Escape from Violence: Conflict and the Refugee Crisis in the Developing World

Escape from Violence: Conflict and the Refugee Crisis in the Developing World

Escape from Violence: Conflict and the Refugee Crisis in the Developing World

Escape from Violence: Conflict and the Refugee Crisis in the Developing World


The magnitude of refugees movements in the Third World, widely perceived as an unprecedented crisis, has generated widespread concern in the West. This concern reveals itself as an ambiguous mixture of heartfelt compassion for the plight of the unfortunates cast adrift and a diffuse fear that they will come "pouring in." In this comprehensive study, the authors examine the refugee flows originating in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, and suggest how a better understanding of this phenomenon can be used by the international community to assist those in greatest need. Reviewing the history of refugee movements in the West, they show how their formation and the fate of endangered populations have also been shaped by the partisan objectives of receiving countries. They survey the kinds of social conflicts characteristic of different regions of the Third World and the ways refugees and refugee policy are made to serve broader political purposes.


Widely perceived as an unprecedented crisis, the number of refugees originating in the developing world since the 1970s has generated urgent concern throughout the West. Such concern is an ambiguous mixture of compassion for the plight of the unfortunates who have been cast adrift and of fear that they will come pouring in. But not only does that fear constantly threaten to undermine the exercise of compassion, it also shows that the affluent countries of the West will neither admit all who seek entry nor give sufficient relief to those who find havens in the developing world itself. This is equally true of neighboring countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, which in fact bear the brunt of the crisis.

This book seeks to foster a more critical and realistic understanding of the refugee phenomenon, so as to clarify the obligations of the more fortunate of the world toward others in great need, and the ways in which these are best implemented. We shall attempt to explain why the developing world today is producing so many refugees: why they sometimes come in a flood and sometimes in a trickle; where they go; and why they sometimes return and sometimes do not.

This is the first attempt to provide a comprehensive, theoretically grounded explanation of refugee flows. Social scientists who analyze the causes and consequences of international migrations generally exclude refugee movements, because they believe that the two types of population movement are fundamentally different.

It has long been recognized that migration is governed by social and economic forces that themselves are somewhat regular and thus are amenable to theoretical analysis. By contrast, however, refugee flows are unruly in that they result from events such as civil strife, abrupt changes of regime, arbitrary governmental decisions, or international war, all of which are generally considered singular and unpredictable occurrences. This is reflected, for example, in the differing articles, Migrations and Refugees, in the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (1968). The first consists of sections by a sociologist and an economist, who review theories seeking to explain population movements generally; the second consists of two sections: one, on "World Problems," was written by a political scientist specializing in international law and organization, and was focused on the development of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; another was on "Adjustment and Assimilation" of refugees.

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