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Fall 2023 Course

Migration, Refugees, and Human Rights

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: No HLS Exam

Migration is a central political and moral issue of our time and its impacts will continue to alter our world throughout this century. Indeed large scale, irregular human migration should be considered “the new normal”, not an unexpected or one-off “crisis”. It affects the lives of millions, unsettles established governments, creates sharply polarizing policy dilemmas and generates far-reaching administrative, economic and political challenges. This course will focus on distress migration, including refugee flight and other forms of forced displacement, evaluated through the lens of human rights. It will address the multifaceted drivers of the phenomenon, including the enduring legacies of colonization, armed conflict, environmental stress and climate change, global inequality, demographic pressures and increasing globalization. The course will also consider the impact of government responses to the COVID 19 pandemic on forced migrants. Migration actors from UN agencies, NGOs and other civil society organizations, and research experts working in a range of field sites will contribute to the class.

The course will address the legal frameworks governing migration, and the ethical and pragmatic considerations that influence policies. It will explore the viability of a range of solutions to current migration challenges, including unequal access to protection, the failure of equitable resettlement and the erosion of host empathy/solidarity. The extent to which pandemic related measures conform to or violate legal and ethical obligations will also be considered. A key goal is to enable students to analyze current migration situations with clarity and rigor concerning the obligations of states and the rights of migrants. Using examples of large-scale contemporary population movements – the Ukrainian war and its human impact, the ongoing Tigrayan emergency, the Rohingya exodus, the Venezuelan context, the Mediterranean migration situation, extensive intra-regional mobility within the African continent, US/Mexico/Central American movements, unaccompanied child migration in many regions – the course will examine migration drivers, policy responses and rights challenges such as exclusion and denial of protection, persistent racism in border control, detention, prolonged confinement within refugee camps and forced repatriation. It will also engage with the multiple risks, including statelessness, trafficking, drowning, sexual violence, that migrants face before, during and after their journeys. The course will cover key current policy developments, at the municipal, national, regional and international level, including the impact of Global Compacts on Refugees and on Migration. The course will discuss seasonal migration, child migration, undocumented and irregular status, gender factors in migration and the role of xenophobia in driving policy. Students will be required to make in class presentations, to prepare questions for guest lecturers, and encouraged to participate in class discussion, including by to considering a range of strategies for increasing access to safe mobility as a key redistributive global good.

Note: This course is jointly-listed with HKS as IGA-355. It is held at HKS and scheduling will adhere to the HKS Academic Calendar. The first day of the fall semester at HKS is Wednesday, August 30, 2023.