Academic journal article Refuge

Bordering on Conventional: The Politics of Iraqi Resettlement to the US and Europe, 2003-2011

Academic journal article Refuge

Bordering on Conventional: The Politics of Iraqi Resettlement to the US and Europe, 2003-2011

Article excerpt


Of some 2.5 million Iraqi citizens internationally displaced in the wake of Operation Iraqi Freedom, less than 100,000 have achieved permanent international resettlement. This paper compares US and EU policies regulating the selection and admission of Iraqi refugees since 2003, focusing on the divergent political priorities and structural considerations underpinning variations in resettlement levels during this time. I argue that US resettlement of Iraqi refugees is primarily an element of foreign policy, defined by strategic objectives in Iraq and the surrounding region, whereas admissions to the EU reflect ongoing intra-European debates surrounding the construction and modification of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). Whereas resettlement to the US increased drastically following a "strategic" reframing of the Iraqi refugee crisis in 2007, failures in the implementation of CEAS's "standardization" agenda, compounded by enhanced European restrictions on refugee movement, have limited Iraqi admissions to Europe during this time.


Des quelques 2,5 millions de citoyens irakiens deplaces internationalement suite a l'Operation Iraqi Freedom, moins de 100 000 ont reussi leur reinstallation permanente dans un autre pays. Cet article compare les politiques americaines et europeennes reglementant la selection et l'admission des refugies irakiens depuis 2003. On s'y concentre sur les differences de priorites politiques et de considerations structurelles qui sous-tendent les differences dans le nombre de refugies installes. On avance que l'installation des refugies irakiens aux Etats-Unis releve surtout d'une politique des etrangers definie par des objectifs strategiques en Irak et au Moyen Orient. En comparaison, leur admission en Europe depend des debats europeens sur la construction et la modification du Regime d'asile europeen commun (RAEC). Alors que les Etats-Unis accueillaient beaucoup plus de refugies irakiens suite a une refonte strategique de leurs politiques en reponse a la crise des refugies de 2007, au meme moment, les echecs dans la mise en place des objectifs standardises du RAEC, de pair avec les restrictions europeennes sur le mouvement des refugies, ont limite l'admission de refugies irakiens en Europe.


June 2011 marked the 60th anniversary of the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which laid down protective standards for displaced Europeans in the post-war era and established refugee non-refoulement as a premier principle of contemporary international law. Along with its 1967 Protocol, the Convention has spawned a host of diverse legislation in signatory states (1) pertaining to the selection and integration of foreign refugees. Individual resettlement policies vary widely in the number of refugees accepted annually and in the character of rights and services available to new migrants, and each national resettlement program is subject to a unique set of fiscal and political prerogatives.

Whereas the original European "refugees" found ample opportunities for lire, work, and citizenship in the United States and Western Europe, their experience has been seldom replicated in the Convention's 60-year history. Today's refugees--some 15.4 million of them worldwide, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) (2)--face first-world resettlement quotas that pale in comparison to demonstrated need. Iraqis who have fled personal and political violence since the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 are no exception.

Though accurate numbers are difficult to come by, the Congressional Research Service estimates that up to 2.5 million Iraqis have sought international refuge since 2003, (3) with a vast majority still living precariously in Iraq's neighbouring states. Studies show that a preponderance of Iraqi refugees oppose returning to Iraq in the near future, (4) and UNHCR has corroborated their position in several reports outlining the hardships of Iraqis who prematurely repatriate. …

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