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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest


Global Migrants, Global Refugees: Problems and Solutions
Aristide R. Zolberg and Peter M. Benda, eds

Berghahn Books, New York and Oxford, 2001
ISBN: 1-571-87170-2, 370pp

This edited volume begins with the observation, laudable in its intentions, that recent developments in the sphere of international migration, both voluntary and forced, do not provide evidence of an 'international migration crisis'. The volume thus seeks to provide an alternative to doom-laden scenarios of rampant migration from the Third World threatening the security and social infrastructure of the West. In his introduction to the volume, Zolberg notes that the search for 'solutions' to issues surrounding global migration, whether economic or political, cannot be achieved by a 'quick fix'. Yet, working under the assumption that the optimal solution would be halt or reduce 'unwanted economic migration' and refugee exodus to the West, and the United States in particular, several of the authors attempt to provide an analysis of the 'root causes' of such migration. The bulk of this review will focus on the contributions that address forced migration from different perspectives.

In attempting a quantitative review of forced migration between 1964-95, Schmeidl notes that political violence, especially intra-state ethnic conflict, is the most accurate predictor of refugee flows. In his contribution, Loescher asserts the increasingly 'proactive' government (and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) rhetoric in relation to the underlying causes of refugee flight; 'the right to leave' is in his understanding increasingly being replaced by policies focused on 'the right to remain' and the 'right to return'. In this regard, Weiss points to a growing willingness to address, rather than ignore, refugee-producing emergencies within the borders of conflicted states. In their contribution, Forsythe, Baker and Leonard attempt to address the link, often made explicit in policy statements, between democracy, migration and US foreign policy. While noting that liberal democracies do not generate massive outflows of emigrants, I would argue that, much like the 'democratic peace theory' it is difficult to assign causal primacy for reducing migration flows to 'democratisation' efforts of the sort propounded by successive US administrations. Finally, Ferris addresses the issue of 'when wars end', asserting that the reconstruction effort begins long before a peace agreement is achieved.

While the contributions to this volume are useful and significant, and provide in many cases refreshing new scholarship on addressing the increasing demonisation of migration and migrants, the implicit assumption that migration is still 'bad' and must be 'managed' is worrying. There are several 'good' and rational reasons why people move, and the right of people to make these choices to move, especially in circumstances of economic or political hardship, must be protected. It would be well to address this facet of the issue explicitly in scholarship. In his contribution, Loescher makes the important point that focusing solely on countries of origin risks overshadowing the responsibilities of all governments towards refugees and asylum-seekers. As he notes, 'asylum states, particularly those in the North, have international obligations too, including the support of human rights [and] the provision of asylum.'

Pia A. Oberoi, Refugee Officer, Amnesty International

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