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Research

Strengthening Legal and Policy Protections, and Resettlement Outcomes for Refugees and Other Displaced Persons

Research at City, University of London on the societal and human consequences of population displacement and resettlement, focusing on the risk of impoverishment and gender-based violence (GBV), has positively influenced national and international policy on legal and policy protections and resettlement outcomes for refugees and other displaced persons.

What did we explore and how?

Dr Christopher McDowell’s research identifies the main impoverishment risks associated with forced displacement, onward migration and resettlement in the context of conflict, environmental change and economic development. McDowell and Bennett (2012), working closely with the Panos Institute, developed and applied a new approach to oral history that gathered experiences of involuntary resettlement among women in Southern Africa and South Asia over a ten-year period.

The research project promoted awareness of affected communities and empowered individuals to better represent their demands for improved resettlement and compensation. The research revealed the gendered aspects of displacement and resettlement, in particular, the structural biases of policy that marginalised women, and increased their vulnerability to violence.

Dr McDowell’s expertise of resettlement harms led to a commission to undertake research for the Inspection Panel of The World Bank on social harms, including GBV and sexual violence, in the context of a Bank-funded road project in Western Uganda, a transmission line project in Nepal, and a further road project in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

McDowell and Morrell (2010), following extensive interviews with humanitarian UN and NGO staff in Geneva, described and analysed the weaknesses in the current international protection system for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The study advocated for the inclusion of development-displacees and environmental migrants in global and national policies to protect individuals and communities against arbitrary displacement.

In response to his long-term research on the effectiveness of refugee and asylum policy, and the integration process, McDowell was commissioned by the UNHCR and IOM to undertake evaluation research in to UK Government’s Syrian Resettlement Programme. The research, and his authored public and confidential reports, identified opportunities for strengthening resettlement practice both in countries of first asylum (Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey), and in countries of resettlement.

Conducting interviews with 160 resettled refugees in the UK, and with senior staff in eleven local authorities and the Home Office, the findings identified risks of integration failure for particularly vulnerable groups, and the need for early interventions in health and mental health for women who risked exclusion from support programmes.

Benefits and influence of the research

First, the research positively influenced the decision of the UK Home Office in 2017 to change its policy by granting resettled Syrian refugees full refugee status on arrival in the UK rather than temporary Humanitarian Protection. The change will positively affect 20,000 Syrian and other resettled refugees by 2020.

Second, his research directly influenced the decision of both the Government of Uganda (GoU) and The World Bank in 2016-2018 to launch high-level investigations in to GBV in the context of involuntary resettlement in development projects, adopt new policies and assistance programmes to protect girls and women in the development process.

Third, McDowell’s research expertise led to him co-drafting the UNHCR Guidance on Planned Resettlement in the context of environmental change including climate change. The Guidance is influencing state preparedness, policy and practice on relocation (ie Governments of Fiji and Vanuatu), has guided resettlement operations (ie Red Cross in Ecuador), and shaped community advocacy (ie indigenous coastal communities in Louisiana, USA).

The researchers

Dr Christopher McDowell

More about this research

  • School of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Related academic: Dr Christopher McDowell
  • Status: Completed
  • Topics: Politics and international studies