October 18 2017: RRN Research Digest

The RRN Research Digest provides a synopsis of recent research on refugee and forced migration issues from entities associated with the RRN and others.

You can download the digest in PDF format here: RRN Research Digest No. 21

Recent Publications and New Research

Negotiating Identity and Belonging through the Invisibility Bargain: Colombian Forced Migrants in Ecuador, by Jeffrey D. Pugh

This article argues that an “invisibility bargain” constrains migrants’ identities and political participation, demanding their economic contributions plus political and social invisibility in exchange for tolerance of their presence in the host country. In response, migrants negotiate their visible identity differences, minimize social distance from the host population, and build informal coalitions with non-state brokers to avoid citizen backlash against overt political activism. Examining Colombian forced migrants in Ecuador, the article challenges state-centric governance approaches, underscoring migrant agency in negotiating identity to influence social hierarchies, coexistence, and human security. Its findings advance the broader understanding of migration in the Global South. Available at:


Promises and pitfalls: the SIEV 221 incident and its aftermath by Andreas Schloenhardt and James Johnston 

Abstract: On 15 December 2010, 50 asylum seekers drowned when the wooden fishing vessel used to take them from Indonesia to Australia, referred to as SIEV 221 by Australian authorities, crashed against the cliffs of Christmas Island and sank. This incident, which unfolded before the eyes of many locals and was broadcast around the world, shocked the Australian public and led to calls for a radical change of Australia’s response to irregular maritime arrivals and migrant smuggling. This research note documents and examines the background and events of the SIEV 221 tragedy and its aftermath, including relevant official reviews, inquests, criminal and civil proceedings. The paper explores the pitfalls that led to this incident and assesses the response to the tragedy against the promises made by the Australian Government at that time. Available at: http://www.inderscience.com/link.php?id=86922

“City Margins and Exclusionary Space in Contemporary Egypt: An Urban Ethnography of a Syrian Refugee Community in a Remote Low-Income Cairo Neighborhood”, an MA thesis by Samir Shalabi

This study investigates how a low-income Syrian refugee community negotiates its precarious location in a neighborhood on the periphery of one of Cairo’s desert ‘New Towns’. It also examines the way in which urban spatiality shapes the everyday lived reality of this particular community of Syrians. It argues that although these Syrian refugees lack access to transportation and other types of social services, they nevertheless manage to disrupt the spatial status-quo by devising creative solutions to problems concerning amenity availability in the neighborhood where they live. Available at:


Reports, Working Papers and Briefs

 Research in Brief ‘Refugee Self-Reliance: Moving Beyond the Marketplace’

Refugee self-reliance, livelihoods, and entrepreneurship have considerable salience – yet there remain notable gaps in understanding and supporting non-economic dimensions of refugee self-reliance. Academic and policy literature often focuses on technical economic outcomes at the expense of social and political dimensions and the use of holistic measurements. This latest RSC Research in Brief, presents new research on refugee self-reliance and addresses areas not commonly included in current discussions. In particular, it focuses on social and cultural, practical, and programmatic aspects of refugee self-reliance. In so doing, it rethinks the concept of refugee self-reliance and aims to contribute recommendations to help achieve positive outcomes in policy and practice. Available at: https://www.rsc.ox.ac.uk/news/new-research-in-brief-on-refugee-self-reliance

Conference Report: Forced to flee: A multi-disciplinary conference on internal displacement, migration and refugee crises

“Forced to Flee” was a multidisciplinary two-day conference on internal displacement, migration and refugee crises, jointly organized by SOAS University of London, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the University of Exeter, the British Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). It brought together some sixty researchers, independent and UK government policy-makers, and senior humanitarian practitioners. The conference report is available at:


Proposed refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2018, Report to the congress

This report presented on the behalf of the president of the United States to the congress. It aims to provide information and recommendations about the nature of the refugee situation in the US, A description of the number and allocation of the refugees to be admitted and an analysis of conditions within the countries from which they came; A description of the plans for their movement and resettlement and the estimated cost of their movement and resettlement; An analysis of the anticipated social, economic, and demographic impact of their admission to the US,  amongst other information. Available at: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4063604-Report-to-Congress-Proposed-Refugee-Admissions.html

News Reports and Blog posts

‘Leaving the Cold War Behind’: Crime and Forced Migration in Latin America by David James Cantor

Compared to many other regions of the world, the number of forced migrants in Latin America is low. Moreover, sometimes its refugee challenges can be seen by outsiders as marginal and parochial; its laws and institutions for refugees as settled and well-established. Below the surface, though, all is in flux as hotspots of violent criminality across the region provoke new and acute forced migration challenges. This blog reflects on some of these challenges. Available at:


Europe’s Migrant Trail, Through the Instagrams of Refugees by Nicolas Niarchos

This article reports on The Belgian photographer Tomas van Houtryve who offered a new approach by following the “digital breadcrumbs” left by refugees on social media as they passed through Turkey, Greece, and France. Van Houtryve, who has covered wars in Nepal and Afghanistan as a traditional photojournalist, became interested in the ways in which digital technology affects photography when, in 2013, he began working on a series of photographs of the United States taken from drones. For his current project, which he has called “Traces of Exile,” he shot video footage of sites along the migrant trail in Europe. Then, using an augmented-reality app called Layar, he overlaid his footage with screenshots of images posted by refugees on Instagram from those same sites. Available at:


 Refugees Deeply Weekly Summary

This week’s summary covers the concerns and preparations by and for refugees for the coming Winter. The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR warned that it’s only received one-quarter of the funds it needs to properly shelter 4 million vulnerable displaced Syrians and Iraqis from the winter weather. Meanwhile, Médecins Sans Frontières is warning of a “mental health emergency” on the Greek islands. The summary also addresses the situation in Libya where a Libyan militia seized control of a key smuggling hub from rival armed groups who had recently cracked down on migrant boats leaving Libya under an Italian-backed deal. UNHCR said thousands of migrants were found trapped in Sabratha after the fighting, including unaccompanied children. Finally, addressing the Rohynia crisis where more refugees drowned fleeing Myanmar by boat, amid a renewed exodus over the border this week. Available at:


Digital and Social Media

 7 free short films about refugees recommended by human rights educators By Camille Roch

Here are seven freely available videos on the reality of life as a refugee, ranging from one to 16 minutes in length recommended by Amnesty International’s human rights education network:


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