up the possibility to include the “whole of society”, which is to say the “whole of globe” covering various stakeholders including business and commercial segments. (c) Third, the Declaration suggests uneven geographies of protection and labor market, and conceives of the globe in terms of sanctuaries, third countries, hotspots, border zones, safe corridors, legally run labor regimes, remittance-centric segments of global economy, as well places characterized by multi-stakeholder operations. These geographies are in part created by spatial planning for refugees and migrants, in part by financial and security operations. (d) Fourth, the new approach is global because refugees and migrants are conceptualized as subjects of global development. (e) Fifth, migration and refugee “crises” are going to be inevitable unless the world works towards durable solutions – hence the need for globally relevant comprehensive response framework, such as the “comprehensive refugee response framework”, and what the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has popularized as a “framework for effective practices with regard to management capacity building.” (f) And, finally, solutions can become durable only becoming global, through as indicated above practicing a new geography of care and labor market, and through pursuing a technological mode of management that would circumvent borders and boundaries to cope with the complex reality of global migration.
In this background, this article focuses on the proposed global compact on refugees. In course of the analysis it also refers to the global initiative on “safe and orderly migration” as the counterfoil, the other scene of refugee management. The article aims to show how a global gaze as an apparatus of power is born, how it becomes a material reality, how a particular ideology, in this case humanitarianism, works as the gradient of such a global machine, how the global must erase out local histories of care and protection as the global become technological in its strategy, and finally what happens to the agenda of rights which had been the backbone of much of the welfare and protection ethos in the preceding century.
Theme Paper... CLICK HERE
Module B: Gender, Race, Religion & Other Fault Lines in the Protection Regime
Coordinator: Professor Paula Banerjee
In this module we contend that both citizenship and migration rests on a triad that was constructed through the axis of race, religion and resources and gender remains the unspoken fourth. So migration and forced migration studies become meaningless if these volatile issues are not considered in their proper perspectives. Race and religion create the alien body that is then forced to move and cross borders. But once the migrant is forced to cross the border the very act of border crossing creates more borders. Therefore, without understanding the ramifications of race, religion, resource and gender one cannot understand forced migration and such analysis fail to give forced migration studies its proper credence.
Forced migration is a fairly recent field in pedagogy. It began in the global north after the Second World War as refugee studies. As it became clear that modern state formation was often accompanied by large scale population displacements resulting in large population groups becoming refugees suddenly there was an upsurge in interest on who these people were. When it became evident that these people were racially and perhaps even by religion different this population movement came to be recognised as a crisis. But the end of colonialism witnessed partitions that often went hand in hand with hordes of people moving in the global south who were non-white. Many of these people had aspirations to move to the global north because they correctly associated their marginality with colonial rule that made race the bedrock of acquisition of benefits such as citizenship, power sharing and attainment of material benefits and resources. So countries in the global north marked such movements as crisis that necessitated policies and laws that gave the authority to respective states as to who should be taken and who shunned. Because more people were stopped from entering the northern borders policies and laws were formulated and the hordes that were moving were homogenised as faceless, nameless mass and in no way were they humanised in the narratives because the moment they appeared as individuals their claims for rights and resources could not be legitimately ignored. At the centre of resource sharing was the question of citizenship and who belonged was a conscious decision made by the ruling elite. Those who were considered as unworthy of being recognised as a citizen were either to be tolerated as a precarious group who might provide cheap labour or they were to be forced out joining the ranks of the “nowhere” people.
If one looks at the question of citizenship from the perspective of South Asia once again the issue of race rears its head. When one looks at India’s northeast in the colonial period the issue becomes even more clarified. To understand how differences were made that was ultimately racialised and then nationalised one needs to look at colonial administration and the creation of differences as was done in the northeast of India in the eighteenth century. The colonial administration had introduced in that period the notion of “racial difference” between the plains and the hill thereby inadvertently giving some autonomy to the hill people. But this was not done because the hill people were more advanced but rather because they were considered as barbaric and so they needed to be kept away from the plains people who were directly under the colonial administration. By the time the Indian constitution came to be framed, political exclusion of the hill areas (including Manipur and Tripura which had evolved along different historical lines) was out of question. The end of political exclusion meant also the end of autonomy. In free India the race card regarding northeast was played to deprive rather than to include.
As for gender according to Carolyn Merchant while debate over how certain groups were perceived as aliens was on going there was another debate on the nature of women in Europe. During this debate, women were considered as essentially emotional and fragile and they needed firm control to guide them just as nature's disorder necessitated order, her chaos presaged control, and that which was wild needed to be tamed. Merchant argues that the mastery of women coincided with the mastery of nature in European society. In this way Merchant argues women became the emotional resource for men but this resource needed to be harnessed. They were at once considered property of the men, and while their “owners” could use them, their bodies were also considered as symbols of honour of their men. So attacks against a community were almost always accompanied by attacks against its women. Therefore when a community was to be displaced the women were “dishonoured.” Thus all acts of displacements were accompanied by abuse of women’s sexuality, which was considered the possession of their men. Thus, forced migration always had gendered ramifications.
In the context of South Asia forced migration was closely related to race, religion and gender. We have already discussed the issue of race now let us discuss the issue of gender. Thus, modern states that are built on gender differences develop a precarious relation with its women. Women became both subjects of the state as well as its other. In pluralistic societies such as those found in South Asia “the modern projects of national independence, state building, and economic development have had distinctive gender implications and outcomes.” The nation building projects in South Asia has led to the creation of a homogenized identity of citizenship. State machineries seek to create a “unified” and “national” citizenry that accepts the central role of the existing elite. This is done through privileging majoritarian, male and monolithic cultural values that deny the space to difference. Such a denial has often led to the further segregation of the marginalized, on the basis of caste, religion and gender from the collective “us”. As a refugee a woman loses her individuality, subjectivity, citizenship and her ability to make political choices. As political non-subjects refugee women emerge as the symbol of difference between us/citizens and its other/refugees/non-citizens. Refugee women become the material for the symbolic construction of the nation’s boundaries. By studying women’s displacement in South Asia authors came up with these theoretical assumptions and more. In discussing women’s experiences of displacement they portrayed how as dislocated subjects women negotiate spaces to retrieve agency in the face of institutional apathy.
Module C: Neo-liberalism, Immigrant Economies and Labour
Coordinator: Professor Ranabir Samaddar
Labour migration has been a feature of global capitalism since the beginning. This paper explores the historical background of labour migration in connection with the rise and development of capitalism and leads on to a discussion of labour migration under present conditions of neo-liberalisation and global market economy. In its discussion of historical forms of labour migration, the paper dwells on the themes of indentured labour and other forms of semi-coerced migration from colonies, semi-colonies, and other parts of the world. The second half of the nineteenth century was an age of labour mobility required for plantation, railway lines and telegraph, and mining. This demand of labour was met through a system of indentured labour migration. Indentured labour was sought as replacement for newly freed African slave labour. The planters preferred unsettled male indentured workers over locally settled labour, as the former seemed a better guarantee of servitude. There were also other forms of coercive labour export like forced migration of children, migration of single women, exportation of coolie labour etc.
If the earlier period of globalisation marked by industrial capitalism called for massive supply of labour forming its underbelly, the contemporary period of globalization is marked by unprecedented financialisation of capital and other resources (including land) and calls for similar supply of labour forming the underbelly of the beast today. In today’s global post-colonial setting, the place of the plantation and railway construction industries of the nineteenth century has been taken over by the ubiquitous care industry and construction industries. Thousands of migrant workers serving worldwide from the United States to the Middle East to South East Asia to the Far East as masons, plumbers, coolies, nurses, ayahs, sex workers, workers in entertainment and construction industry keep the machinery of neoliberal economy going. The discussion also emphasizes the parallel process of emergence of basic technologies of governing population flows and trying to achieve in each case the right composition of the population, the right mix, as it is termed now, leading to partitions and new boundary making exercises.
The paper highlights how gender was of central concern in recruitment operations as well as labour deployment in the indentured system and other forms of labour migration more generally and how long distance migration in turn unsettled gender hierarchies. The paper touches on the issue of sex labour which in today’s world is a migrant dominated field. It points to the inadequacy of the predominant discourse of trafficking which often views migration of sex workers as a form of ‘modern slavery’. It deliberates on how the boundaries between ‘free’ migration and trafficking are often fuzzy and patriarchal ‘protection’ against trafficking can further contribute to the immobilisation of women, especially in societies where regulation of women’s mobility is a key element of patriarchal control.
Finally, the discussion is also concerned with the nature of immigrant economy in global capitalism today. Literature on immigrant economies are concerned with processes of labour absorption within western state/society. In these writings, the organic link between the immigrant as an economic actor and the global capitalist economy escapes analysis. Even when considered as an economic actor, refugees are often not considered as labour. This paper emphasizes the need for seeing the refugee primarily as a labouring subject, who often work outside the pale of ‘formal’ economy and/or without political rights. While a large part of the existing literature on the subject deal with what can be called the internalities of the immigrant economy (thus their ethnic composition, hierarchies, location, survival techniques, etc.), here the emphasis is on the externalities. Externality in this context means the broader forces and dynamics that influence such internal configuration and shape labour markets. A consideration of the externalities suggests four interactive relations impacting on refugee economies: (a) The deeply close relation between refugees, other victims of forced migration, and the illegal immigrants; likewise the interface of classic refugees and the environmental migrants as the constituting elements of an informal labour market; (b) The similarly close relation between refugees, illegal immigrants, and the internally displaced as labouring subjects; (c) The connection between the refugee economy and the informal economy as a whole; and finally (d) the incredibly dense network between formal and informal economies, shaping certain types of economic activities as in care and entertainment industry, which feature the refugee and the immigrant as the labouring subject, and which borders on both formal and informal economies.
The question frequently asked in the existing literature is about the impact of refugees on the host economy, and not, about why economies cannot do without the so-called refugee economies that supply informal labour for the host economy. It also strikes us that migration analysts rarely consider together the lack of the migrants’ entry in formal political arena accompanied by entry in the informal and sometimes formal labour market. Immigrant labour’s autonomy, more known as ‘autonomy of migration’ allows the migrant to cope with this dichotomous world. For long, it was a case of political opportunity, but economic closure; now it is the case of economic opening (entry in the informal labour market), but political closure; yet the migrant as the footloose labouring subject copes with this upside-down world of politics/economics with his/her autonomy to move. The ‘autonomy of migration,’ which also means among others the willingness and the capability of the migrants to move on from one condition to another, one job to another, one economic situation to another, and one economy to another indicates the heterogeneity of labour forms. Such heterogeneous labour are rendered invisible to the public eye and function without the protection of welfare benefits, in the face of continuous threats of deportation.
Theme Paper ... CLICK HERE
Module D: Borderland and Migrant Labour
Coordinator: Professor Byasdeb Dasgupta
Borderlands between two or more nations in many cases are the space for international migration, especially forced migration under certain political economic contexts, to take place. Now, the question is whether those who migrate from one nation to another (from one political jurisdiction to another) and those who initially settle in borderlands become stateless population who do not have any fundamental rights of the host country. Many a times (especially those who migrate under certain political reasons) the migrants get the status of refugees. And they often remain in that status for a long time. In different continents some international borders have of late been in the news for the politics over migration and the related question of the political status of the population who do migrate. Many a times such migration is forced one for variety of reasons – some of which are economic and some political. One may find such borders for long time but without any political tension (local or global) being there. On the other hand, there are borderlands which have been made to be in the news because of the migration and the ensuing politics (national and/or global) over them. The basic objective of this module on borderlands and migrants is two fold – (a) to unleash the political economy associated with migration in the borderlands and (b) to analyze how these migration fit into the existing theories of migration, that is to say, whether the current empirical observations/narrations question the existing theories and if yes, how the new abstraction will evolve. Lastly, migration and borderlands mutually constitute each other in reshaping the class relations. Once again the question is whether that should mark a departure from the existing class theories correlating the borderlands.
Theme Paper ... CLICK HERE
Module E: Statelessness
Coordinator: Professor Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury
Stateless people are those who are obliged to live without the protection of a state. As the world has been parcelled out into states, not to be a member of any one of them is a matter of serious concern. Nationality and citizenship are two words most commonly used to describe the same phenomenon – the legal bond of membership between an individual and a state. A loss of citizenship results in statelessness. While membership of a state is the norm, statelessness continues to be widespread and has not escaped the interest of the international community. Within the realm of public international law, rules have evolved in response to the problem of statelessness.
Statelessness most commonly affects refugees, although not all refugees are stateless, and not all stateless men, women and children are taken to be refugees. Refugee status entails the extra requirements that the refugee be outside his or her country of nationality (or country of habitual domicile if stateless), and is deserving of asylum based on a well-founded fear of persecution for categorised reasons which make him/her unwilling or unable to avail of the protection of that country. According to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or the extended definitions in relevant regional instruments and under UNHCR’s international protection mandate, refugees may also, and frequently do, fall within Article 1(1) of 1954 convention. If a stateless person is simultaneously a refugee, he or she should be protected according to the higher standard which in most circumstances will be international refugee law, not least due to the protection from refoulement in Article 33 of the 1951 Convention.
Causes and Context of Statelessness in South Asia
Often statelessness emerges from succession of states or territorial
reorganisations. But it also emerges from persecution of minorities
and a state’s majoritarian bias, which lead states at times to expel
citizens or inhabitants. Also, states in South Asia, being what is
sometimes referred to as ‘kin states’, represent social and ethnic
continuities across the borders and the cases selected below
illustrate this. Although there are overlapping sources of
statelessness in contemporary South Asia, experts have identified
three salient facts while analysing the causes of statelessness in
Against this backdrop, this module seeks to find answers to the
following questions (Participants are requested to make their
presentations touching on any of these questions, or a combination
of them, with reference to various cases of statelessness in the
Theme Paper ... CLICK HERE
Module F: South Asia: Laws of Asylum and Protection
Coordinators: Dr. Simon Behrman and Dr. Oishik Sircar
At present, the 1951 Refugee Convention and its sister 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, the cornerstones of international refugee law, have been ratified by 148 states. There are additional regional instruments relating to refugees in Latin America (the 1984 Cartagena Declaration) and Africa (the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention) and Europe (2004 Qualification Directive). South Asia is one of two major regions that exists outside of this regime (the other being the Middle East). And yet, at least three South Asian states (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) were founded upon the basis of some of the largest forced displacements in human history; the 14 million who crossed the borders in 1947 with the creation of India and Pakistan is far and away the largest ever recorded. Bangladesh too was created in the midst of its own refugee crisis as some 8 million crossed into India during the struggle for independence with Pakistan in 1971. Sri Lanka and Nepal too have witnessed large refugee movements, in the former between itself and the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and with the latter, refugees from Tibet and Bhutan. Today Pakistan and Bangladesh are amongst the top ten hosting nations for refugees globally, with the former currently accommodating around 1.4 million people mainly from Afghanistan, and the latter around 900,000 mainly from Myanmar. These numbers far outstrip those taken in by most parties to the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol. Indeed, of the top 10 hosting nations for refugees in 2018, only five were parties to the 1951 Convention. And one of those, Turkey, only formally recognizes refugees coming from Europe, in other word almost none at all today. To add a further twist to the tail, in spite of that, Turkey is currently hosting the largest number of refugees in the world.
This situation presents a paradox that has largely gone unexplored in academic literature. Why have states that are not bound to observe the rights accorded by those treaties the most generous in granting asylum than the ones that are? If the objective is to facilitate access to asylum for refugees, then it appears that international refugee law is a hindrance rather than a help to refugees. While the states of South Asia are far more open when it comes to numbers, it is often the case that refugees do not possess the same level of rights in the region as compared with those who find sanctuary in states that are parties to the refugee law treaties. Is there perhaps a trade-off between the numbers of refugees that states are willing to take in and the standard of rights that are accorded to them? Moreover, what characterizes refugee reception in 1951 Convention states is individual status determination; every asylum-seeker having to prove their own bona fides as refugees, according to the legal definition. By contrast, South Asian asylum has been largely based on mass inflows and collective status. What are some of the problems and challenges of each approach?
The history of international refugee law for much of the past 70 years was determined by the Cold War. The 1951 Convention played itself out against the background of geo-political games over how to define a refugee and their role as ambassadors of the evil Other. But South Asian nations also took in refugees in many cases within a similar context, such as the welcome given to Tibetans in India, especially after the Sino-Indian conflict in 1962, or the hosting of Afghan refugees in Pakistan after the Soviet invasion in 1979. One of the criticisms of asylum policy in South Asia in recent decades has been how it has been conflated with national security issues. However, the same could be said about many parties to the 1951 Convention, particularly in Europe and North America post-9/11. So, looked at from other angles, asylum policy may not be as divergent between South Asia and the international refugee law regime as is sometimes thought.
While for a number of years there were efforts to promote accession to the 1951 Convention or to develop national refugee laws in India and other countries in the region, that process appears largely dormant today. Yet, the question remains, would such legal developments compromise or enhance asylum provision in the region? Would a specific tradition of asylum that has, all things considered, largely been successful under the strain of events such as those that occurred in 1947 and 1971, be compromised by shoehorning itself into the international refugee law regime? If political, ethnic and religious solidarity have been the driving forces of asylum in South Asia rather than a purely legalistic approach, to what extent could that been seen as having had a positive or negative effect on refugees themselves? These are some of the questions we seek to explore in assessing the history and present of asylum policies and practices in South Asia.
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