Wednesday, 1 August 2018

‘Stealth’ and re-politicisation: The limits of ‘knowledge-brokering’ as a model to influence migration policy making in South Africa



By Kudakwashe P Vanyoro

South Africa is currently experiencing mixed migration flows from different parts of the Southern African region. For example, Zimbabweans moving into South Africa encounter a double whammy of political displacement and labour migration (economically induced displacement). For this group of people, protections are far and few between. They are forced to choose between the asylum system, which, by design, is bureaucratically inefficient, and the labour migration system, which, among other things is driven by all sorts of xenophobic discourses.

They are met with an immigration and refugee regime that casts a huge net to undermine all sorts of their potential socio-economic and political agency. Just as it is hard to neatly reduce their mobility to any singular policy protection (labour migration or refugee regime), since they are not legally seen by the state as genuine asylum seekers but economic refugees, the policies themselves are juggled to conflate their concerns and needs and undermine their protection. One needs to only look at the Trafficking in Persons Act, Amendment to the Refugees Act and White Paper on International Migration. The three dance together as it were; which even makes it more practically sensible for us to speak of a kind of mobility policy/governance regime.

In other words, their precarity is not experienced within fixed ontological categories; but within multiple, intersecting policy sytems. Indeed, there is a concerted political will by the state to see anti-immigration policies pass, regardless of which policy/governance regime one would like to neatly fit these migrants into.

What does this all mean for doing research uptake and pursuing evidence-based policies through activism and advocacy? Here I will highlight my suggestions that explicitly draw on the work I have published on the issues of ‘unpopular causes’ in South Africa with the Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium; and the notion of repoliticising migration narratives I published with colleagues in a Globalisations Special Issue.

Some have insisted on the perrenial need to improve the capacity of policymakers to use evidence and bridge the science-policy interface gap to improve relations between researchers and policymakers, knowledge brokering and capacity building. Yet we know that the reason for the marginalisation of evidence in South Africa is purely philosophical; policymakers expediently choose what version of reality/truth they are willing to accept. Consistent with the knowledge brokering model, albeit in a counterintutitive manner, they form alliances and relationships with their own tribe of researchers pursuing similar interests – a different kind of rationality and political will - which is expedient for them in dealing with ‘unpopular causes’ en masse.

For those of us concerned with influencing policy through the right kinds of evidence, acknowledging this political reality animates space to critically debate what approaches are best and pragmatically suited to improve and sustain activism and research uptake on these kinds of issues.

I would argue that, evidence-based activism for migrants’ right in South Africa is hamstrung by the pathologisation of migration as a whole in policymaking, which has lead to the dominance of ‘alternative facts’ proliferated by actors who are tied together through ‘communities of faith’ that hold steadfast to claims that despite a lack of evidence migration is an extensive problem in South Africa. Therefore, there are limits to the notion of bridging the science-policy gap through knowledge-brokering, at least in the way it has been propounded this far. First, by insisting on notions of capacity building, it works from an inherent assumption that (South) African policymakers lack the capacity to make decisions that are ostensibly rational; since, after all, ‘that is Africa’s perrenial problem’. Second, if anything, the very existence of shoddy relations between science and policy is the reason we find ourselves in this place, that is fraught with the use of problematic bad data in policymaking. There is a sect of science and civil society that has been coopted or ‘gone to bed’ with policymaking as it were.

So why should we still insist on bringing these two worlds together, and in what ways?

With scarce, limited resources, I am less concerned with bringing the worlds of policy and science together in our Southern contexts because I am not convinced this is where we should be channelling our efforts. I am not alone in this endeavour. Migrating out of Poverty research done by the African Centre for Migration & Society in South Africa found that there is little value in even targeting national policies because the local level is where real, actionable change is more likely to happen.

International treaties and national policy frameworks may regulate migration, but it is ultimately a local government matter. After all, ‘At the end of the day, all migrants live in municipalities’. I also speak for others like Kihato and Landau when I say the full protection of migrants and refugees in South Africa demands a shift in both approach and language by activists and researchers. Regarding language, elsewhere, we have argued for the need to re-politicise the language and narratives of migration; to essentially deneutralise and revitalise them. Likewise, in terms of approach, the full protection of migrants and refugees requires activists and researchers to promote rights indirectly to avoid political ire and political backlash through creating ‘back-routes’ and capitalising on ‘windows of opportunity’. Through this kind of stealth advocacy, perhaps activists and researchers ‘may avoid complex and contentious public battles over rights’, instead focusing on building solidarities with ‘local’ constituencies facing similar marginalization.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Forced Displacement and Mixed Migration in the East and Horn of Africa: Current trends and future directions

Call for papers: Key dates
20 July 2018 - Submission of Abstracts
1 August 2018 - Acceptance Notification
1 October 2018 - Submission of full papers
27-29 November 2018 - Conference held in Mombasa

Introduction
East and Horn of Africa is a region of diverse opportunities but also experiences various challenges that have made human mobility and displacement a reality for a long time. The region experiences conflicts and political instability and also deals with impacts of chronic poverty and extreme climate variability, all of which lead to different forms of mobility and human displacement. The region plays the dual role of origin and host to refugees and asylum seekers as well as migrants. Latest statistics released by UNHCR indicate that by the end of 2017, there were over 3.2 million refugees originating mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and South Sudan. In addition, there are 5.76 million internally displaced persons within the countries of Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan. Mixed migration is on the rise with many travelling to South Africa, Yemen and the Middle East and northward to Europe. Human trafficking and smuggling of persons have defined migratory movements that are mostly irregular in nature. In the recent past, with the crisis in Yemen, the region has seen what can be termed as reverse migration with thousands of Yemenis seeking safety in the Horn of Africa and hundreds of thousands of mainly labor migrants returned to the region from the Middle East. Efforts to provide life-saving assistance, protection, and related humanitarian activities as well as to find durable solutions to this situation continue to be made by governments, international actors and local interventions.

Forced displacement presents a major development challenge in the East and Horn of Africa Region, accounting for some of the world’s most protracted displacement cases with limited prospects for return or self-reliance. In light of this, the “New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants”, adopted the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) which provides an imperative to overcome the long-held view of refugees and migrants as a burden to societies while calling for increased solidarity and responsibility sharing in addressing displacement and mobility. It is within this context that the IGAD special summit of 2017 adopted the Nairobi Declaration and its accompanying Plan of Action on durable solutions for Somali refugees (with a much broader reach on solutions for refugees and host communities in the sub region) that further reinforces the commitments made by member states at the Leaders’ Summit in September 2016. The Nairobi Declaration is the regional application of the CRRF which seeks a multi-sectoral approach in dealing with displacement and takes cognizance of the development impacts of displacement on host communities and governments.

Despite the joint efforts, the IGAD region continues to experience significant levels of forced displacement and mixed migration flows. Forced displacement continues to exert strains on regional governments and resources, especially when they become protracted. Refugee settlements and camps as well as most of the migratory routes are often found in areas where communities have low levels of access to social services or economic opportunities. The increased numbers of refugees and undocumented migrants arriving in Europe by boats despite the numerous deaths in the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert is evidence enough to interrogate refugee protection and assistance as well as other forms of migration in and out of Africa. While intervention measures to mitigate and manage forced migration have been put in place, they however remain insufficient especially since most don’t bear in mind the development impacts and realities of displacement and migration. This insufficiency in mitigation can be partly attributed to weak collaboration between knowledge production, policy formulation and practice in the region. The planned conference is therefore an effort to provide a convergence platform for reflections on forced displacement and related migration especially in light of emerging interest by states and the international community to address displacement and migration in a more humane and sustainable manner for both those displaced and the ones that host them.

Rationale
The horn and eastern regions of Africa are experiencing various developments in the dynamics of forced displacement and mixed migration flows. While there is a wide range of institutional responses to refugees including protection, humanitarian assistance and search for durable solutions, there are also justifiable concerns on problems associated with forced displacement and migration. These are issues of internal displacement, human trafficking and mixed migration flows.
This conference seeks to address several issues. First, enable a scholarly and policy interrogation of the relationship between forced displacement and other forms of migration (Mixed migration flows). Secondly, assess and analyse new knowledge and developments in migration policies and management in the Horn of Africa and the African continent. Third, discuss how these mixed migrations flows influence and are in turn influenced by the political economy of international migration. In discussing these broad dynamics, the conference aims to help in shaping future directions of the forced displacement and mixed migration discourse, interventions and policy in the Horn and East Africa. This is also important in identifying potential avenues for collaboration between policy makers, researchers, international institutions, practitioners and governments in their pursuit to address issues related to forced migration. This is done with the objective of broadening the discussion in order to come up with much longer-term and multifaceted approaches to addressing issues of forced migration.

The continuous development of an on-going and systematic research agenda to support the emerging thinking around sustainable development approaches to managing mixed migration
and forced displacement impacts will be central to this conference. Developing research and knowledge platforms will require the building of strong partnerships with universities, think tanks and other organizations that are able to champion specific research agenda to promote a culture of learning that also drives policy orientation. The research outputs generated will be instrumental in informing policy options for IGAD Member States and influencing programming for durable and transitional solutions by key actors in the region.

Themes:
The themes that will be addressed in the conference will include the following:
• Economic and environmental impacts of refugees and IDPs
• Integration of refugees and returnees with host communities
• The economics of forced displacement
• The effects of displacement on the displaced and host communities
• Regional governance and migration
• Negotiating institutional responses to displacement
• Humanitarian space and spaces of protection
• What is a human being worth? Human trafficking and people smuggling today
• Protracted urban displacement: the minefield of needs and interests
• Linking Peace, Security and displacement
• What next? The dynamics of evolving protection space
• Durable solutions to displacement-case studies of good practices for building resilience and sustainable livelihoods for migrants/refugees/returnees
• South-South Vs South-North displacement and migration
• Local, National, Regional and Global perspectives on the rights of forced migrants
• Development Induced Displacement and Resettlement
• Refugee health and Psychosocial issues
• Gender and Migration
• ICT and migration
• The good, bad and ugly of migration in the IGAD region

Format
The conference will have two keynote addresses, presentation of papers and round-table discussions.

Submission, Review Process and Announcement of Acceptance
All papers will be subject to a review process. Papers submitted will be categorized into working papers and full papers.

Please send your abstracts to the addresses below:
Michael Omondi Owiso
Email: owisomike@gmail.com

Truphena E. Mukuna
E-mail: turumukuna@yahoo.com

Organizers:
School of Strategic and Development Studies (SDSS) – Maseno University/Kenya; the Organization for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA); and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) with funding from the World Bank.



Monday, 2 July 2018

Robert Nurick at the Wilderness Festival: The impacts of deportation and forced return on migrant families and communities


What would make you cross borders without papers? Can you imagine living a transient uncertain life with the constant threat of arrest and deportation? Would you leave your children to take up dangerous and low paid jobs? This is the reality for hundreds of thousands of Cambodian migrants in Thailand.
In this thought provoking interactive workshop, we will immerse ourselves in the reality and lived experience of undocumented Cambodian migrants in Thailand. Drawing on interview transcripts we will hear the voices of migrants and their families – their challenges, aspirations and strategies – as they opt for precarious migration to make a better future for themselves and their children.

The Wilderness Festival will take place from the 2-5 August 2018 in Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire, UK. You can purchase tickets here. Robert's talk will take place at 13.30 on 4 August 2018.