The reason refugees flee their homelands is now more to do with civil wars than wars between nationsby Alessandro Casella / May 17, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
Refuge by Paul Collier and Alexander Betts (Allen Lane, £20)
According to the authors, Oxford academics Alexander Betts and Paul Collier, the reason refugees flee their homelands is now more to do with civil wars than wars between nations. State fragility and mass violence form a toxic brew. In order to address this new world of war more effectively, so the authors argue, governments need to change their attitude and their policies. For example, housing refugees in large camps—such as the Dadaab camps in northern Kenya, home to 300,000 Somalis—is often inimical to their welfare. Why not let them work so they can support themselves and contribute to the economy? Such projects have been shown to be successful in Uganda and Jordan.
The authors, though, are too kind to the UN High Commission for Refugees, which should be at the forefront of such change but is actually one of its main obstacles. The organisation is fixated on the provisions of a refugee convention dating from the Cold War, which is out of touch with current reality. Significantly, of the six UNHCR staff members they identify for praise, four have never actually served in the field.