Can resettlement prevent irregular migration?

Source: Aljazeera

Accessible resettlement programmes for refugees in Africa can curb irregular immigration to the West and save lives.

An Eritrean refugee girl plays with clay in front of her shelter in Mai-Aini refugee camp in the Tigrai region of Ethiopia in February 2016 [Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]
An Eritrean refugee girl plays with clay in front of her shelter in Mai-Aini refugee camp in the Tigrai region of Ethiopia in February 2016 [Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

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Nassim Majidi is the founder and co-director at Samuel Hall and an affiliate researcher at Sciences Po’s CERI.

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Jessica Hagen-Zanker is Migration Research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute.

By the time Dawit arrived in Ethiopia aged 29, he had been twice arrested and imprisoned by the Eritrean government. We met Dawit in a refugee camp called Adi Harush in Northern Ethiopia, where he had settled nine months earlier, hoping to build his future in the host country. Despite being a qualified health professional, his hopes were quickly dashed by the limited employment options in Ethiopia. He could not find a way of supporting himself, let alone his ageing parents back in Eritrea.

Ethiopia is a leading country of asylum in the region. Dawit is one of more than 700,000 refugees in the country. Western governments are eager to keep them there and are increasingly using aid to prevent or reduce irregular onward migration.

These days, Dawit dreams of going to Europe where he has Eritrean friends. He has heard that they are allowed to work and study. Having applied for resettlement, he feels disillusioned. Others who applied later than him have been accepted, but his turn has not yet come.

Resettlement programmes, which relocate refugees from temporary camps to Western host countries, have a number of objectives. On the one hand, they protect vulnerable refugees, on the other, they can be seen as a measure to prevent irregular migration. Given that it is not possible to apply for asylum before entering a country, resettlement is one of the few legal channels available to Eritreans to get to Western countries. As a virtually cost-free option, it has become the ultimate lottery for many. Yet those who apply end up paying a heavy price in other ways.

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