First Place – Wrestling with Rootlessness, Individual and Political: Tracking Refugees from Crisis Toward a New Language and New Politics


Under the most diverse conditions and disparate circumstances, we watch the development of the same phenomena: homelessness on an unprecedented scale, rootlessness to an unprecedented depth.

– Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951)


Rakin is looking for human rights. He fled Afghanistan six years ago in search of the guarantees he views as acknowledgements of his human dignity. But his route to Rome laid bare the gap between the idea of the European Union as a paragon of human rights and the lives of the refugees, men and women like Rakin, that it harbors. Rakin protests: “I believe that human rights are just in the titles of newspapers. Where are your human rights here? These I can’t see.”[i]

The reality of human rights seems to fade as Rakin and I speak in a cramped basement room within the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center (JNRC) in central Rome. The indignities that have trailed him from Kabul to Rome seem more painful in light of the principles of universal equality espoused by the EU. Rakin’s story is a reminder of the frailties of human rights, and of the failures of the states that are ostensibly committed to defending them.

When he came to Italy in 2013, Rakin joined thousands of other asylum seekers who slept outside of train stations, liminal spaces appropriate for these people trapped between states. Rakin was homeless for five months, in Milan and then in Rome, before he was at last allocated a place in a refugee shelter run by a government contractor.  This building, which I saw only from a distance, looks like a school but functions more like a detention center. Rakin lives here, on the outskirts of Rome, with 400 other refugees, eight or ten men sleeping in a room together. The shelter managers, eager to siphon off federal money, offer the men nothing more than weak tea and a biscuit for breakfast. Rakin says that this, the only food the refugees are given at the shelter, is a ration on which “even a child could not live.” To secure another meal, he comes to the JNRC, which does not house refugees overnight but instead serves lunch to around 300 refugees each day.  Getting there requires a two-hour journey by bus.  Rakin is still traveling, that is, in search of good treatment.

The Italian government recognizes Rakin as a refugee. But this is a fraught term.  It first entered international law through the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.  In 1967, the Convention’s parameters were broadened by the addition of a Protocol on the same subject. Italy now joins 145 other countries, including the United States, in acceding to the Protocol, which forms the foundation of most current law on refugees.  The document holds a refugee to be a person who has been rendered rootless with political cause.  He must have fled the bounds of his home state “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”[ii]

This definition is meant to be narrow: parties to the Protocol are obliged to provide significant financial and social support to any person within their borders who meets the criteria for categorization as a refugee.  But, in practice, this term is obtuse and difficult to apply.  Because of this opaque terminology, progress toward earning the label “refugee” was tortuous for Rakin, as it is for many displaced people.  Rakin’s kidnapping and the deaths of his father, brother, and two sisters at the hands of an Afghan crime syndicate indicate the contours of his well-founded fear: these were his grounds for leaving Afghanistan.  In trekking to Europe, first to Norway and then to Italy, he became an asylum seeker, a man looking for protections of his life and rights in a foreign state.

Now that he has been granted asylum in Italy, he is entitled to the perhaps dishonorable badge of a refugee.  With this appellation, he becomes one of 19.5 million refugees worldwide.[iii]  He joins 59.5 million forcibly displaced people — an expansive group which encompasses the internally displaced along with asylum seekers and refugees — scattered throughout the globe.[iv]  This statistic is now larger than at any other time since the close of World War II.  Numbers, last tallied at the end of 2014, are only rising.

Why this mass movement?  The Office of the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) proclaims ours to be a unique era of “spiraling crises.”[v]  New surges of violence in Syria, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ukraine, Yemen, and Iraq have added to the human misery and migration born of festering conflicts in, among other states, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Eritrea, and Mali.  The spiral the UNHCR invokes describes two aspects of this situation.  The first emerges from the plural nature of our refugee crises, which are not localized in any one region of the world.  This distinguishes them from all other refugee upsurges since World War II.  In the 1950s, for example, a given refugee was likely fleeing turmoil in Europe: in recognition of this fact, the 1951 Convention applied solely to Europeans.  In the 1970s, this refugee was probably escaping Vietnam.  In the 1990s, he hailed from the Balkans, usually Bosnia or Kosovo.

Now Europe is awash with significant refugee populations from more than a dozen countries.  Among Rakin’s close friends at the JNRC are men from Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Iraq, Sudan, Senegal, and Pakistan.  We should not even expect displacement and migration to slow in the near future — this forms the second strand of the spiral.  The number of Syrians in Europe more than doubled in 2015, even though only ten percent of the 10.9 million displaced Syrians have found their way to European borders.[vi]  The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that in November 2015 more than 500,000 African men were waiting in Libya, anxious to board boats bound for Italy.[vii]  The rising price of passage to Europe indicates the demand: smugglers who once charged $3,000 to ferry an asylum seeker from Turkey to Austria now ask for $12,000.[viii]  Traffickers in Libya, sensing the potential of this market, have begun to offer discounts to passengers who recruit other asylum seekers to make the perilous journey with them.[ix]

Routes into Disorder

The burgeoning number of refugees seeking succor far from home is an indicator of a disordered world.  It has exposed a fundamental rift between humanitarian principles and political solutions to conflict.  The headlines Rakin sees as false harbingers of human rights continually evince surprise about what journalists term a “tide of refugees” lapping over Europe, but the supposedly unexpected crisis created by this mass migration is really the product of a failure of international political order that is two decades in the making. [x]  Piero Rijtano, the director of the JNRC, is astute when he observes that “refugees are a result of a policy.  It’s not something that happens suddenly.  We talk ‘emergency,’ but really it is not: this is the result of the international politics of the last twenty years.”[xi]

Still, politicians in America and Europe remain myopic as regards the political roots of this mass migration.  Those who are apprehensive about refugees treat them as a security threat.  They contend that the migration crisis is best resolved through a tightening of border controls and an intensification of military intervention in the Middle East.  Those who are amenable to refugees see displacement as a humanitarian issue.  It demands, they believe, the organized dispersal of refugees among willing states and increased allocation of funds to aid organizations like the UNHCR.

A politically incorrect analogy illustrates the insufficiencies and insensitivities of these approaches.  This analogy comes in the inflammatory but instructive gloss on the crisis offered by presidential candidate Ben Carson upon his return from a tour of Jordanian refugee camps this fall.  Campaigning again in the United States, Carson compared the danger of terrorists lurking among refugee populations to that of rabid dogs running with sane dogs.[xii]

Politicians who situate refugees as a security problem hold that refugees, like dogs who may be mad, should be quarantined: we should treat them in their own home rather than allowing them into ours.  But quarantine is alienating even when it affects a small population — the psychological and political effects would be dire if these restrictions, however feasible, were extended to millions of people in the Middle East and North Africa.[xiii]  Politicians who understand refugees to be a humanitarian problem agree with this assessment, arguing that the preponderance of refugees, like most dogs, are not menacing: they can be appeased by kind treatment as a dog might be satisfied by a bone.  This belief is misguided, as well.  It ignores the political roots and the real dangers of the disease in an attempt to palliate its symptoms.

A refugee crisis cannot be quelled by air strikes alone, especially if they are tied to stringent immigration policies in the West.  Renewed bombing by Russian and American forces during the past few months has prompted another wave of Syrians to flee for Turkey and, eventually, Europe.  New technologies facilitating the transport of ideas and bodies are ripe for use amid the disorder created by ill-considered military action: this is evident in the chaos produced in Libya in part by Western intervention in 2011.  It is no accident that thousands of refugees have departed for Europe from this northern African failed state in the past three years.

Neither should displacement be classed as a problem that is simply humanitarian—the very definition of a refugee proclaims his political nature.  UNHCR officials with whom I spoke this summer, all humanitarians to the core, are convinced that no amount of humanitarian aid will suffice in subduing the refugee crises if the West refuses to politically engage the conflicts that produce refugees.  Udo Janz, the director of the UNHCR’s New York office, recommends that humanitarian action be seen as a “band-aid” meant to minister to the overt symptoms of a conflict until a more comprehensive resolution can be found.[xiv]  William Spindler, a UNHCR spokesperson who specializes in Europe and Africa, makes clear that “humanitarian action is not the solution to these problems.  It can alleviate suffering, but at the end the solution has to be political.”[xv]

Spindler adds this warning: “the international community has lost the political ability to solve conflicts.”  Can we recover this skill?  Which strategies can we employ to cope with our age of spiraling crises?  We must begin with the admission Spindler voices at the beginning of our conversation: these crises can be said to be critical only in the sense that “the absence of proper response has made them crises.”  Two faulty assumptions underpin the improper policies that Europe and the United States have formulated in response, or perhaps in non-response, to these “refugee crises.”  These faults are strategic and methodological.  Strategically, we have forgotten that a solution to mass displacement requires political action in which security concerns are seen as inextricable from humanitarian predicaments.  We must shake off the notion that military engagement precludes humanitarian measures and that these two actions leave little room for diplomacy.  Methodologically, we have neglected the origins of politics in speech and narrative, and we have ignored the crucial role stories occupy in the lives of refugees and of citizens rooted in a particular state.  We must not rely exclusively on data in making policy: we should instead incorporate stories into our crafting of strategy.

This essay is written in hopes that these flaws can be rectified, and that we can formulate a new grand strategy on refugees that better engages the states and rights, the political structures and humanitarian obligations that compose our world order.  Tracing the stories of refugees, we can develop a better understanding of the role of states in defending human rights in the face of an increasingly disordered and un-bordered world.

Refugees are not dogs, rabid or otherwise—they are unmistakably people.  We must not be deaf to pleas like the one Rakin voices when he says “I have only one hope, which is not to be a refugee forever.  I want to be like other humans again.”  But Rakin’s acknowledgement that refugees exist apart suggests that refugees are people as well as political indicators.  They are humans whose movements disclose existing disorder.  We would do well not to disregard the rot they reveal.

Stories Toward a New Grand Strategy

Telling stories about refugees seems, on first glance, a case of fiddling while Rome, and the world, very nearly burn.  Europe has absorbed more than 2,500 refugees each day this year—tens of thousands of them have settled in Rome.  The population of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has burgeoned to a full quarter of that state’s population.  The UNHCR website broadcasts the ominous fact that today one in every 122 people worldwide is a displaced person.  What use are anecdotes set against the raw reality of these statistics?  Stories seem the province of journalists or philanthropists more than grand strategists.

But politics and strategy have long been steeped in narrative.  The first political historian, Herodotus, constructs his History around stories with this caveat: “I must tell what is said, but I am not at all bound to believe it.”[xvi]  Aristotle, one of Herodotus’ early critics, might note that it is essential to know “what is said” because “man is the only animal whom nature has endowed with the gift of speech.”[xvii]  Indeed, it is this ability to speak that prompts Aristotle to label man the “political animal.”[xviii]

Aristotle also cautions that “one should not seek precision in all arguments alike.”[xix]  Instead, “it belongs to an educated person to seek out precision in each genus to the extent that the nature of the matter allows.”[xx]  The precision politics allows, and grand strategy requires, seems to be the kind of skeptical storytelling that Herodotus practices.  Skepticism allows space for the development of strategies that can alter reality: we do not have to believe everything that stories tell us about the way the world should operate.  But the details that stories supply allow us to develop a textured, truer understanding of our circumstances as they are.

Refugees are eager to add their narratives to this endeavor.  Indeed, they must: through the extensive interviews they attend with refugee organizations and state governments, their tales become their tickets to asylum.  I will tell four here.  Three are gleaned from conversations I engaged in at the JNRC.  The last comes from research conducted in Bosnia.  They form rough pairs, the former dealing with human rights, the latter interested in states.  They are linked in that each is representative of a route to Italy.  All of these paths are mapped onto a world formed by an international system in which sovereign states commit to a shared international structure.  But the stories of these refugees are made relevant by a new order superimposed upon the international state system—that of human rights.  Refugees speak from the gap between these two world orders.  They confront the West, which gave rise to both orders, with this rift, and they urge us to repair it.

Rakin offers his account first.  It finds him traveling by plane from Kabul to Oslo, then being shepherded by car from Norway to Italy.  Though not often written about, this is a route well trod by wealthier Afghans and Syrians.  Rakin’s journey reminds us that principles and practicalities demand that we renew our commitment to human rights for refugees in the West.

Adama speaks second.  He traces his path from northern Mali to Libya, then by boat to Malta and by air to Rome.  This route has seen a surge in popularity since the 2011 collapse of the Libyan government.  Adama’s circumstances call us to better define a refugee, so that the principles we espouse can be properly applied to our current refugee crises, and to the inevitable “emergencies” that will face us in coming decades.

The United States is now, as Rakin and Adama indicate, the leader of a liberal world order.  This is an amorphous phrase, but it is useful in that it forces us to confront the rapid disintegration of the world order and borders we have been instrumental in establishing.  That refugees are now pressing deep into Europe is the most troubling sign of this chaos: collectively, European states are the most promising and the best proven of our international partners, and the very ideas upon which Europe was founded are in many ways our own, the products of our labor to reconstruct Europe after World War II.

In light of these facts and these ties, we must elect one of two strategic paths related to refugees and the world disorder they reveal.  The first would find us gradually abandoning the international state system that has governed our world and gripped our political imaginations for 400 years, since the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.  We would accept, or be forced to adopt, an alternate conception of world order.  We could find ourselves moving toward the vision Russia and China espouse of a neo-imperial world in which great powers carve out discrete spheres of influence.  We hope not to succumb to a system approximating the Islamic State’s violent division of the globe along ideological fault lines.  We might espouse something akin to the European Union’s ideal of a post-national federation of states committed to collective justice and open borders.

Of these options, the European model once seemed the only framework that was not pernicious.  President Obama, speaking during a visit to Britain last year, was unequivocal in proclaiming that the European Union had “made the world safer and more prosperous.”[xxi]  But Europe is crumpling under the strain of refugees, these pesky human devices inadvertently designed to expose problems of political order.  Britain is threatening to exit the Union.  Nationalist parties have claimed electoral victory from Hungary to France.  This cannot be the world order the US imagines.  The alternative, then, would find the US reaffirming its dedication to leading a liberal world order and better articulating its tenets.  It would also find the US committed to a modified international state system, one more relevant to a globalized world.  Rakin and Adama, I think, would encourage us to tread this route.  It is a path less harrowing than, although it is built upon, the paths these rootless people took to Rome.

Rakin’s Roman Rights

Rakin had a home and rights in Afghanistan.  His father was an engineer, his mother was a teacher—his was, he insists, an educated family with a “comfortable life.”  But this comfort became a curse.  In a pattern common to traffickers and kidnappers from Eritrea to Colombia, his family’s relative wealth attracted the attention of a criminal organization that kidnaps members of well-to-do families and demands exorbitant ransom payments in return for their safe release.  Rakin fell victim to one of these schemes when he was 24.  He was held for three months in a house on the outskirts of Kabul.  His torture was broadcast on videos mailed to his family or was conducted while they listened over the phone.  Rakin later learned that his father had humbled himself by pleading for money from distant cousins, from neighbors, even from the government to secure the $30,000 the kidnappers demanded in ransom.

Aware that these efforts would likely fail, Rakin devised his own escape plan.  At night, he managed to slip between the bars of the grate that covered a small window in the second story room where he was captive.  He dislocated his hip and shoulder to fit through the metal grid and then fell headfirst toward the ground.  By some quirk of fate or gravity, he landed on his feet and ran as best he could.  Rakin paused to compose himself before offering this comment: “I think it was God who helped me.  But you know if you are in death danger you can do anything for rescuing yourself.”

Having done just this, Rakin limped toward the nearest road, and begged the driver of a passing car to take him directly to a police station.  He found little reprieve with officers of the law: he was immediately asked if he could lead the authorities to the house where he had been held.  “Yes,” he proffered, with the diagonal inclination of his head that is peculiar to southwest Asia.  He now rues this assent.  When the police reached the house, a firefight erupted.  Three of Rakin’s kidnappers died.

Rakin was known to be the snitch whose disclosures had led to these killings.  His family was now targeted for execution.  The overwhelmed Afghan police force offered scant support: desperate to ensure their own safety, Rakin and his family moved four times over the next few months.  His mother, succumbing to the stress of their situation, suffered a stroke and was moved to a hospital.  Rakin made a ritual of spending the night in her drab room a few nights each week.

As he prepared for one of these nocturnal visits, Rakin’s younger sister, then six years old, asked that she be allowed to join.  Rakin asked her to wait, promising that he would bring her to the hospital in the morning.  But when he woke, a neighbor was on the phone.  His father, his brother, and his two sisters had been gunned down in his absence.  He is silent for a moment.  “And I could have saved my sister if I brought her with me.  And always I think about this.”

Making his way west seemed the only feasible option.  Rakin chose his destination carefully.  He knew, even in Afghanistan, that “the situation of refugees here in Rome was bad.”  His sights, then, were set on northern Europe, where countries have committed more resources toward refugees in part because there are fewer refugees pushing at their borders.  Rakin left his mother in the care of a friend and boarded an airplane bound for Oslo.  He lived under a temporary asylum permit in Norway for two years, working odd jobs and sharing an apartment with an Afghan friend named Tawfiq who also now frequents the JNRC.

Both Rakin and Tawfiq—who, because he lost his left leg to a bomb in Afghanistan, Rakin calls “that boy with no leg”—evince nostalgia when they mention Norway.  “If I was accepted there,” Rakin offers, “I would be one of the luckiest.  You will find a good life there, as a refugee.”  But the 2011 mass murder committed by Anders Behring Breivik, a right-wing activist, precipitated a shift in conditions for refugees.  Under a new center-right coalition, Rakin’s appeal for permanent asylum was denied.  Both he and Tawfiq were ordered to leave the country.  Reluctant to move south, though, Rakin tarried in Norway for two more years.  He retained an acute sense of the law, remarking to me that he and Tawfiq were “kind of criminals, because we were illegal: they told us to go and we didn’t respect this.”

Norwegian police, adhering to what was until a few years ago a norm in northern Europe, did not force him from the country until 2013, when they raided the flat Rakin shared with four other refugees.  Worried that he would be sent back to Afghanistan, Rakin partnered with Tawfiq and an Iranian asylum seeker in hiring a German smuggler to transport them to Milan.  Each passenger paid $3,500 to join this international caravan.  They drove at night and browsed markets in various European cities—Copenhaben, Hamburg, Innsbruck—by day.  The smuggler was unsentimental.  Money, Rakin, says, “is the only thing they want.  They don’t care to help anyone.”  But Rakin had, I suppose, entered an unsentimental world, in which he moved, from Kabul to Oslo to Milan and eventually by train to Rome, simply to survive.

Rights and States in the European Union

Rakin’s is a typical route to Rome.  Piero estimates that half of the rotating population of 500 or 600 refugees who gather at the JNRC for meals, language and literacy classes, and to socialize came to Italy from other European countries.  Refugees gravitate to Rome because it is Italy’s most multicultural city, but their life here is still trying.  Unemployment is so high in the country that some Italians have left to seek refuge and opportunity in other European nations or in the United States.  Conditions are especially difficult for male refugees: women and children are given special benefits under Italy’s refugee law, where men are left to fend for themselves.

Existing in an underclass perched below the dignity and rights accorded to full citizens, these rootless people have little hope of finding work and establishing lives in Italy.  They come because it is easier to secure refugee status here—where just under half of asylum applications are accepted—than anywhere else in Europe.  The same Norwegian government that denied Rakin’s asylum claim, for example, has just deported 4,000 of the Afghan and Syrian asylum seekers that have arrived in a steady stream from Russia since October.[xxii]  It is also now paying refugees to voluntarily exit Norway and has printed advertisements in Afghan newspapers warning of a harsh environment awaiting refugees in Scandinavia.[xxiii]

All EU nations recognize, in their acceptance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1967 Refugee Protocol, the right to asylum as a basic provision of human rights.  The term “refugee rights,” though, has drastically different meanings throughout Europe: rights that were meant to be universal are in reality dependent upon the state that defends these rights. Two Europes have emerged under the stress of mass migration.  Northern European nations, distanced from common routes to Europe by geographic fortune, are better able to select the refugees they will offer asylum.  The vast majority of the refugees chosen are those who have fled Syria and Eritrea, countries recognized by the UNHCR and the EU as those where violence is particularly heinous.  Granted asylum, these people are afforded what Rakin terms “good social help,” which includes a stipend for food and shelter as well as language and job training.

The opposite is true of southern European countries like Greece and Italy—and now Hungary.  Burdened with the majority of migrants and displaced people arriving by land and by sea, these states have begun to allow vast numbers of asylum seekers entry into their countries.  A relaxed standard for asylum, though, means that there is precious little in the way of a social safety net for refugees.  Rakin is forceful in reiterating his claim that human rights are invisible in this Europe: “prisoners in my country had better food than refugees here.  People are coming to my country talking about mujahideen not respecting human rights.  Fine.  But where are your human rights here in Europe?”  Refugees have little desire to stay in countries like Italy, and border police have warmed to their desire to migrate north.  Estimates suggest that thirty percent of the refugees that streamed into Italy this summer passed through without being stopped and identified.[xxiv]

This is partly a result of institutional dysfunction.  Piero chuckles as he explains that “because we are in Italy, there are no checks, no controls,” and certainly no system equipped to handle the sheer volume of refugees now entering the country.  But Italy’s laxity also stems from a longstanding resentment of the other Europe.  A 1992 New York Times articles quotes the Italian Immigration Minister avowing “we refuse to accept a de facto attitude that only the countries bordering the ex-Yugoslavia should take care of the refugee problem.”[xxv]  Add “North Africa” to this statement about ex-Yugoslavia, and you would have an idea of the current situation in Europe.  Spindler, the UNHCR spokesperson, summarizes the problem bluntly: “nobody wants to take responsibility for migrants.”

It has become a game in Europe, he says, for countries to make conditions “the most difficult possible for refugees, so you have this moving population rotating around Europe.”  The UNHCR, the agency best equipped to track refugees who have joined this carousel, believes that many of the same people who were in Lesbos in February of this year made their way to Calais by August and are in Germany this December.

Two staples of EU law, the 2013 Dublin III Regulation and the Schengen Zone, prompt and facilitate this movement.  Dublin stipulates that refugees must submit their initial application for asylum in the EU country to which they first arrived.  This, of course, puts great burden on countries located near the southern and eastern fringes of Europe.  But Dublin runs counter to the open borders established by Schengen, through which refugees are able to move with few controls.  That this is a security risk became evident in the horror of the November 13 Paris attacks, which were planned in Belgium and facilitated by the nearly 200 border crossings between France and Belgium.[xxvi]

Sealing these openings, as some politicians have advised, is infeasible: there are too many crossings for border police to man each.  And it also runs counter to the principles of shared space central to the EU project.  Dublin, although it is existing EU law rather than a reaction to new threats, is subject to the same objections.  Even under agreements to allocate quotas of refugees to states around Europe, EU countries have not equally shared the burden of refugees.  This disparity between humanitarian ideals and political reality has disillusioned Europeans who have begun to pledge their support to nationalist parties.  And it has dangerously deflated the expectations refugees have of Europe.

Victor, a Senegalese refugee at the JNRC, captures this disappointment.  Refugees hear about human rights regimes in Europe, he says, and they know that Western governments are prodding the countries from which refugees come to meet human rights standards.  But when refugees arrive, they realize that “human rights don’t exist in reality—they’re only a theory, a language.  So, they’ll live here for nine years, be treated badly, and decide to go back.  Or, they’ll be denied asylum, and the same thing will happen.”[xxvii]  The gap between human rights in the two Europes leads, according to Victor and affirmed by the stories of the Paris attackers, to alienation and violence.

Civic and Human Rights

From Princip’s Bridge in Sarajevo—the site of its own clarifying act of violence—it seems that these problems of states and rights which dog 21st century policy-makers were also the defining problems of the 20th century.  Its first decades saw global war stemming from a well-placed bullet fired by Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip at Archduke Franz Ferdinand.  Responding to this outbreak in nationalist fervor—and to a much older recognition of the right of peoples to self-determine, of nations to become states—Woodrow Wilson noted in his Fourteen Points speech that “national aspirations must be respected; people may now be dominated and governed only by their own consent. Self determination is not a mere phrase; it is an imperative principle of action.”[xxviii]  Wilson’s faith in human rights was matched only by his belief in the rights of citizens.  With the formation of the League of Nations, human rights were inextricable from civic rights.

Can human rights stand apart from civic rights?  Rakin supplies a definition of human rights predicated on opportunity: “We need respect, we need at least equality, to have the same right that an Italian boy has to make good on so many opportunities in his life.  That is human rights.”  In Europe, though, human rights have always been attached to civic rights—European governments have long assumed that an Afghan and an Italian boy will in practice be afforded different protections.  Hannah Arendt notes that Wilson’s binding of human to civic rights has deep origins.  Since “the French Revolution combined the declaration of the Rights of Man with the demand for national sovereignty,” universal human rights had been curiously identified with particular national rights.[xxix]  The practical consequences of this contradiction were clear: “from then on human rights were protected and enforced only as national rights.”[xxx]

The refugee crises that followed World Wars I and II were simply expressions of this preexisting identity between human and civic rights.  Nations began to bar certain groups—Jews, Gypsies, and a slew of other minorities—from any role in civic life.  The shift could be justified in part because these people stripped of citizenship were meant to be able to depend upon their broader human rights.  But because human rights had for so long been identified with civic rights, “the rights of man, supposedly inalienable, proved to be unenforceable…whenever people appeared who were no longer citizens of any sovereign state.”[xxxi]  Claims of human rights allowed governments to deny civic rights — but these human rights claims had no real force.

This troubling if often unnoticeable collapse of human into civic rights persists today: German Chancellor Angela Merkel observed in a July speech addressed to newly arrived refugees that “universal citizen’s rights have so far been closely connected with Europe and its history.”[xxxii]  Merkel’s emphasis on citizen’s, or civic, instead of human rights is almost ironic in the case of refugees.  Under the meaning of the 1967 Protocol, these are by definition people who do not hold the rights of citizens.

Arendt insists that because human rights are ephemeral even in the West, where they were born, “human dignity needs a new guarantee” stronger than that of human rights.[xxxiii]  This “can be found only in a new political principle, in a new law on earth, whose validity this time must comprehend the whole of humanity while its power must remain strictly limited, rooted in and controlled by newly defined territorial entities.”[xxxiv]  The full details of this new guarantee do not emerge in Arendt’s work.  But she is unequivocal in castigating the false idealism of our current system, in which human rights are encrusted in an ineffective superstructure upon the state system.  This seems a result of her methodology, which is concerned with diagnosing problems rather than proscribing solutions.  Comprehension of our current political architecture, she remarks in a Herodotean vein, entails “the unpremeditated, attentive facing up to, and then resisting of, reality—whatever it may be.”[xxxv]

Victor, who is the JNRC’s electronic expert and its most notorious loudmouth, expounds on human rights in a manner Arendt would recognize as he toys with a computer.  He muses about the way in which he teaches fellow refugees, and some Italian clients, to repair electronics.  “You can know the equations,” he says, “but unless you actually practice the techniques, you can’t do it.  Things have to work in reality to work.”  This might well be a motto for the grand strategist, who is interested not only in the theory of things but also in their practical ability to work in reality—in the connection between ends, ways, and means.  And this is where we fall woefully short: we are unable to establish in practice the principles of human and refugee rights that we expound in theory.

Adama’s Definitions

Better practice begins with a better definition of a refugee.  The 1967 Protocol has become unwieldy and unclear sixty years after its initial formulation.  This is not because the language is inelegant, but rather because our situation has shifted.  Herodotus’ successor, Thucydides, would recognize this phenomenon, in which unexpected events and inept strategies have caused “words [to]…change their usual meanings.”[xxxvi]  Is it possible, we wonder, to distinguish migrants fleeing desperate poverty or natural disaster from those escaping political turmoil?  Should we distinguish between refugees on the basis of religion?  Ethnicity?  Piero suggests that the “right to be a political refugee” as stipulated under the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol “makes a picture of a world that right now is totally different.”

Adama speaks from his experience of this different world.  He spent his childhood and early adult life in Kidal, a town in the desert region of northern Mali.  His father was a government official born and raised in southern Mali but posted in the north.  As Adama was leaving secondary school, members of the nomadic Tuareg people began to fight for what they understand to be the national liberation of Azawad, the region that covers an extensive acreage in northern Mali.  Adama gives this unrest a simple moniker: the “Tuareg Problem.”[xxxvii]  He is unspecific about the events that precipitated his departure from Mali, simply labeling them “the incidents.”  But three years ago, his family met and decided that Adama should leave Mali for Italy as the family’s emissary to Europe.  They would join him in Rome if they could.

A drive through the Algerian desert to Libya marked the beginning of Adama’s sojourn.  From a small port near the Libyan city of Misrata, Adama boarded a fishing boat bound for Malta.  After ten days at sea, he reached the Maltese coast and prepared to board a plane that would take him to Rome’s Fiumicino Airport.  False documents prepared by the smugglers who had ushered him from Libya to Malta allowed him to enter Italy.  He had no contacts in the country, but Italy’s liberal policies in the shadow of the Dublin Regulation made it the best place for him to claim asylum.

Malians make up the largest subset of refugees at the JNRC in the summer of 2015 — they have supplanted Rakin’s cohort of Afghan refugees to assume this position.  All of these Malians are dogged by the assumption that they are not really political refugees, that they fled desperate poverty rather than degrading violence.  Adama is conscious of the assumption and of the distinction.  His role as a “peacemaker” at the JNRC means that he interacts with nearly every refugee who enters its basement quarters, but he distinguishes his predicament from those of other Malian refugees, particularly those who fled from Bamako, Mali’s southern capital.  Another Adama exemplifies this condition: he left Mali in 2005, secured asylum papers in Italy, and has taken full advantage of Schengen by leaving Rome to work in Barcelona.  He is at the JNRC for only a few days, while his asylum permit is being renewed.  But our Adama did not flee poverty.  He had “a good job, a wonderful family, good connections” in Kidal.  War made him a refugee.  And he is “waiting, everyday waiting” for new opportunities in Europe.

The gradations between economic and political refugees are amorphous.  Piero supplies a working definition when he notes that an economic refugee “chooses to immigrate somewhere—it is his decision to make his life better.  So he will arrive prepared, where a political refugee will run away just to save his life.”  Spindler augments this distinction with the practical reality that in Europe as in the United States asylum is a right reserved for political refugees.  But, in this practical vein, the existential facts that confront an economic refugee seem no different from those that face a political refugee.  Poverty, too, can kill people.  Piero, casting himself as a hypothetical economic refugee, observes, “If I go back to a place that is desperately poor, I will be condemned to death too.”

Rakin and Adama, both of whom understand themselves to be political refugees, are sympathetic to this case.  They tell me that there are two kinds of economic refugees.  The first is dirt poor, a refugee who is truly “life-seeking.”[xxxviii]  The second is an “opportunity-seeking” migrant, one who claims refugee status “but it is not true, because to be a refugee your life should be in danger.”  How is this danger to be determined?  A gendarme stationed outside of Milan’s central train station offers an answer based on chronology and nationality: Senegalese migrants, many of whom hawk bracelets and baseball caps to tourists visiting Milan’s Duomo, came to Italy three years ago.  Syrians—who, because they flee persecution by their own government, seem to epitomize the political refugee—first came to Italy in discernible quantities three months before we spoke, in April of 2015.

In practice, these are the ruthless calculations made by governments and by aid agencies.  But Rakin and Adama provide interesting theoretical cases.  Do their stories exhibit the qualities expected of a political refugee?  That they remain in Italy means that their chances of gaining asylum in European countries with more stringent protocols on refugees are slim.  Rakin exited Afghanistan because his government had no power to remove him or his family from the clutches of organized crime.  But it is not clear that he was persecuted because of his “race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”  To fit this mold, Adama’s case must be understood in light of the conflict in his home that verges on civil war, and it must be assumed that he could not have made a life in southern Mali, that his only hope lay in the voyage to Europe.  These are uncharitable and simplistic calculations, but they illustrate the difficulties of defining a refugee.

Refugees of Futures Past

This linguistic problem portends further political problems.  Migrants, especially in the Asia-Pacific, have begun to claim that their displacement stems from pernicious effects of climate change.  In September, after a protracted legal contestation, New Zealand deported a man from the island of Kiribati who claimed that he was a “climate refugee.”[xxxix]  Scientists have suggested that “climate-related events, including the expanding desert in the Sahel region of Africa, have spurred conflict, from Nigeria to Darfur.”[xl]  Asylum seekers who originate from these regions are still recognized as political refugees by the US and the EU, but the 1967 definition of a refugee is not flexible enough to encompass migrants fleeing environmental change.  These refugees loom: a longstanding treaty between the US and the Marshall Islands could find the US obliged in the next decades to welcome refugees from this sinking island nation.[xli]

Piero sums up his thought on these quibbles over the vagaries that separate political from economic from environmental refugees by proclaiming that “the UN and everyone have to be a little more detailed on what it really means.”  His task comes in assimilating the refugees who are recognized in Italy, although the JNRC, unlike other refugee organizations working in Rome, does not demand that migrants show their asylum papers before they are served meals.  To justify the refusal of asylum, Piero believes, the terms of that refusal must be clear.  Because he is not satisfied with existing language on refugees, he welcomes all migrants.

On my last day at the JNRC, Adama, Rakin, and I temporarily abandon our preoccupations with these theoretical questions, and we excuse ourselves from the work of cooking for a crowded room of refugees.  We instead welcome ourselves to the table.  Fahad, an Afghan refugee who joins Adama as a “peacekeeper” at the JNRC, is unchallenged in his role as chef.  I dice onions on his command, assure him that there will be enough food, and ask Rakin to test his linguistic capabilities.  Rakin, Adama, and Fahad each speak five languages, although English is the only tongue they share.  This is because Rakin refuses to learn Italian, an act of defiance directed at the country and the culture that he feels has scorned him.

I tend to my chopping, and I join my well-educated refugee friends in trading stories about soccer and geopolitics, but I remain fascinated by the medium Rakin has chosen to express his discontent.  His spurning of Italian means that he will never have full civic rights in Italy: Aristotle reminds that it is through language shared in the public sphere that we manage to “set forth the expedient and the inexpedient, and therefore likewise the just and unjust.”[xlii]  He will rely on the human rights he acknowledges to be flimsy.

Piero diagnoses this reluctance in comparing the situation of refugees to sufferers of the strappado, a medieval form of torture in which the victim is suspended with his hands bound behind his back.  When he is released from this height, the weight of his body rips his shoulders from their sockets.  Refugees, too, are wrenched from their homes against their will.  Many are still traumatized: they are not prepared, Piero says, “to mix their culture with another.”

Niccolo Machiavelli, himself a refugee from Florence, was a famous victim of the strappado.  Machiavelli’s most poignant mention of refugees comes in a passage from the Discourses on Livy, in which he speaks of refugees in a barren land who, “without any prince to govern them, began to live under such laws as seemed to them best suited to maintain their new state.”[xliii]  Machiavelli’s ideal refugees are those who found new orders, just as he did in the realm of philosophy.  But contemporary refugees are not afforded this luxury.  They are asked to conform to the norms of the society in which they are granted asylum, and their stories become means of survival that must fit within the confines of the internationally approved definition of a “refugee.”

Edward Gibbon, who taught himself Italian to read Machiavelli, reserved high praise for the imperator cum princeps Augustus, who “was sensible that mankind is governed by names.”[xliv]  Our condition has not changed.  If we mean to refuse refugees entry, we must be sure that we can identify a refugee and then abide by this definition.  New migratory populations may require us to develop new categories of refugees.  But renewed attention to the 1967 Protocol will allow us to justifiably turn back non-refugees, and to better welcome those who are really rootless.

Rights and States in the Balkans

As he made his way to Rome, Fahad passed through a region where the international community has successfully intervened to quell conflict, to bring law.  Indeed, conflict in the Balkans, in which Fahad lived for three months, marks the last instance in which the international community was forced to deal substantially with the clash between states and rights, political and humanitarian concerns.  It is to this period, and the policies that succeeded it, that Piero refers when he notes that our refugee crises have been building for two decades.  Examination of the Dayton Accords that brought peace to Bosnia after genocide swept the fledgling state allow us a more comprehensive sense of the history that anchors current refugees.

I arrived in Srebrenica the day after the memorial service, on July 11, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the genocide orchestrated by members of the Yugoslav National Army and Serb militias that killed more than 8,000—numbers vary—Bosniak men and boys in this region of the Drina River Valley.  Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright had appeared at the memorial ceremony, as had, controversially, Serb Prime Minister Alexander Vujic.  The cemetery at Potocari, to which victims’ remains have been moved from mass graves around Srebrenica, was peppered by 60 fresh graves containing newly unearthed bones.  These were marked by green plastic headstones and geraniums rather than by the small white marble obelisks engraved with fleurs-de-lis that denote older graves.

Posters at the rudimentary museum held in the former battery factory where the to-be-massacred fled proclaimed that a “new life for Srebrenica” was emerging from the fresh earth of this death.  This was hard to see as we walked through the town of Srebrenica itself, about a mile from the cemetery: the place was ghost-like.  Life, though, was precisely what Zekeriah, a lawyer for the municipality of Srebrenica, intends to make here.  He moved to Srebrenica in 2008 with his two daughters, a migrant of a different sort from Fahad, returning to the scene of displacement to remember and to rebuild.  The work is hard: he says, softly, that “we have a problem with genocide here.”[xlv]  This is because “genocide changes all structures.”

This disorder, this structure-shifting, is still evident in Srebrenica.  Buildings remain pockmarked by bullets or caved in by shells.  Land-mine removal teams in ambulance-like vans prowled the roads outside of Srebrenica.  Srebrenica, and Bosnia as a country, remains divided between Serb and Bosniak populations.  60 percent of the town’s residents are Serb, and its political offices are, like those at the federal level, divided equally between Serb and Bosniak representatives.  Zekeriah says that this arrangement is tenable for 363 days each year.  Divisions grow bitter only when Bosniaks celebrate their independence and on the anniversary of the massacre for which Srebrenica is infamous.

Jasmina Hadziah-Metovic, a curator at the stirring Sarajevo museum designed to commemorate Srebrenica, is less sanguine.  Bosniaks are still waiting for judgments to be rendered by the International Court Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on the most heinous Serbian war criminals.  The trial of Ratko Mladić, the Bosnian Serb officer who orchestrated the genocide at Srebrenica, began only last year.  Corruption is rampant in Bosnia, and economic woes have precipitated the emergence of new fissures between Serbs and Bosniaks.  “Bad things are to come,” Jasmina predicts.[xlvi]  This is not pessimism so much as sober prophecy.  Most Serbs are still unwilling to acknowledge that the Yugoslav War consisted in a genocide of Bosniaks.  And politics shifts quickly: after all, Jasmina was “raised thinking these boundaries of Europe in the 20th century were permanent, but now, with Kosovo, with Crimea it seems that nothing is permanent.” 

Adi’s Intervention

The same impermanence troubles Adi Hadzibabic, a law student in Sarajevo.  He sips coffee and explains that his parents speak of a “beautiful life”[xlvii] under Tito.  He speaks in relative terms: his family lived the full ugliness of the Yugoslav War. A grenade fell on their house weeks after they fled to Italy for three months in 1993.  The family left Adi’s father behind when they left for another period because he, like all other Bosnian men, was conscripted.  And after they returned to their Sarajevo home, Adi and his mother were nearly killed during the final sensational act of violence in the War, the shelling of the Markale Market in central Sarajevo.

Of course, Adi explains, “human rights were limited under Tito.”  This was especially true of free speech, which was practically nonexistent.  But where these “soft” rights were unavailable at least the “hard” rights to life, food and water, shelter were protected: “at least under Tito there was no genocide.”  Piero, at the JNRC says much the same.  Tito, he notes, “held Yugoslavia together for forty years.”  He invokes Tito to compare him with Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya.  “I never liked Gaddafi,” Piero avows, “but he held Libya together.”

Ours is a world predicated on the existence of states, many of them comprised of ethnic groups, languages, religions so diverse that they cannot be properly said to be nation-states, by which a single people organizes politically.  Instead, they are multi-national multiethnic states.  Recognition of this reality was the organizing principle of the international state system that emerged from our reading of the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia.  But Westphalia presupposed monarchy—the document is rife with allusions to princes.  Strong heads of state, often no better than the Renaissance equivalents of Tito or Gaddafi, were meant to bind the populations of their states together so that the state presented a united front.  Citizenship was a determining factor: individuals had limited rights beyond the confines of their states.

Pre-Enlightenment philosophers and political leaders had always presumed, as Aristotle would, that human beings were inextricable from community, that to reduce them to a solitary existence as individuals would be abnormal.  But the ideas of human rights that emerged just over a century after the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia presumed that humans stood on their own.  They were endowed with rights independent of their status in community.

Koestler, recognizing the moment of this philosophical shift as pertains to refugees, includes a passage from the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens in his Scum of the Earth.  It proclaims “the representatives of the people of France…considering that ignorance, neglect, or contempt of human rights are the sole causes of public misfortunes…have resolved to set forth…these natural, imprescriptible and inalienable rights.”[xlviii]  This declaration of purpose immediately follows a section titled “Apocalypse.”  The irony is clear: the setting forth of human rights did little to prevent Koestler’s apocalypse.

Practically, human rights are still defended by states.  Jasmina says of the US-led NATO intervention in Bosnia that “it was so easy to stop the war—a couple of NATO airstrikes and in many places the Serbs laid down their arms.”  The human rights architecture overlaid on the international state system is dependent upon individual states to guarantee human rights.  Absent this action, the gap between humanitarian and political action grows, drawing refugees and other victims into its maw.

The European Union fascinates and irritates because it is a post-national state ostensibly able to forgo the rule of a single strong man and because it is fervent in proclaiming the universality of its governmental system.  This is nothing new: the Westphalian system originated from Europe through the same bold declarations.  But the EU is reluctant to pair its principles with practical action.  Its member states are captivated by the elegance of humanitarian principles and occasionally interested in orchestrating air strikes but are unwilling to engage the political work that would root its humanitarian values and security concerns in solid action.  It epitomizes the thought untethered to action that Victor mentioned while fiddling with his computer and that Arendt implicates in Europe’s movement toward totalitarianism.  Piero damns the Union by comparison when he says: “I think the UN is like the EU.  It governs nothing.”

Refugees and World Order

Which strategies should we glean from this lack of governance, this “United Nothing”?  How should we understand the disorder exposed by refugees?  Many of the actions that we must take, to defend our principles and our citizens, cut deeply against the grain of popular opinion.  So, grand strategy requires, as it ultimately must, a new kind of leadership—statesmanship, really—attuned to broad problems of human community rather than to petty interests and cheap sound bites.  But this statecraft does not have to exist solely in the world of principled theory.  Arguments that we should treat refugees well in the West, that we should define the parameters of a refugee so that we can turn some asylum seekers back, and that we should intervene in the conflicts that produce refugees are predicated on security concerns as well.  Action to aid refugees is the province of enlightened self-interest in our own political good.

Rights, as Arendt indicates, have always been defined and defended by states.  Indeed, human rights are most in danger when they are held by states to be universal, so inalienable that they need not be assiduously protected.  The United States, jaded by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and shying from the title of “world’s policeman,” has done little in the past decade to actively protect human rights.  For Europe, this unwillingness to intervene politically in humanitarian crises has been longer in the making: it dates, as Piero suggests, to NATO intervention in Bosnia during the 1990s.  The Milan gendarme with whom I spoke this summer reiterated this connection between violence in the Balkans and the current refugee crisis.  When I asked whether the influx of refugees was a problem he responded in the affirmative but added, unprompted, “it is always like this, with the Syrians now and with the Bosnians then.”

Solutions to the refugee crisis in the Balkans required American-led NATO intervention.  Bosniaks agree that this came too late—after the deaths of around 80,000 Bosniaks.  Ten percent of this number came from deaths during three days in the fields surrounding Srebrenica.  Conspiracy theories abound regarding the delay, and some of them, however horrible, are at least plausible.  Jasmina wonders whether the UN bargained with the Serb army camped outside of Srebrenica to give up the Bosniaks ostensibly protected by UN peacekeeping troops in a “safe zone.”  UN officials knew it would be easier to reach a ceasefire, she suggests, if the country could be cleanly divided between Serbs and Bosniaks.  The Bosniaks living in the eastern part of the country were problematic in relation to this plan.  If they were somehow eliminated, the conflict might end.  And Adi notes that in many ways this plan has come to pass.  Forty-nine percent of the land in Bosnia and Herzegovina is occupied by Serbs, who Bosniaks see as the perpetrators of the genocide that ravaged their population twenty years ago.  They “cleaned” the land, Adi says, so that they could occupy it even after peace was achieved.

Even after NATO and US troops entered the Balkans, soldiers were frustrated by the slow-moving nature of the operation.  An American intelligence officer with whom I spoke said that during his tour in Bosnia, beginning in December of 1995, American soldiers were hamstrung by one overriding rule: “don’t get yourself killed.”[xlix]  The death of eighteen American soldiers in Somalia a few years before lurked in the minds of American politicians, and they stipulated that the troops that they sent to the Balkans should be careful not to put themselves in potentially life-threatening situations.  On a larger scale, because casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan dwarfed those in Somalia, we are still coping with the ramifications of ill-considered military action tied at least in part to humanitarian aims.

If we have learned the lessons of Somalia, of Iraq and Afghanistan we have largely forgotten the lessons of Bosnia.  The country remains economically depressed, but it is rebuilding from the war.  To commemorate the anniversary of Srebrenica, thousands of Bosniaks congregated in squares across town to watch the live broadcast of a “Concert for Peace” being played at the National Theater in central Sarajevo by the orchestra of La Scala, the Roman opera house.  Adi and I attended together.  The symbolism was poignant: here was a refugee who had fled to Rome listening to its best musicians in the home from which he took refuge in Italy.  Adi had found the “durable solution” the UNHCR takes as its goal for refugees—the point at which they are no longer refugees, no longer rootless.  The international community once knew how to help a nation emerge from humanitarian crisis.  We knew that treating the flight of Bosniaks into Europe—the last refugee crisis before the current migrations—meant intervention in the Balkans as well as care for refugees in the West.  It is this connection between the humanitarian and political spheres that we must remember again if we are to have any hope of resolving our “spiraling crises.”

Rootlessness—whether individual or communal, political or linguistic—is dangerous.  Humanitarian measures should be rooted in political action, in diplomacy and military intervention war as “the continuation of politics by other means.”[l]  Human rights must be anchored in the work of states willing to defend these principles.  Language—especially political language—is impoverished and perilous when it is not tied to the phenomena it describes. State interests, in protecting their borders and their citizens, must have foundations in some principle.  These are simple statements that become more complex as they meet political reality, but if we work toward them—as we should, as we must—the number of refugees, the very embodiment of this intellectual and geographic rootlessness, will decrease.  And the route of these refugees toward rootedness will not be as long.


Hannah Carrese (’16) is a senior in Pierson College.


Works Cited

Adama N. In discussion with the author. Joel Nafuma Refugee Center. July 2015.

Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism. San Diego: Harvest, 1968.

Arendt, Hannah. “We Refugees.” In Altogether Elsewhere: Writers on Exile. Ed. Marc                    Robinson. San Diego: Harvest, 1996.

Anadolu Agency. “Norway Advertises in Afghan Newspapers to Dissuade Refugees.”                   Tolo News. 27 November 2015.

Aristotle. Politics. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. In Basic Works of Aristotle. Ed. Richard                        McKeon. New York: Random House, 1941.

Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. Robert C. Bartlett and Susan D. Collins.                                Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.

Barigazzi, Jacopo. “Greatest Tide of Refugees is Yet to Come.” Politico. 23 September                    2015.

Barrow, Bill. “Ben Carson: Refugee Program Must Screen for ‘Mad Dogs.’” Associated                Press. 19 November 2015.

Birnbaum, Michael. “Smuggling Refugees Into Europe is a New Growth Industry.” The                 Washington Post. 3 September 2015.

Boehm, Omri “Can Refugees Have Human Rights?” The New York Times, 19 October                   2015.

“Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.” UNHCR. Adopted 1951                   and 1967.

Chester, Tim. “Congestion and Confusion: What France’s Borders Are Really Like After                the Attacks.” Mashable. 17 November 2015.

Clausewitz, Carl von. On War. Trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret. New York:

Everyman’s Library, 1993.

Cowell, Alan. “Italy Cautious on Bosnian Refugees.” The New York Times. 23 May 1992.

Davenport, Coral. “The Marshall Islands Are Sinking.” The New York Times. 1                              December 2015.

Derdzinski, Joe. In discussion with the author. 15 December 2015.

“Europe: Syrian Asylum Applications.” UNHCR. November 2015.

Fink, Alan. “Ebola Crisis Passes, But Questions on Quarantine Persist.” The New York                  Times. 2 December 2015.

Gibbon, Edward. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. London: W. Strahan and                   T. Cadell, 1776.

“A Global Challenge.” UNHCR. May 2015.

“Global Facts and Figures.” UNHCR. December 2014.

Hadziah-Metovic, Jasmina. In discussion with the author. June 2015.

Hadzibabic, Adi. In discussion with the author. June 2015.

Hadzic, Zekeriah. In discussion with the author. July 2015.

Herodotus. The History. Trans. David Grene. Chicago: University of Chicago Press,                      1987.

Janz, Udo. In discussion with the author. Yale University. May 2015.

Koestler, Arthur. The Scum of the Earth. New York: Macmillan, 1941.

Machiavelli, Niccolo. Discourses on Livy. In The Writings of Niccolo Machiavelli Vol. II.               Trans. Christian E. Detmold. Boston: Osgood and Company, 1882.

“New Zealand Deports Kiribati ‘Climate Change Refugee.’” Australian Broadcasting                     Corporation. 23 September 2015.

Parkinson, Joe and Drew Hinshaw. “In Limbo at Europe’s Door: African Migrants Can’t               Reach Continent, But Can’t Go Home.” The Wall Street Journal. 2 November                2015.

Rakin T. In discussion with the author. Joel Nafuma Refugee Center. July 2015.

Rijtano, Piero. In discussion with the author. Joel Nafuma Refugee Center. July 2015.

“Russia Sends Back Expelled Asylum Seekers to Norway.” PressTV-Russia. 16                            November 2015.

Sengupta, Somini. “When Effects of Climate Change Cause People to Flee.” The New                     York Times. 1 December 2015.

Sparrow, Andrew. “Britain Must Stay in EU to ‘Make World More Prosperous,’ Says                   Obama.” The Guardian. 24 July 2015.

Spindler, William. In discussion with the author. UNHCR Headquarters, Geneva. August   2015.

Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War. Trans. Rex Warner. New York: Penguin,   1972.

Victor M. In discussion with the author. Joel Nafuma Refugee Center. July 2015.

Walsh, Nick Paton. “Human Smugglers Offer Discounts for Introductions to Desperate                  Migrants.” CNN. 29 April 2015.


1 Rakin T. in discussion with the author, July 2015.

2 “Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees,” UNHCR, adopted 1951 and 1967, p. 14.

3 See “Global Facts and Figures,” UNHCR, December 2014, p. 1.

4 Ibid.

5 “A Global Challenge,” UNHCR, May 2015.

6 “Europe: Syrian Asylum Applications,” UNHCR, November 2015.

7 Joe Parkinson and Drew Hinshaw, “In Limbo at Europe’s Door: African Migrants Can’t Reach Continent, But Can’t Go Home,” The Wall Street Journal, 2 November 2015.

8 See Michael Birnbaum, “Smuggling Refugees Into Europe is a New Growth Industry,” The Washington Post, 3 September 2015.

9 Nick Paton Walsh, “Human Smugglers Offer Discounts for Introductions to Desperate Migrants,” CNN, 29 April 2015.

10 See Jacopo Barigazzi, “Greatest Tide of Refugees is Yet to Come,” Politico, 23 September 2015.

11 Piero Rijtano in discussion with the author, July 2015.

12 Bill Barrow, “Ben Carson: Refugee Program Must Screen for ‘Mad Dogs,’” Associated Press, 19 November 2015.

13 See Sheri Fink, “Ebola Crisis Passes, But Questions on Quarantine Persist,” The New York Times, 2 December 2015.

14 Udo Janz in discussion with the author, May 2015.

15 William Spindler in discussion with the author, August 2015.

16 Herodotus, The History trans. David Grene (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 7.152.

17 Aristotle, Politics trans. Benjamin Jowett, in Basic Works of Aristotle ed. Richard McKeon (New York: Random House, 1941), 1253a.

18 Ibid.

19 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics trans. Robert C. Bartlett and Susan D. Collins (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), p. 40.

20 Ibid.

21 Andrew Sparrow “Britain Must Stay in EU to ‘Make World More Prosperous,’ Says Obama,” The Guardian, 24 July 2015.

22 “Russia Sends Back Expelled Asylum Seekers to Norway,” PressTV-Russia, 16 November 2015.

23 Anadolu Agency, “Norway Advertises in Afghan Newspapers to Dissuade Refugees,” Tolo News, 27 November 2015.

24 Piero Rijtano in discussion with the author, July 2015.

25 Alan Cowell, “Italy Cautious on Bosnian Refugees,” The New York Times, 23 May 1992.

26 Tim Chester, “Congestion and Confusion: What France’s Borders Are Really Like After the Attacks,” Mashable, 17 November 2015.

27 Victor M. in discussion with the author, July 2015.

28 “President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points,” The Yale Avalon Project, 8 January 1918.

29 Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (San Diego: Harvest, 1968), p. 267.

30 Ibid, 230.

31 Ibid, 293.

32 Angela Merkel qtd. in Omri Boehm, “Can Refugees Have Human Rights?” The New York Times, 19 October 2015.

33 Hannah Arendt, “Preface to the First Edition,” The Origins of Totalitarianism (San Diego: Harvest, 1968), ix.

34 Ibid.

35 Ibid, viii.

36 Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War trans. Rex Warner (New York: Penguin, 1972), p. 272.

37 Adama N. in discussion with the author, July 2015.

38 Rakin T., Adama N., and Fahad B. in discussion with the author, July 2015.

39 “New Zealand Deports Kiribati ‘Climate Change Refugee,’” Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 23 September 2015.

40 Somini Sengupta, “When Effects of Climate Change Cause People to Flee,” The New York Times, 1 December 2015.

41 Coral Davenport, “The Marshall Islands Are Sinking,” The New York Times, 1 December 2015.

42 Aristotle, Politics trans. Benjamin Jowett, in Basic Works of Aristotle ed. Richard McKeon (New York: Random House, 1941), 1253a.

43 Niccolo Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy in The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings of Niccolo Machiavelli Vol. II trans. Christian E. Detmold (Boston: Osgood and Company, 1882), p. 95.

44 Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1776), p. 73.

45 Zekeriah Hadzic in discussion with the author, July 2015.

46 Jasmina Hadziah-Metovic in discussion with the author, June 2015.

47 Adi Hadzibabic in discussion with the author, June 2015.

48 Arthur Koestler, The Scum of the Earth (New York: Macmillan, 1941), p. 219.

49 Joe Derdzinski in discussion with the author, June 2015.

50 Carl von Clausewitz, On War trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (New York: Everyman’s Library, 1993) pp. 77, 99, 697.


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