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How Refugee Studies Turn Burden into Benefit

In 2015, Europe’s governments were, for the lack of a better word, overwhelmed by the influx of over 1 million refugees. The affected countries squabbled over a unified response and ultimately failed in organising a joint effort to manage what was termed the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. While the sheer scope and tragedy of the 2015 events cannot be overstated, it would be a mistake to think of them as unique: it is most likely that over the coming years and decades, 2015 will not be seen as an exception. In 2016, 65 million people were forcibly displaced and about 20 million became refugees. Mass migration is part of a globalised world and societies will need to find new ways of integrating people displaced by wars, poverty, and persecution. Alexander Betts, Professor at the Oxford Refugee Studies Centre, is a critic of current refugee systems and a passionate advocate for practical solutions that help refugees and host countries at the same time. Highlighting refugees’ individual skills and potentials as values that can be tapped, he has laid out clear and pragmatic recommendations that can be adopted globally. Countries such as Uganda and Jordan have already chosen to pursue such paths with considerable success. As walls will continue to fall and mass migration will form part of our future, Alexander shows at Falling Walls how societies can deal with these developments effectively and compassionately.

Alexander Betts


Alexander Betts is the Leopold Muller Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs and heads the Refugees Studies Centre at the University of Oxford. His work on the economics of refugee assistance, migration and humanitarianism has influenced thinking about refugee policy worldwide. Alex is challenging the traditional view that refugees have to be a burden to their host countries and proposes a new economic model that takes into perspective refugees’ skills and talents. He shows how freedom of movement and the right to work can help in tapping this inherent potential. In a new era of mass dislocation, he advocates a new logic of integration that builds on basic human rights and the opportunities of markets and mobility.

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