Introductory Post: Nordic Resettlement Series

In the last few years, there have been increasing discussions about refugee resettlement on all levels. Internationally, calls for additional resettlement slots for Syrian refugees helped set the agenda of many high-level conferences. Regionally, in Europe, new agreements have ben enacted to re-settle high numbers of asylum-seekers on the continent. Domestically, debates have been renewed about whether to resettle refugees at all.

This series of blog posts aims to engage with resettlement from multiple angles. The initial posts will look broadly at the state of refugee resettlement today; subsequent posts will explore Nordic case studies about how resettlement is practiced on a policy level.

The current state of refugee resettlement

Adèle Garnier, Kristin Sandvik and Liliana Jubilut suggest understanding refugee resettlement as an instrument of humanitarian governance from the selection of refugees to their long-term integration. Their post presents a five-point research agenda aiming to investigate the power dynamics of refugee resettlement in a multiscalar perspective, focusing on political economy, the UNHCR’s competing goals, and the role of discretion, persuasion and coercion in resettlement’s discourse and practice. You can find their post here.

Adèle Garnier, noting that refugee resettlement is currently high on the international political agenda, aims to explore the significance for resettlement of the recently held United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants and the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees. Drawing on the power-focused approach that she, Kristin Sandvik and Liliana Jubilut presented in their post, Garnier’s post first addresses a few major issues for the future of refugee resettlement. She then goes on to compare both summits’ resettlement outcomes. You can find her post here.

Nordic resettlement

Linn Marie Reklev focuses on the 2015 debates in Norway related to how best to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis. Reklev is able to identify three distinct discourses in the debates – a humanitarian discourse, a cost-and-capacity discourse, and a nation-state discourse – and notes that for Norway to engage in more extensive resettlement policies, the humanitarian discourse must gain a stronger position in the political dialogue. Additionally, she acknowledges that by focusing solely on resettlement, other potential protection tools like humanitarian visas or temporary protection schemes were excluded. You can find her post here.

Katrine Syppli Kohl discusses the evolution of Danish policy on refugee resettlement. Once dubbed the most liberal of its kind, the Danish Alien’s Act of 1983 has survived many decades of political struggle over questions of immigration and efforts to limit the Act. Kohl’s post goes on to describe those struggles, grounded in the policy of refugee resettlement, focusing especially on the last decade of political debates and the increased use of integration potential assessments. You can find her post here.

Mehek Muftee describes and contextualizes the Cultural Orientation Programs refugees participate in before being resettled to Sweden, noting that the development of this kind of program can be understood through Sweden’s strong background in welfare. Sensitive to the notion of the “passive refugee,” Muftee evaluates the Cultural Orientation Programs for the participation of those to be resettled. She finds participants in the Programs to be anything but passive, and notes that further reflection on the Cultural Orientation Programs is needed. You can find her post here.

Amanda Cellini offers a historical comparative case study, evaluating the Norwegian and Swedish response to the refugee crisis sparked by the 1956 Hungarian uprising and unpacks how – and the speed at which – the decision to resettle Hungarians occurred. Cellini notes that internal politics and debates echo through the years and draws parallels to the decisions by Norway and Sweden to use refugee resettlement as a response to the current crisis of refugee protection in Europe.