Why Some Refugees Move Twice – My piece in the Forced Migration Review

As faithful readers of this blog will know, refugee resettlement was one of my very first research topics in graduate school. This was back in 2014, before… erm… the topic became politically toxic.

The research, in which I collaborated with Scott Loveridge, was of the qualitative variety. We set out to interview individuals from around the US who were involved in high-level decision making about refugee resettlement. All told we spoke with representatives from about 41 states. We supplemented our qualitative findings with some data from the US Office of Refugee Resettlement and the US Census American Community Survey.

Our research objectives were to learn about two issues facing refugee resettlement in the US. The first was on the possibility of helping rural America repopulate by resettling refugees in rural areas. A policy brief on this topic was published in 2014: “Refugees in Rural Communities: A Win-Win?“. The second was about the causes and consequences of, what is called in the industry, secondary migration. This is when refugees, who have been resettled in the US, move across state borders quickly upon arrival – often within a year. An essay describing our research findings has finally been published in the most recent edition of the Forced Migration Review: “The Secondary Migration of Refugees Resettled in the US” (It is also available in mp3 format – you don’t even have to read, if you don’t want too!)

The entire issue, which focuses on the topic of resettlement is available here. I’d recommend reading the many other essays in this issue. Indeed the world has a lot to learn about refugee resettlement, particularly from those who work in the resettlement field or spend substantial time thinking about forced migration. The letter from the editors in this issue is particularly harrowing, here is an excerpt:

While this issue of FMR was going to press, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order indefinitely banning all Syrian refugees from entering the US and suspending the country’s broader refugee programme for 120 days. After this the programme would be much smaller, with the total number of refugees resettled in the US in 2017 more than halved – to 50,000 from 110,000. As the US has the largest refugee resettlement programme in the world by far, this would have a significant impact on global resettlement.

The Forced Migration Review is a cool publication. They claim that they are “the most widely read publication on forced migration”, and they are probably correct. Each issue is available both in print and online and is available in English, French, Spanish, and Arabic. They are housed by the Refugee Studies Centre in the Department of International Development at Oxford University.

Finally, I’m a believer in the (half-baked) theory that a unique soundtrack enhances good research. For this article the soundtrack was Tom Petty’s “Refugee”.


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