Letter from EllinikonOn a bright and sunny day in early April, outside a terminal at what was once the Ellinikon International Airport in Athens, I listened as Javad, 16, told the story of the second refugee flight of his life. Javad (not his real name) is a member of the Hazara ethnic...
Growing Up In WartimeFor years prior to the March 2011 uprising in Syria, writers of the sketch comedy series Buq‘at Daw’ (Spotlight) used symbolism and wordplay to mount a not-so-subtle challenge to the regime on state television. [1. Rebecca Joubin, “Resistance Amid Regime Cooptation on...
Putting Refugee Work Permits to WorkFor decades, humanitarian experts and international organizations have called upon host countries to give more work permits to refugees. Permits are posed as a way to alleviate the poverty of refugees and lessen their dependency on aid. Host countries have...
Oasis in the Desert?From the summer of 2012 through 2014, there were rapid influxes of refugees from Syria into the Zaatari camp in Jordan. The camp’s population spiked in early 2013—from 56,000 in January to a peak of 202,000 just four months later—overwhelming the UN High Commissioner...
Syrian Refugees in the MediaIt was September 2, 2015 when the Syrian refugee crisis abruptly came to dominate the English-language media. On that day broadcast and print outlets led with the iconic image of Alan Kurdi, 3, lying lifeless on a Turkish beach after his family’s failed attempt to...
NGO Governance and Syrian Refugee “Subjects” in Jordan
The typical image of the Syrian refugee camp in Jordan is one of suffering. Journalistic account after account introduces spectacular stories of devastation and loss. While perhaps dramatized, these tales are not false. Syrian refugee camps have forced hundreds of thousands of strangers to live together in austere, unequal and artificially constructed communities, which are subject to new national laws. To live in the camps is indeed to endure or have endured some form of suffering—but also to be part of a collective of survivors.
Caught in the Crossfire of Climate and Politics
Conscription into the army or other government service for years on end, fear of detention and torture for real or imagined transgressions with no legal recourse, no prospect of schooling or meaningful work, and no personal freedom: The reasons Afar refugees in eastern Ethiopia gave for fleeing their homeland often echoed those I had heard from their countrymen in interviews I conducted in 19 countries over the last two years. But most I spoke with had another grievance—disempowerment and discrimination based on their ethnicity and culture.
Class Reshuffling Among Afghan Refugees in Iran
When I was interviewing Afghan refugee writers and intellectuals in Iran in the mid-2000s, I soon realized that there was a gulf between their occupations and their aspirations.  The young poets who were the subjects of my research in the northeastern city of Mashhad often earned a living as manual laborers, construction or factory workers, or small-time street vendors. Some had woven rugs or made handicrafts as children, or engaged in other piecework in small workshops. They came together to read their poetry and short stories to each other on Fridays, their one precious day off. Most of them—both men and women—had benefited from at least a secondary education in Iranian state schools, and most hoped to continue on to university.
Losing Syria’s Youngest Generation
Hasan bounces in his chair, pencil tapping against the table as he bends over the first page of a math exam. He hesitates, before stretching his hand frantically into the air as he waits for help from the program facilitator busy with one of the handful of other boys scattered across the classroom. Hasan is a student at one of over 90 Non-Formal Education Centers opened in Jordan by the education NGO Questscope in partnership with the Jordanian Ministry of Education, funded by a grant from UNICEF. The program, aimed at providing tenth-grade equivalency certificates for refugee and Jordanian children who have spent years without formal schooling, has witnessed a dramatic expansion since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011.
Have Yourself Some Anti-Refugee Hysteria
As holiday shoppers empty their wallets to buy presents for family and friends, there’s been an outbreak of miserliness among our politicians—directed at some of the world’s most helpless people.
At least 30 Republican governors, and one Democrat, are vowing to bar Syrian refugees from their states. One family was actually turned away at the Indiana state line when the local resettlement agency got a nasty phone call from the authorities.
Ahmed, a 25-year old Afar who served eight years in the Eritrean infantry, fled his country in 2006. He went first to Djibouti, and then to neighboring Ethiopia but, finding no work and fearing the risks of crossing the Mediterranean Sea, he went back to his first place of refuge. I met him in Djibouti Ville—the country’s bustling deepwater port and only city—where he now struggles to carve out a life.
Iran’s Unfair Nationality Laws
At an October meeting of young Iranian-American leaders at the residence of the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, I asked Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif about the country’s unfair nationality laws. By these statutes, no Iranian woman married to a non-Iranian man can pass on her citizenship to her children, whereas an Iranian man can pass it on not only to his children, but also to a non-Iranian wife.
Seeking Shelter in Jordan’s Cities
Umm Anas’ four-room apartment rings with the muffled laughter of children told to hush. Her six sons and daughters and four neighborhood children huddle around a tiny, rickety television in the otherwise unfurnished living room. Arabic-dubbed episodes of the “How to Train Your Dragon” television series play in the background while the little boys chase each other around the room with plastic toy guns. Umm Anas’ two-year old daughter clings to her mother’s skirts and watches as humanitarian workers survey the broken doors with no locks and the jagged remnants of windowpanes. The toilet behind the house is open to the rest of the complex, and the family’s water tank allows them only 20 gallons per week for seven people.
Where Is Israel in the Refugee Crisis?
Last week, SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum and Mayor Talal Al-Krenawi of the Negev Bedouin city Rahat issued a joint statement offering the absorption of 1,000 refugees from Syria, who would be supported by employment at the new SodaStream factory in nearby Idan haNegev.
We Can—and Should—Do More to Help Syrian Refugees
Imagine that 58 million Americans were streaming into Canada and Mexico, many with only a small satchel and the clothes on their backs. Picture another 102 million residents of the Eastern seaboard seeking refuge with relatives in the Midwest and West.
That terrifying mental exercise gives a sense of the sheer, staggering scale of the Syrian refugee crisis.
Half of Syria’s pre-war population of 22 million has been uprooted since the country’s horrendous civil war broke out in late 2011. Over 4 million people have escaped to neighboring countries and beyond, while an additional 7 million or so are displaced within the country.
Status-less in Cyber City
When refugees from the Syrian war first began to stream into Jordan, the Jordanian Ministry of Interior registered the newcomers and placed them in the care of families, under the kafala system, mainly in the capital of Amman. The kafala or guardianship system has roots in Bedouin customs, but in modern times the term refers to how many Arab states handle migrant workers. A citizen or a company, known as a kafil, sponsors the migrant for a work visa and residency permit. At first this system accepted everyone, regardless of nationality or legal status—including 55 Palestinian families coming from Syria.
Eritrean Refugees’ Trek Through the Americas
TAPACHULA, MEXICO—It is not hard to find the Eritreans in this low-key town near the Pacific coast a few miles north of the Guatemalan border. They gather on the front steps of the Palafox Hotel with the only other Africans here—Somalis, Ethiopians, a handful of Ghanaians, all of them migrants—or they crowd into the bustling Internet café across the street.
Conflict, Forced Migration and Property Claims
Amidst widespread fighting in Iraq and Syria, millions of distressed civilians have fled their homes. In Yemen as well, war has led to mass displacement as people try to escape threats to their lives and livelihoods. These instances of forced migration create overwhelming immediate problems such as the need for shelter, food and medical care. If insecurity remains a problem, then forced migration can lead to lengthy displacement of people within their own country or in a country of refuge. The longer displacement lasts, the more significant the problems that can develop with regard to land claims and property rights.
Crushing Repression of Eritrea’s Citizens Is Driving Them Into Migrant Boats
Abinet spent six years completing her national service in one of Eritrea’s ministries, but when she joined a banned Pentecostal church, she was arrested, interrogated, threatened, released and then shadowed in a clumsy attempt to identify other congregants. She arranged to be smuggled out of the country in 2013 and is now in a graduate program in human rights in Oslo.
Like Abinet, hundreds of Eritrean asylum seekers are landing on the shores of Italy. Eritreans are second only to Syrians in the number of boat arrivals, though the country is a fraction of Syria’s size and there’s no live civil war there.
A Grim New Phase in Yemen’s Migration History
“Yemen’s conflict is getting so bad that some Yemenis are fleeing to Somalia,” read a recent headline at the Vice News website. The article mentions that 32 Yemenis, mainly women and children, made the trip to Berbera, a port town in Somaliland (and not Somalia). Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have crossed the Gulf of Aden since the outbreak of the Somali civil war in 1991. But now the tide seems to have turned.