The Plight of Afghan Refugees in Iran

Only a third of the total number of Afghan refugees in Iraq are UN-registered as the Iranian authorities have not provided all of them with the opportunity to legally claim asylum. Those born within Iran’s borders do holding UN-recognise refugee status; however, they lack many of the rights granted to Iranian Citizens.  A large number of Afghan refugees live without residency documents or access to public services.

Many organisations, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), have accused the Iranian government of severe abuses towards Afghan refugees, such as forced deportations, physical abuse, limited job opportunities and restricted access to education

In addition, HRW has reported that Iran has been recruiting thousands of Afghan refugees to fight in pro-government armed groups in Syria. The Iranian governments denied these accusations, claiming that the refugees have volunteered to fight in Syria out of political or religious convictions.  The uncertain future for many of these refugees in Iran, together with the lack of resources provided to them, only facilitates the use of Afghan refugees as cannon fodder for war in the Middle East.



Refugee Crisis at the US-Mexico Border

As an unprecedented numbers of Haitians and Africans are trying to reach the US, a refugee crisis is unfolding near the US-Mexico border.

With a high number of refugees fleeing to the US, refugee centres are now overwhelmed. Refugees arrive with little or no resources at all, and centres are struggling to meet requirements for basic needs such as water, food and clothes.

The wait is not over for asylum seekers who make it across the border; they will have to wait in detention centres for their legal hearings, which can take several weeks to months.

In 2016, between 2,000 and 3,000 refugees have applied for asylum in the US, but less than 300 were granted the refugee status.

“More cooperation between the two countries is required, because we may have a larger influx over the next few months. It is a crisis.”

– Jose Maria Ramos, Analyst

The scenario for many Haitians is further complicated since they may no longer qualify for asylum. On September 2016, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released an statement announcing the removal on a limited basis of Haitians, affirming that “the situation in Haiti has improved sufficiently to permit the US government to remove Haitians on a more regular basis…” (DHS Press Office).

Most refugees en-route to the US still remain unsure whether their journeys will be worthwhile, or if asylum will just be denied to them.

Featured video from Al Jazeera



Number of Internally Displaced People in Afghanistan has reached 1.2 Million

The number of people internally displaced by conflict in Afghanistan doubled to 1.2 million in the past three years.  Afghanistan is currently one of the largest source of refugees in the world, with approximately 2.6 million Afghan citizens having fled the country. However, a large number of people forced to flee their homes due violence remained trapped in the country, where they are struggling for basic needs.

Research done by Amnesty International indicates that despite promises made by the Afghan government, internally displaced people (IDPs) are living without proper food, water, healthcare or shelter. Moreover, they are deprived of pursuing education or employment.

A new National IDP policy launched in 2014 could be the only hope for those displaced. If adequately enforced, the policy could institutionalise legal responsibilities to assist IDPs. However, the corruption and lack of interest on the side of the Afghan government constitute serious impediments against its implementation.

Despite being forced to live in extremely precarious conditions in an attempt to flee violence, IDPs continue to be vulnerable to violent acts. On 18th June 2015, residents at the Chaman-e-Babrak camp in Kabul reported that a group of armed men tried to demolish their shelters. Despite the deaths of two people and ten others being injured, the government has not carried out any investigation.

The United Nations has asked for $393 worth of humanitarian funding for Afghanistan; however, less than a quarter of this sum was actually received. Recognising the lack of humanitarian funding in Afghanistan, Ms Priti Patel, the UK International Development Secretary, has indicated a shift in British Aid away from middle-income countries and instead ensure “resources reach the most vulnerable”.

“Boosting global prosperity by creating jobs, investment and trade in countries where they are desperately needed is firmly in the UK’s interests.‎ That is why we are using our position in the [World Bank] to push for significant reforms that work for Britain and the world’s poorest.”

– Priti Patel, MP
UK International Development Secretary



2016 Nansen Refugee Award recognizes the efforts and work of volunteers

2016 #NansenAward CeremonyOur #NansenAward winners are living icons of humanitarian service who represent thousands of volunteers working without recognition, every day, across the world. Through Efi and Konstantinos, we honour and celebrate all of those volunteers who inspire us all to do more and to do better.

Posted by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency on Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Spanning more than 60 years, the Nansen Refugee Award is an award that acknowledges the efforts of those who work on behalf of people forcibly displaced from their homes.

This year, the Nansen Award has recognized and celebrated the great efforts and work from volunteers in Greece. Collectively, volunteers have supported more than 40,000 refugees and migrants in 2015.

“Thousands of volunteers that travelled long distances to assist in the crisis because they felt the moral imperative to help, they should set an example for us all.”

– Filippo Grandi, UNHCR

Representing thousands of volunteers working without much recognition every day, accross the world, Konstantinos Mitragas (Hellenic Rescue Team) and Efi Latsoudi (PIKPA Village) have received the award celebrating all of those in service of humanitarian action.

Featured video from Channel 4 News



Refugees and Activists clash with riot police in Calais Refugee camp

Tear gas and water cannons used in Calais migrant camp at protest

Migrants and activists in Calais clash with riot police, as they demand they be allowed to travel onward to Britain.

Posted by Channel 4 News on Sunday, 2 October 2016

Considered to be the worst clashes in the camp since February 2016, migrants and activists in Calais were met with tear gas and water cannons, as they called for UK border to be open.

Claiming that there is no possible political solution in France, refugees were joined by activists protesting the living conditions in Calais refugee camp, as well as demanding they be allowed to travel onward to Britain.

Around 10,000 refugees live in the Calais camp, which French President Hollande has vowed to close this year. Hollande plans to relocate the refugees to locations around France, but many refugees wish to cross borders to Britain and want the refugee camp to remain open.

Featured video from Channel 4 News



SITUATION ANALYSIS: Making sense of Russia’s onslaught on Syria: Rethinking geopolitics in the Middle East

Earlier this year, IISA published an Annual Strategic Brief as part of the ‘Ibn Khaldun’ paper series (http://iisa.org.uk/ibn-khaldun-paper-series/2016/06/annual-strategic-brief-2016-geopolitics-in-the-middle-east/) focusing on geopolitics in the Middle East. Our main argument was that the state of conflicts and geopolitics in the Middle East is much more complex than conventionally thought, and comprises ‘internal’ and ‘external’ struggles. Internal struggle is between local and regional states and non-states, and external struggle is mainly between Russia and the US.

The ‘external’ struggle between Russia and the US still defines and is the main component of geopolitics in the Middle East.

If the readers of this report had the opportunity to read our Annual Strategic Brief/Ibn Khaldun paper as noted above, you may be more familiar with the issue, and would have expected the similar outcomes as we forecasted.

If not, this report could be a more easy-to-digest reminder of the issues, and of Russian ambitions in the Middle East.

To start with, in order to make sense of Russia and its role on the global stage, it is crucial to understand who runs Russia and how those running Russia see the world. Putin is a product of the Cold War and sees the west not just as geopolitical rivals but also an ‘enemy’ to some extent. This Russian thinking is reinforced by:

  • Geography (Russia has been invaded many times over by European forces, as there is no geographical barrier that could stop an invading European force marching on Moscow etc.),
  • Ideology (the Cold War maybe over, but Russia still feels that it has a role to play in the international system, which it believes is its inherent right)
  • Economy (the economic sanctions and slumped oil prices are hurting Russia internally, a weekend Russia can crumble, hence Russia must exert its power externally)
  • And national interests (Putin and the Russian regime are very much aware that an internal security strife is directly linked to the external security situation. Putin is a realist who knows the only way to control domestic politics is to project Russia as a global leader. Russia is also concerned about the rise of China and its in-reach to Russian sphere of influence i.e. Central Asia. So to balance China, Russia must be a bigger and stronger international player) etc.

In essence, Putin’s Russia is very much concerned with NATO’s ambitions, the domestic security conundrum, and the changing international system and Russia’s place in it. Put simply, nothing has really changed since we published the Ibn Khaldun paper on the Middle East a few months ago.

The report forecasted that any ceasefire on Syria was almost impossible. We are essentially seeing that in play.

To understanding the intensity of Russian onslaught in Aleppo Syria is to understand the bigger picture, briefly described above. The key point is that the ferocity of aerial attacks and the destruction that it causes is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Russia is using tried and tested tactics that it has previously used in Afghanistan or Chechnya etc. The Russian aim is to demoralise the opposition beyond recovery, and to control territory so that it can implement its own solution (which suits Russia).

This leads us to question the other player of the exterior struggle, the United States, and its strategy. Well for now it may be obvious to some keen readers, that there isn’t one. No effective plan B was created by the US in case the ceasefire failed. The US and its allies remain divided on how best to deal with Russia and their priority remains fully focused on countering the Islamic State (IS). There is also the question of the change of administration within the next few months, so no concrete strategy by the new administration can be expected before mid – 2017. Russia knows this very well and is using this time and uncertainty to its advantage by using hard power to its max.

Syrian opposition remains politically and militarily divided. The Gulf States and Turkey are either in internal strifes, or politically weakened. So Russia does what it knows best; destruction beyond recognition. It claims that it is only attacking ‘terrorists’ in Aleppo.

And yes, we have not forgotten to mention the people’s suffering, regardless of which perspective you believe in. People are suffering beyond imagination. Therein lies the essential lesson: the Arab revolution was about the ‘people’ and their power. Readers must ask themselves a very simple question: in this day and age, do people actually matter?

The wars are beyond horrific. The level of human suffering is almost indescribable. But in essence they are a force of great change. What we are witnessing today is a changing of the Middle East and of the international order by Russia and its allies, while the west and the rest of us sit and watch.

Turkey to complete Syrian Border Wall within five months

Turkey will complete the construction of a 900-km (560-mile) wall along the Syrian border within 5 months, an official at a Turkish state institution has revealed. By the end of February, the country seeks to complete the construction of a 3m (10ft) high and 2m (6.5ft) wide concrete wall made up of seven-tonne portable blocks topped with razor wire.


While construction of the wall is primarily a result of Turkish concerns with the presence of Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, and in response to pressure from NATO allies to seal off the border with Islamic State-controlled territory in Syria, construction of the border wall also aims to combat smuggling and illegal migration into Turkey.

The construction began early in 2014, to stop illegal crossings along the length of 900km (560-mile) border even as Turkey maintained an open-border policy that has seen nearly 3 million Syrians seek refuge in the country.

Estimated costs for the construction were not informed. Notwithstanding, mass media vehicles have speculated the total cost of the wall to be around 2 billion lira ($672 million).

Photo credits: REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo

“DDR Theory & Practice” by IISA Senior Advisor Desmond Molloy

ddrDDR has been widely advocated for decades as an essential component of post-conflict peacebuilding. But DDR in practice has generated more questions than answers. Does it work, contributing to post-conflict stabilization and the reintegration of former combatants? Can it work better? What constitutes success? What accounts for failure? Do potential risks outweigh the potential benefits?  Drawing on his extensive experience in the field, Desmond Molloy considers these questions and more as he traces the evolution of DDR theory and practice from the mid-1980s to the present.  Further, he projects its potential applications in the changing world with the evolving nature of conflict, particularly in addressing Islamic violent extremism.

“Molloy offers valuable insights in to the practical applications of DDR theory within the context of modern conflict and national and human security programme.”

– Dean Piedment, Countering Violent Extremism initiative.

Desmond Molloy is Senior Programme Director with The Nippon Foundation in Myanmar, where he focuses on the design and management of integrated peacebuilding programmes.


  • Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration
  • Foundation of the Theory
  • Evolution of the Practice
  • The Classic DDR Approach
  • Operationalizing Community Security Approaches
  • Theory meets Practice?
  • DDR in War
  • The UN Approach to Reintegration
  • Cross-Cutting Issues
  • The Dilemmas of Confronting Risk
  • The Next Generation

Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder, Colorado.

Due November 30, 2016/ca. 250 pages

ISBN: 978-1-62637-568-0   pb $26.50/£20.50.     A Kumarian Press Book


UN Summit for Refugees & Migrants “just flowery language”

On the 19th September, UN member states gathered in New York to address the large movements of refugees and migrants.  The primary purpose of this summit was to create a viable mechanism for sharing of refugee resettlement duties on the UN states. The summit established the New York Declaration, which calls on countries which can resettle or reunite many refugees to do so.  It asks the richest regions to recognise their responsibilities and provide timely and dependable humanitarian funding. Also, host countries are called upon to increase the opportunities of work for the adult refugees and education for children. There are currently 65 million people with refugee status across the world, as stated by the UNHCR; this is the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.

“Refugees and migrants are not to be seen as a burden; they offer great potential, if only we unlock it. We must place the human rights of all refugees and migrants at the heart of our commitments.”

– Ban Ki-moon, UN  Secretary-General, opening address to the Summit.

However, the Summit was deeply criticised by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Oxfam; for lacking proposal of substance and removing key resettlement obligation on member states. Moreover, Human Rights Watch called the draft of the final document a “missed opportunity”; the declaration brings nothing new to the scenery. It reiterates the standard human rights and norms.  The summit ended without an agreement on how to tackle the refugee crisis, without a mechanism or solution.

“What we got here are no concrete commitments to address this problem. What we got here was just some flowery language.”

– Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam

Overall, the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants represents a small step forward, but fails to address the current crisis in a proper way and offer long-term solutions.

AMISOM’s withdrawal: what prospects for Somalia without international support?


African Union military operation in Marka town, Somalia


The AU has announced a cessation of its 22,000 strong peacekeeping mission currently operating in Somalia by the end of 2017. The decision was accelerated in August by a 20 per cent financial cut in sponsorship from the European Union, which forced the Ugandan government, AMISOM’s largest military contingent to initiate a unilateral withdrawal of its forces next year, compounding structural labour shortages.

While a shift in leadership has emphasised continuity in both mandate and strategic priorities for the coalition in the short term, including the facilitation of successful federal elections in 2016 and encouraging the development of a functional Mogadishu-led security apparatus to ‘shoulder its own responsibilities’, the time horizons have been substantially expedited.  Somalia now has until 2017 to establish a military capable of containing the Shabaab insurgency and provide space for state building.

However, despite AMISOM spokesman Lt Col Hoe Kibet arguing Somali forces is ‘in terms of training tactics and weaponry, now as good as any national army’, critics remain pessimistic about the prospective delivery of socio-economic and political stability. A systemic lack of equipment, expertise and experience currently frame large segments of the SAF, and where local troops have not been supported by international peace-keepers they are consistently weakened by desertion.

Of course, there have been some successes: Shabaab’s parent insurgency and affiliated groups have enjoyed an operational resurgence over the last year but this has not translated into territorial control. Similarly, soft programmes such as the amnesty introduced by the Mohamoud administration and externally financed DDR initiatives are becoming increasingly effective. Several former militant leaders are now consulting with the federal government and a new German funded rehabilitation model is now being internalised across the country to exploit grass-root level internal rifts in the Shabaab network. Supplementing domestic efforts to reintegrate disillusioned fighters, it specifically targets investment in vocational training, communal infrastructure and social interaction, providing a multifaceted framework with the propensity to counter non-ideological strains of recruitment. Defectors have a tendency to exaggerate their conviction to Shabaab and many low level fighters subscribe out of economic necessity, peer pressure or coercion, providing an opportunity for the government to engage and successfully convert low risk combatants.

Nevertheless there are still serious doubts that Somalia will be able to sustain effective kinetic operations without international support. Deradicalisation, CVE and the associated projection of counter-messaging needs to be reinforced with substantive military force, particularly in a context where domestic terrorism is synonymous with a much broader asymmetric conflict being waged across the country’s peripheries. Counter-terrorism needs to be assimilated into a comprehensive counter-insurgency paradigm that carves space for these social initiatives to work over time. Without a dramatic re-appraisal of AMISOM’s scheduled withdrawal, any progress previously made to strengthen civil society, governance and national cohesion may quickly collapse.