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Home arrow Economics arrow Children and Forced Migration: Durable Solutions During Transient Years

The Chapters That Follow

Forced migration reshapes societies, economies, livelihoods, cultural values, and notions of identity and belonging. Children and youth often represent the largest demographic sector of displaced groups. The lives of these youngsters are shaped in diverse and significant ways by their experiences during displacement. They must grapple with the strictures of existence in countries where citizenship is at best hedged with ambiguity and more typically withheld altogether. Even in cases when asylum is offered and full citizenship is attained, children are often faced with personal or familial challenges arising from their own or their parents’ experiences of violent dislocation (Almqvist and Brandell-Forsberg 1997; Miller et al. 2008). These dynamics in turn have a significant impact on the way in which access to education, employment opportunities, political participation, and other key resources are negotiated among the youngest members of displaced groups.

The contributors to this book highlight these complex and interrelated processes; embrace multidisciplinary approaches; and have a commitment to engaged, applied research with concrete policy implications. The authors argue that there is a need to rethink durable solutions to displacement, with an emphasis on facilitating forced migrants’ mobility to enable them to come up with their own transformative solutions. Individual contributions show the importance of recognizing and contesting the inherent “sedentary bias” that characterizes state-centered responses to migration during conflict and crisis (see chapter “Refugee Girls and Boys and the Dilemmas of (Un)Sustainable Return to South

Sudan”). The book also highlights the failure to “solve” forced migration by framing “refuge crises” solely in terms of physical dislocation, rather than also focusing on the denial of the political rights of refugees and internally displaced persons as citizens.

Children and Forced Migration presents the latest research on the multifaceted experiences of children and youth in diverse situational and geographical contexts of involuntary migration in a single book. This nuanced understanding is informed by case studies from refugee producing, receiving, and transit countries all over the world. The studies offer a clear, broad, multidisciplinary, and interdisciplinary view of who these displaced girls and boys are, and what their future might hold for them, their families, and communities. Chapters are based on rigorous, policyrelevant, and impact-driven research that supports robust responses to the challenges posed by the movement of children and youth within and/ or across borders. A focus on field-based evidence and the voices of displaced youngsters themselves allows intergenerational differences regarding the impact and perceived desirability of these or other alternatives to come to the fore.

The book is divided into four parts. In Part One, “Durable Solutions and Crises: Displacement of Children and Youth Resulting from Humanitarian Emergencies,” three different authors examine three dissimilar crises and their effects on children and youth. In chapter “Enduring Solutions in the Midst of “Crisis”: Refugee Children in Europe” Anhared Price writes about refugee children fleeing armed conflict and making the journey across the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe in pursuit of international protection. She explores the extent to which European policy responses and national social welfare systems are protecting refugee children and ensuring that they have access to durable solutions in their best interests.

Elzbieta M. Gozdziak, in chapter “What Kind of Welcome? Addressing the Integration Needs of Central American Children and Adolescents in US Local Communities”, looks at unaccompanied child migrants from Central America and Mexico arriving at the US’s southern border since the summer of 2014. She posits that child advocates called for protecting these children and ensuring due process in immigration proceedings. Advocates centered their attention on the push factors driving the arrival of unaccompanied children and their treatment while in government custody, all the while neglecting the issue of integration challenges the young people face while awaiting immigration hearings. The author aims to answer the following questions: How will they fare in the families and communities to whom they have been released? Will their relatives embrace them? How will antiimmigrant sentiments affect their daily lives? Will they be integrated into USA schools or even go to school? Who will support them?

Nicoletta Policek highlights a number of concerns embedded in the hybrid nature of statelessness and quasi-statelessness as experienced by children in Italy in chapter “Turning the Invisible into the Visible: Stateless Children in Italy”. Children in many instances have legitimate claims to citizenship but are often unable to demonstrate it, because of a lack of official identity documentation (e.g., birth records). Although it is rather challenging to enumerate people who are legally excluded, most recent estimates indicate there are almost 15,000 Roma children born in Italy who find themselves in a limbo of legal invisibility. By examining the international and national legal structures that seek to classify stateless children, the chapter contextualizes some key problems encountered by stateless children, and it identifies the promises of durable solutions put in place by the current legislation.

Part Two, “Repatriation and (Re)integration: Dilemmas of Sustainable Return,” opens with chapter “Refugee Girls and Boys and the Dilemmas of (Un)Sustainable Return to South Sudan” by Marisa O. Ensor who discusses gendered and generational views on repatriation and reintegration expressed by South Sudanese forced migrants. Ensor emphasizes the roles that displaced young girls and boys play as they find themselves differentially situated vis-a-vis the various determinants of conflict-induced mobility. Ensor’s field research revealed that even before the most recent resurgence of conflict, intergenerational tensions were increasing. She argues that the aspirations of many displaced youngsters to live a “mod- ern”—often meaning urban—way of life was perceived as incompatible with traditional livelihoods and social relations. She calls for revisiting traditional notions of repatriation as a durable solution and the need to more adequately address gendered and intergenerational differences regarding reintegration needs and aspirations.

Sonja Fransen and Melissa Siegel continue with the issue of reintegration in chapter “Reintegration of First- and Second-Generation Children Returned to Burundi: A Multidimensional Approach”. They focus on child returnees in Burundi, a small conflict-affected country that received more than 600,000 former refugees after the conflict ended in 2000. Using unique, nationally representative data collected in Burundi in 2011, the authors compare the living conditions of both first- and second-generation child returnees with the circumstances of children who have not lived abroad. The findings show a mixed picture regarding the reintegration of Burundi’s child returnees, which supports the use of a multidimensional approach to disentangle the various areas of well-being for returning child refugees. The results highlight that more targeting of return households, and the children that reside within them, is needed in specific areas.

Jen Steele reinvigorates the topic of integrating internally displaced children through education in conflict-affected northern Syria in chapter “Pathway of Hope: A Learning Certification Solution for Internally Displaced Children in Northern Syria”. In particular, she assesses learning certifications for displaced children as a durable solution, leading to the recognition of accredited basic education. She recommends protocols for such a scheme. Furthermore, she posits that the establishment of a supranational regional certification body, under the auspices of UNESCO, should be considered to carry forward these recommendations if the humanitarian community is to help prevent a lost generation of Syrian school children.

In Part Three, “Asylum-Seeking and Local Integration: Protection and Assimilation in Exile,” Craig Loschmann investigates the long-term consequences of displacement in Afghanistan. More specifically, in chapter “Taking the Long View: The Consequences of Displacement for Children in Afghanistan”, he compares differences between displaced and nondis- placed households in outcomes arguably crucial for healthy human capital formation of children—namely, education and nutrition. Using empirical data, he finds strong evidence that displacement leads to greater food insecurity and lower dietary diversity and indicates that displacement may have a negative effect on school attendance. The overall conclusion that internally displaced households are a particularly vulnerable subgroup within the population is not an unexpected revelation. What is salient, however, is the extent to which children of displaced households may be particularly afflicted, and the consequences this may have for future development.

In chapter “A Systems Approach to Child Protection: Does Theory Reflect Reality in Protracted Refugee Situations?”, Ulrike Krause and Susanne Hassel discuss the multiple challenges and risks facing refugee children with a focus on protracted situations in developing countries in the Global South. They posit that countries of asylum have rarely included refugee children in their national child protection systems, and humanitarian aid agencies have stepped in to fill protection and support gaps, often through several singular projects. They argue that the systems approach to child protection offers a suitable way forward. Instead of tackling isolated problems, it adopts holistic protection frameworks based on children’s rights. Although this can offer improved ways of assisting and protecting refugee children, particularly in protracted situations, the systems approach also reveals systemic challenges to humanitarian and development aid.

Emily Arnold-Fernandez focuses on the various legal and policy tools available to promote refugee human rights, particularly for children, in chapter “Making Human Rights a Reality for Refugee Children: A Prerequisite to Local Integration as a Durable Solution”. Based on her observations working as a human rights lawyer with Asylum Access, she emphasizes that durable solutions for refugee children should include local integration and tailored solutions that close the gap between rights on paper and rights in reality. By looking at three case studies, in Ecuador, Thailand, and Tanzania, the chapter argues that tools (e.g., legal aid, community legal empowerment, policy advocacy, strategic litigation, and movement-building) can provide durable solutions, even if they lack permanence, that may enable refugee children to actively live a fulfilling life in the country in which they reside.

Part Three ends with chapter ‘“Brothers Will Be Everywhere”: Youth Involvement in Martial Arts as the East Timorese Displaced Persons Struggle for Recognition in Their Community in Naibonat, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia’, by Realisa Masardi and G. R. Lono L. Simatupang, in which they analyze the involvement of East Timorese displaced youths in martial arts and mystical groups in Naibonat, Indonesia, as an attempt to gain recognition despite the limited opportunities available to former refugees. Utilizing the concept of “tactical bricolage,” the authors argue that martial arts, rather than being merely an expression of violence can also be a cultural statement to signal an openness between Indonesia and Timor Leste in transitional settings. The chapter concludes with some recommendations for comprehensive durable solutions for these warga baru (new citizens)—including not only formal government programs but also proper local integration platforms between “locals” and the East Timorese.

Part Four, “Resettlement to a Third Country: In Transit to Other Foreign Lands,” begins with chapter “Finding Better Ways to Support Resettled Refugee Families Dealing with Intergenerational Conflict” by Ibolya Losoncz. The author considers the experiences of resettled refugee families dealing with intergenerational conflict. Based on multisited ethnography with Australian South Sudanese youth, adults, and the workers supporting them, she demonstrates how well-intended, yet inappropriate, intervention from authorities led to negative results. Lonsoncz explores how transitions within settling families take place in the context of cultural, economic, social, and legal structures, which can support or constrain their efforts to reconstruct their lives. The chapter concludes by identifying alternative strategies from government and social institutions to better support refugee children and youth navigating their developmental transition in the context of resettlement.

In chapter “Unaccompanied Young Asylum-Seekers Stuck in Transit in Indonesia: Intimate Relationships and Resilience” Antje Missbach and Danau Tanu write about unaccompanied minors and young asylum- seekers in Indonesia. Barred from legal options for employment and with limited possibilities for education, some unaccompanied minors develop intimate relationships with older Indonesian women in order to ‘ make a living.” The authors explore the nature of these uneven relationships between young asylum-seekers and (older) Indonesians by asking whether they are purely purpose-driven and exploitative, or whether they also develop some form of an altruistic means of friendship. The chapter also contributes empirical insights on the role of youth, romance, and everyday life aspects when it comes to choosing friends when in transit in Indonesia.

In chapter “No Date on the Door. Direct Provision Housing, Child Asylum-Seekers, and Ireland’s Violations of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child”, Part Four’s final one, Narintohn Luangrath examines the asylum application system in Ireland, focusing on the negative impact of direct provision accommodation centers on child asylum- seekers. The chapter sheds light on a topic that receives scant attention in mainstream academic writing on Irish asylums’ policies: how the treatment of child asylum-seekers in direct provision illustrates Ireland’s failure to live up to its responsibilities as a party to the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Taking into account the Irish government’s security concerns and financial constraints, Luangrath offers some policy recommendations for amending the asylum application and housing accommodation systems in Ireland.

In the Conclusion, Gozdziak and Ensor present lessons learned in order to expand policymakers and practitioners’ understanding of the experiences of child migrants and to identify gaps in the existing solutions and resolutions.

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