There has been renewed academic interest in the security impacts of forced migration since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011 generated more than 5 million refugees, most of whom fled to neighboring countries and to Europe. Researchers are, for instance, increasingly working to identify how the type, severity, and perpetrator of political violence affect patterns of displacement, such as whether forced migrants cross borders or remain in their home country. Though much of the discussion in the security studies context continues to center on forced migration flows as a conduit for civil war, international terrorism, and refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) as perpetrators, scholars also have begun to focus attention on the ways in which refugees and the internally displaced can become the targets of political violence in the receiving state. Following the path of earlier qualitative research recognizing that displaced populations rarely become militarized, studies of a more quantitative orientation are now working to isolate the conditions under which forced migration leads to varying forms of political violence. Another important and growing area of focus is on how resettlement of the displaced affects the dynamics of violence in the origin country, including the potential for conflict recurrence. Efforts to study security impacts of forced migration more systematically have increased alongside the availability of new data and more diverse analytical tools and methods. Still, many important dimensions of the forced migration–conflict connection remain to be explored, and innovative research as well as new data collection efforts are necessary. Integrating insights from other fields, including economics, psychology, and sociology, and returning to the task of theory-building based on case-study research offer a promising path forward.
Sarah E. DeYoung
During crisis events such as humanitarian conflicts, population displacement, natural disasters, and others, some people are more vulnerable to long-term physical, psychological, and overall adverse outcomes. Aspects of context that affect vulnerability include: (a) the nature of the hazard or conflict event; (b) the geographic location and structural surroundings; and (c) involvement of key groups during crisis. The nature of the event includes barriers for access to well-being in high-income and low-income contexts, the speed of onset of the hazard, the scope and type of hazard (localized or catastrophic, natural or technological, and other factors). Geographic location and structural surroundings include factors such as isolation caused by an island context, structural mitigation (such as earthquake-resistant construction), pollution and environmental exposure, and implementation of land use planning or sustainable farming. Finally, with regard to involvement of key groups in crisis, it is important to consider ways in which group coordination, logistics, cultural competency, public policy, social movements, and other mechanisms can exacerbate or improve conditions for vulnerable groups. Groups more likely to experience adverse outcomes in disasters include: ethnic and racial minoritized persons, people considered to be low caste, women, children, infants, sexual minorities, religious minorities, elders, and immigrants and refugees. Displacement and relocation are associated with specific increases in exposure to food insecurity, human trafficking, and reduced access to reproductive care. Contextual factors are also related to the severity of the adverse outcomes these groups experience in crisis. These factors include access to healthcare, access to education, and economic status. There are also unique groups whose needs, social systems, and cultural factors increase barriers to evacuation, accessing warning information, or accessing safe sheltering. These groups include persons with functional and access needs including medical or cognitive impairments, elderly individuals, people with companion animals, and people with mental illness.
African borders, which mostly follow the contours of the former colonies, are widely regarded as artificial and yet have enjoyed remarkable longevity. On the one hand, there have been relatively few serious secessionist and/or irredentist bids. On the other hand, a limited number of border disputes have been settled and mostly without recourse to conflict. This is often attributed to the willingness of states to accept the principle of the intangibility of borders inherited from colonialism and the associated legal principle of uti possidetis. Most claims to secession are based on a preexisting sense of territoriality, whereas there are relatively few that are premised on the rights of peoples to self-determination. It has been pointed out that claims to secession are often tabled as a bargaining position rather than as a nonnegotiable demand. However, the secession of South Sudan has created a genuine precedent, and there has been an upsurge of secessionist movements that reflects this reality. In addition, there has been a proliferation of fresh border disputes, which reflects the increased competition for valuable resources such as oil. This would suggest that some of the landscape of border politics is undergoing a shift. However, a number of factors continue to work in favor of the reproduction of existing borders. Paradoxically, the fact that guerrilla insurgencies tend to breed in borderlands, from where movements either aspire to take over the existing state or seek to carve out zones of de facto control, means that the borders themselves are not challenged. War economies depend on transboundary flows in which local populations themselves are deeply invested. Moreover, the flight of displaced populations and refugees toward borders may create greater insecurity at the margins but also tends to reinforce borders in both a legal and a practical sense. Finally, the struggle to determine the basis on which trade and transport is managed involves associational actors operating at the national level. Equally, fishermen, herders, farmers, and other local actors frequently invoke national affiliations to justify their own right to exploit resources within border zones. At the border itself, one observes a convergence of international, national, and local political scales in a particularly striking manner.