TRAFIG Working Paper No. 2

Learning from the past.

Protracted displacement in the post-World War II period.

This working paper examines the history of the search for solutions to protracted displacement. Focusing specifically on the Horn of Africa, East Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, the paper analyses past policy responses that explicitly or implicitly address situations of extended exile. In addition, the paper examines the potential of translocal mobility and connectivity as an individual- or household-level solution to displacement.

The concern to find solutions for long-term displacement situations has been a key driver for the evolution of the international refugee protection regime ever since its initiation in the interwar period. Yet, only more recently have these efforts crystallised around the notions of ‘durable solutions’ and ‘protracted displacement’. The emergence of the latter concept in the 1990s reflects challenges arising from the globalisation of the international refugee protection regime, the massive growth of displacement in the Global South and the increasingly limited availability of long-term solutions from the late 1970s onwards. From a historical perspective, efforts to resolve specific protracted displacement situations have been diverse, devised in response to both domestic and international constraints and opportunities. The current shift away from the conventional durable solutions—return, integration and resettlement—to less fixed solutions thus can be seen as a return to historically dominant practices of a more context-driven search for solutions.

Research reviewed for this paper supports the TRAFIG project’s hypothesis that mobility and connectivity practices can help displaced persons cope with protracted displacement, and in some cases, find more durable solutions for themselves. Yet, both mobility and connectivity also have a stratifying effect, increasing the gap between those who have access to these and those who do not. Historically, different forms of assisted mobility for refugees to third countries have been instrumental in resolving particular displacement situations, such as in the interwar period, the post-World War II period and in Indo-China in the 1970s and 1980s. In the current context, neither organised mobility nor individual options for mobility are available to the same extent.

Keywords: History; protracted displacement; protracted refugee situations; refugees; IDPs; governance; mobility; Europe; East Africa; Horn of Africa; Middle East; South Asia

Authors: Albert Kraler, Margarita Fourer, Are John Knudsen, Juul Kwaks, Katja Mielke, Marion Noack, Sarah Tobin & Catherina Wilson

Cite as: Kraler, A, Fourer, M., Knudsen, A.J., Kwaks, J., Mielke, K., Noack, M., Tobin, S., & Wilson, C. (2020). Learning from the Past. Protracted displacement in the post-World War II period (TRAFIG working paper 2). Bonn: BICC.

To download the Working paper, please click here.

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