The Networks Surrounding Refugee Resettlement

With the Syrian Crisis now reaching the world’s largest population displacement, an unparalleled 65.3 million people have been forced to flee their homes (UNHCR). This massive population displacement has disrupted and altered many networks, resulting in a population redistribution between Canada and Syria. The networks surrounding citizen and non-citizen have become more visible within society; for instance refugees must wait three years to apply for Canadian citizenship. Consequently, these laws restrict refugees access to particular networks, but open up access to others. Therefore, refugees can experience a dimension of constraint because of their refugee status, which distinguishes them from other citizens. For example, refugees are unable to vote, showing one aspect of the dimension of power Canadian citizens hold within society.

To accommodate the growing number of refugees within Canada financial and material resources have shifted within society, straining other dimensions of the network. Bruno Latour’s Networks, Societies, Spheres: Reflection of an Actor-Network Theorist explores the concept of networks and how “what was invisible becomes visible,” explaining the way that networks can change and transform (Latour, 798). Latour’s understandings connect to the maneuvering of networks Syrian refugees are facing; as newcomers entering a new community this group of people have been forced to establish new networks. A few of the new networks consist of: new employment, churches, schools, doctors, banks, and grocery stores.

Another area where networks constraints are visible within Canada is surrounding the refugee entrance policies. The Government of Canada’s website states in relation to the resettlement policy that, “we focused on identifying vulnerable refugees who are a lower security risk such as women, complete families and people at risk due to membership in the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) community” (Government of Canada, 2016). Therefore, within Canada complexities are at play surrounding the vulnerability of refugees and who fits into that vulnerable category, or ‘privileged’ network. This policy relates to the affordances of unequal power distributions within this networks. Certain groups of people are favored more than others, displaying another one of the power dimensions present within this complex network.

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2 Comments

  1. What an interesting and complex network to explore! The interconnectivity of refugee networks seems so difficult to navigator, as individuals who are on different paths of migration have a different roll within the network at large. I.e individuals who have already settled in Canada are more interconnect than those preparing to make the move.

    Their experiences of Canadian and American “hospitality” are also important to explore. As Trump’s campaign has brought to light, their are strong feelings of distain towards recent immigrants, as well as a growth of overall nationalism. Refugees in particular are place in a very difficult position within this network, as often prejudice is directed towards them. This prejudice can ultimately affect one ability to find employment, housing, etc. In terms of Latour’s ANT, it can be argued that parts of this complex network are attempting to remove refugees.

    Switching gears, I also think that it is reasonable to suggest that the overall refugee migration process can be viewed as “black boxed”. The physical migration of these individuals, from their displacement, to their integration, is not acknowledge by other actors (especially those mentioned above). Instead, they are regard only for the way in which they affect the networks that they have joined, and not for the networks they were forcibly removed from.

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  2. So I may be talking out of context here but there was something we were discussion in another class that I thought fit in here. Mainly, I find that language fail us when we feel the very material effects of categorization whether it’s gender or the ‘vulnerable category’. I am interested in how these categorization and identification happen in policy that does not sometimes recognized the lived experience and the complexities of our bodies-in-situations. The bureauracy of the process to accomondate refugees orders the bodies into categories, into new networks, into new identities pressed upon them. In times of ‘tactical essentialism’, when essentialism is used as tactics to lobby for political change, I see also the need to employ diversity of tactics when these networks are harder and harder to trace.

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