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College of Social Work


Presenting Refugee Rights

March 26, 2018

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is an organization with a mandate to protect refugees and other stateless people. The UNHCR maintains an active research portfolio and collaborates with scholars of forced migration to implement and improve refugee programming. Professor Breanne Grace, who studies solutions to statelessness in East Africa, was invited in January to present her work at the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland and use their official archive for her research.

“I gave a 45-minute briefing on my research and how it can be applied to their programs,” said Grace. “It was not a lecture but more of a nuts and bolts of a policy brief on specific policy outcomes and advisement for how the UNHCR might design future regional policy based on my data.”

Grace’s research focuses on what the UNHCR calls, “durable solutions to long-term displacement.”

The UN’s three durable solutions are intended to end long-term refugee warehousing and displacement with the goals of returning refugees to the activities of daily life, such as work, sending children to school and other forms of community integration. The UNHCR’s three forms of durable solutions are repatriation, which returns refugees to their home country after war. Local integration provides refugees the opportunity to live and work in a country after war where they sought refuge as an alternative to a refugee camp. Resettlement gives refugees the opportunity to start new lives in a new country.

Grace presented her research on resettlement in Tanzania.

“My research examines regional solutions to encampment, including the first intra-African refugee resettlement program,” said Grace. “Tanzania has a long history of hosting refugees and creating innovative local integration solutions. The research I presented in Geneva examined a program designed for refugees who fled Somalia for Tanzania and the questions of long-term integration.”

Grace’s research was funded through the U.S. State Department, in cooperation with the University of South Carolina’s Rule of Law Collaborative. A sub-initiative, the Justice Sector Training, Research and Coordination program through the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (a branch of the state department).

Rule of Law is a principle where power should be governed as a nation with well-defined and established laws. According to Grace, all questions of citizenship relate to Rule of Law. Grace uses longitudinal ethnography to examine how refugees access rights in resettlement over time. She compares how the UNHCR and governments conceptualize and design rights into refugee programming for how refugees daily access their rights.

“The goal of my research is to understand how refuges pursue rights, and the obstacles and barriers they face, so the UN and governments can better design policies for refugees to access their rights,” said Grace. “I’m excited for my research to be part of a conversation with people who regularly discuss refugees’ rights. It was rewarding to be in dialogue with others who design the policies and programs.”

Grace’s JUSTRAC report that formed the basis of her talk, Complex Vulnerability and Access to Justice for Former Refugee Populations: The Case of the Somali Zigula in Tanzania is now available on the JUSTRAC website.