Magazine article USA TODAY

Predicting Potential Refugee Crises

Magazine article USA TODAY

Predicting Potential Refugee Crises

Article excerpt

When natural disasters like hurricanes or floods threaten, experts usually can give people early warnings so they have time to prepare. Social scientists are working to develop similar systems which can forecast political and social disasters that sometimes are deadlier and more costly than natural calamities.

Researchers have identified some of the important factors that may predict refugee migrations within a country or from one nation to another. "Refugee migrations are not random occurrences; they stem from political and social problems that can be predicted," explains Craig Jenkins, professor of sociology and a researcher at Ohio State University's Mershon Center for International Security, Columbus.

Using data from the United Nations and other sources, Jenkins and Susanne Schmeidl of the Swiss Peace Foundation identified long-term, root causes of refugee migrations as well as the more immediate factors that sparked the crises. They found that the major root causes included weak governments, long-standing ethnic antagonisms and inequality, and poverty linked to economic dependence on other nations. Large migrations often were immediately preceded by some type of generalized violence: civil wars, genocide or politicide in the affected countries, or foreign military interventions. …

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