Fall 2017

The Global Refugee Crisis: Regional Destabilization & Humanitarian Protection

Sarah Kenyon Lischer

In addition to being a tragic output of civil war, large-scale displacement crises often become enmeshed in the politics, security, and economics of the conflict. Refugee and internally displaced populations thus exacerbate concerns about regional destabilization. The Syrian refugee crisis, for example, is deeply entwined with civil and international conflict. Neighboring host states of Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon bear the brunt of the crisis, while European states seek to prevent further encroachment by Middle Eastern asylum seekers. Policy-makers often mistakenly view host state security and refugee security as unrelated–or even opposing–factors. In reality, refugee protection and state stability are linked together; undermining one factor weakens the other. Policies to protect refugees, both physically and legally, reduce potential threats from the crisis and bolster state security. In general, risks of conflict are higher when refugees live in oppressive settings, lack legal income-generation options, and are denied education for their youth. The dangers related to the global refugee crisis interact with many other threats that emanate from civil wars and weak states, such as fragile governments, rebel and terrorist group activity, and religious or ethnic fragmentation.

SARAH KENYON LISCHER is Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Wake Forest University. She is the author of Dangerous Sanctuaries: Refugee Camps, Civil War, and the Dilemmas of Humanitarian Aid (2005) and has published articles in such journals as International Security, The American Scholar, Conflict, Security, and Development, and Global Governance.

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