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Particular cases of vulnerability: refugees and stranded migrants

The high concentration of refugees and migrants stuck in transit in the South contributes to increasing the vulnerability of migrants and the socioeconomic costs faced by the "host" society.

Refugees are especially vulnerable as conflict and immigration have a relatively Southern face, clearly noticeable following the repercussions of the drought in the Horn of Africa (see Chapter 1). While the worldwide stock of refugees (16.3 million in 2010) amounts to 7.6% of total migration flows, refugees in developing countries (11.1 million) represent 13.8% of total immigrants (World Bank, 2010). In 2010 more than 4.4 million refugees, representing 42% of the world's total, lived in countries whose GDP per capita was below USD 3 000 (UNHCR, 2011). When this is viewed in relative terms to the size of national resources (number of refugees for each US dollar of per capita GDP), the first 24 countries in the world are developing countries. Germany, the 25th in this list, is the first developed country. Pakistan is home to 710 refugees using this measure; Germany 17 (Figure 3.2).

Figure 3.2. Number of refugees per USD 1 GDP (PPP) per capita, 2010

Note: Figures represent the number of refugees for each US dollar of its per capita GDP. Source: UNHCR (2011), Global Trends 2010.

The UNHCR is the primary international authority on decisions made for refugees; it is also responsible for their temporary and long-term integration. While refugees are provided with access to health care, education and specific skills-training, they often also arrive in a hostile environment. Xenophobia arises naturally because nationals see the new arrivals obtaining special treatment from the United Nations. The fact that the UNHCR normally organises refugees in camps facilitates the formation of enclaves, thus limiting the possibilities of social inclusion. National governments also intervene in the integration of refugees. For instance, the Benin government has allowed Togolese refugees to attend school in the country, following civil conflict in Togo in 2005 (USDoS, 2010b).

Stranded migrants en route to Europe form a particular group at risk of human rights violations (UNHCR, 2010). Since 2000 a major anti-immigrant backlash in Libya has contributed to a diversification of trans-Saharan migration routes and an increasing presence of immigrants in other North African countries (de Haas, 2007; Hamood, 2006). But reliable figures on transit migrants are hard to come by.

Bensaad (2003) reported that in 2003, the city of Agadez in Niger recorded a minimum of 65 000 transit migrants heading north. In fact, Niger is increasingly becoming a major point of convergence for many immigrants going to Libya and Algeria, either to stay or continue on to Europe. One of the reasons is that the government has taken a very open position in its approach to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol on free movement (OECD, 2009a). For this reason, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) recently opened two migrant transit and assistance centres, in Dirkou (on the route to/from Libya) and Assamaka (on the route to/from Algeria).10 The 2011 Libyan crisis has clearly dampened the prospects associated with migrating to Libya. A Reuters report estimates that over 200 000 migrants have returned home to Niger and that billions of CFA francs have been lost in trade and remittances since conflict erupted in February 2011.11

In addition to being victims of xenophobia as well as racial and ethnic discrimination, the irregular status of immigrants in transit countries subjects them to a wide range of abuse committed not only by smugglers and human traffickers, but also by border guards, immigration and police officers, and local people. Violations include extortion and exploitation, arbitrary detention in inhumane conditions, lack of due process, deprivation of access to basic services and physical abuse and harassment.12 Unaccompanied children and women are the primary victims, a direct consequence of the feminisation of migration. In this respect, the lack of access to social networks and legal aid services increases the risks of being forced into commercial sex activity, contracting sexually transmitted infections and incurring unwanted pregnancies.

How can immigrants be better integrated in the South, particularly with the added difficulties of hidden and official discrimination and the particular cases of refugees and stranded migrants? Turning to traditional models of integration, notably those dominating the debate in the North, may not be the optimal solution. Instead, a new organic integration model, taking into account the realities of the labour market and the general makeup of the South should be developed.

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