First International Conference for Research on African Challenges (ICRAC)
Presentation: Displaced Syrians in Saudi Arabia and Nigeria and Malaysia as an alternative model of displacement and a solution for North Africa’s refugee crisis.
TRENDS Researcher, Emina Osmandzikovic, presented her research and fieldwork on displaced Syrians in Saudi Arabia highlighting the alternative models of accommodation of displaced populations, ranging from Nigeria to Malaysia.
The research tackled the often-contested terms, such as “refugees” and “migrants,” and their applicability to the alternative model as a new solution for countries struggling with the challenge, including those in North Africa.
Despite clear refugee assistance definitions, governments around the world have been content with yielding the primary responsibility of refugee reception to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Moreover, response mechanisms are not yet effective enough to fill the gaps that exist at local and regional levels.
The cases of Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Nigeria serve as examples of alternative approaches to reception and accommodation of displaced populations.
The Malaysian approach was designed and implemented in collaboration with the UNHCR, recognizing the protection needs of displaced Acehnese refugees.
The case of Nigeria includes a regional agreement as an overarching mechanism of the normalization of refugees’ protection and access to the labor markets in the greater region.
The West African approach to reception and accommodation of displaced populations has a regional treaty as its backbone in addition to an agreement with the UNHCR and recognition of refugees as such.
The West African approach has attempted to bridge the gap between asylum and economic aspects of migration. The mandate of the treaty was expanded to incorporate asylum as a beneficiary category.
A relatively low number of refugees and asylum seekers addressed by the program make this case different besides the fact that they are scattered across several countries.
As the most developed and the most comprehensive of the three, the Saudi model for reception and accommodation of displaced populations encompasses healthcare assistance, free access to public education and generous scholarships in higher education, some forms of visa amnesty and access to the labour market under the Ministry of Labor and Social Development’s “Ajeer Programme.” Since 2011, Saudi Arabia has diligently worked to amend its traditional immigration and social integration system. The Kingdom has had a long history of assisting displaced populations both within and outside its borders, including the acceptance of Palestinians and Uighurs, a number of whom have become naturalized. Nothing in this history has resulted in regularizing displacement. Thus, the modification of the immigration system for visitors in order to accommodate displaced Syrians, and later displaced Yemenis, is unprecedented. This is the most developed of the three models in question due to the number of people it covers with 2.2 million Syrians encompassed at the peak of the crisis in 2015.
Although situated in different regions with a contrasting number of beneficiaries, the three cases have been constructed as a direct consequence of localized and region-specific occurrences that have galvanized government actions.
One of the potential solutions for the migrant crisis in North Africa might be a hybrid model that encompasses the Nigerian, Malaysian and Saudi models.
This is aided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR, to alleviate the condition in countries with acute crises, such as Morocco and Tunisia.
More about the conference:
The International Conference on African Challenges (ICRAC) was designed to address the challenges of the research and academic community across Africa and beyond.
As a peer-reviewed academic conference, it presented a great opportunity for scholars and researchers to come together and start a healthy and structured interaction among discipline-based communities and across multi-disciplines.
The conference ensured dynamic debates, promising exchanges and provided diverse opportunities for potential collaboration and cross-industry networking.
The topics covered a wide variety of issues, including community-based social protection, governance and welfare delivery, cash transfer programs, optimization of social spending and the economics of crime.
It also dealt with subjects such as migration and economic opportunities, the weaponization of poverty, women’s political participation, housing finance, and commercial banks, external debt and capital flight, public entrepreneurship, and cause-related marketing.
Among the main deliverables from the conference will be research papers published in a peer-reviewed journal.