Beverley L. DroughtandGareth A. Jones
University of Wales, Swansea
Refugees and forced migrants present particular challenges to national governments and international agencies as the rapid movement of large numbers of people with limited economic resources place a strain on housing policies. Although reliable data on global refugee numbers are difficult to come by, recent estimates converge on a figure of 15-20 million refugees and, perhaps, an equal number of internally displaced persons (Cernea 1995, V. Robinson 1995, Rogers 1992, UNCHR 1995). In most developed countries, the response to refugee crises has been either to integrate the refugee cohorts into the host population or, increasingly, to pursue policies which promote settlement in countries of ‘first asylum’ (Escalona and Black 1995, V. Robinson 1995. Rogers 1992). In developing countries, the response has been to establish camps or ‘safe areas’ with either international or NGO assistance, or to turn a blind eye to self-settlement (Bascom 1993, Rogge 1987). There is, however, a growing awareness that inappropriate settlement policies can induce further impoverishment for people in already difficult circumstances.
One recent example of uncontrolled population movement is the return to Russia of approximately 3 million ethnic Russians from the fourteen non-Russian republics of the ‘near abroad’ following the break-up of the former Soviet Union and the subsequent re-ordering of ethnic hierarchies (Aasland 1996, Zayonchkovskaya, Kocharyan and Vitkovskaya 1993). Unlike refugee flows in either developed or developing countries, the return of the ethnic Russians presented a very different problem for policy-makers. 1 First, unlike most forced migrants and refugees, those leaving the ‘near abroad’ were not seeking ‘third country’ asylum but were returning to their ethnic homeland in search of ‘permanent’ accommodation and employment, and with some expectation of being met by a welcoming and ordered programme of resettlement.