Session: Justice for Forced Migrants Fleeing Violence in the Global South (Society for Social Work and Research 20th Annual Conference - Grand Challenges for Social Work: Setting a Research Agenda for the Future)

125 Justice for Forced Migrants Fleeing Violence in the Global South

Friday, January 15, 2016: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Ballroom Level-Renaissance Ballroom West Salon A (Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel)
Cluster: International Social Work & Global Issues
Symposium Organizer:
Rupaleem Bhuyan, PhD, University of Toronto
This session includes papers that contribute to interdisciplinary scholarship on gender and migration, to better understand how increased securitization and border controls in North America impact refugees and asylum seekers from the Global South as they settle in Canada and the United States. Forced migrants who seek refuge in the United States and Canada migrate amidst the backdrop of regional unrest and insecurity, neoliberal economic restructuring and the securitization of national borders to protect economic reforms (Hodes, 2013). Within this context, forced migrants are viewed more as a threat to national security or a burden on already taxed social welfare systems. Furthermore, policies that regulate the resettlement of refugees and purport to increase women’s access to opportunities that have historically privileged men may contribute to and exacerbate existing vulnerabilities.  

This set of papers also examines the limits of justice within the refugee and asylum regimes of the international community and North America through examining the continuum of violence faced by migrant women and families. The first paper explores the basis upon which Canada views refugee claims from Mexican women seeking safety from domestic violence as unworthy. Though thousands of Mexicans have submitted refugee claims in Canada in recent years, the majority have their claims denied for failure to prove that their home country failed to protect them.

The second paper uses constructivist grounded theory to investigate the process of migration for Central American migrant women experiencing domestic and sexual violence. The summer of 2014 brought a re-institutionalization of for-profit family detention practices in the U.S. immigration system, resulting in the incarceration of thousands of migrant women and children who fled violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. These practices parallel other violence women experience prior to and during migration and the strategies used by a variety of actors to control women. They also reflect a widespread climate of impunity and lack of access to justice.

The third paper considers the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) requirement that individual refugees fit one of seven descriptive categories in order to be recommended for permanent resettlement in a third country. The categorization of individuals artificially compartmentalizes complex traumatic experiences and these assignments quickly lose meaning in the resettlement process. This paper explores the impact of these policies and practices on refugee women seeking to rebuild their lives in the U.S. based on a recent exploratory study conducted with Congolese women resettled under the at-risk category.

Each of the papers will raise questions regarding social work practice and the role that national and international humanitarian policies play in ensuring the safety and well-being of a growing number of migrants who are vulnerable to being irregularized as undocumented immigrants.

* noted as presenting author
Safety for Migrants Fleeing Domestic Violence?: The Limits of Refugee Protection for Mexican Women Seeking Refugee Status in Canada
Rupaleem Bhuyan, PhD, University of Toronto; Adriana Vargas, BA, University of Toronto; Margarita Pintin-Perez, MSW, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Mexico
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