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Accepted paper:

"Integrating" refugees into the job-market: a solution for whom?

Author:

Nora Bardelli (CERI Sciences Po)

Paper short abstract:

This paper critically explores the current tendency within the refugee regime of seeing employment as a durable solution to displacement in the context of Malian refugees living in Burkina Faso.

Paper long abstract:

This paper critically explores the current tendency within the refugee regime of seeing employment as a durable solution to displacement in the context of Malian refugees living in Burkina Faso. After briefly explaining how these recent trends (ideologically) differ from self-sufficiency programmes that were implemented by humanitarian agencies on the African continent in the 1970s and 1980s, the paper focuses on these projects' outcomes as observed through ethnographic research in Burkina Faso. Focusing on the programmes implemented - and not implemented - in the country and discussing who can access them, this paper shows how there is the construction of a decontextualized and depoliticized "neoliberal refugee" as the ideal one. Whoever does not fit this - and most of my interlocutors did not fit it - is perceived as a non-deserving refugee. The consequence of this new "economic ethos" of UNHCR, reflected in the projects implemented and conceptualisations of responses to displacement is quite straightforward: inequalities, in this case particularly linked with accessing opportunities and assistance, can increase among forced migrants. Additionally, programmes implemented to "promote" Malian refugees' self-sufficiency also reinforced simplistic and stereotypical (spatial) differentiations between self-settled urban refugees and camp refugees. The aim of this paper is obviously not to criticise actual desires and aspirations of refugees to be economically self-sufficient, rather, I analyse and question the broader macro-economically fashioned humanitarianism, making explicit why it is problematic at the conceptual level, and anchoring that critique in the local context, practices, and discourses that I studied.

panel AA08
Trajectories of refuge: protracted displacement and humanitarian responses