Financial Inclusion in Refugee Economies

An essay by Kim Wilson and Roxanne Krystalli. Financial inclusion as a term and topic has become popular in humanitarian settings. A mounting global refugee crisis has brought financial access into the focus of donors and practitioners. In this paper, we ask questions that concern both donors and practitioners: Is digital, formal finance – at the heart of most financial inclusion strategies – suited to the needs of refugees, migrants, and displaced populations? Must financial inclusion approaches be tailored for maximum relevance in contexts of protracted displacement or resettlement?

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“I’m the Everything”: The Overlooked Heroism of Refugee Youth in the United States

By Julie Zollmann. Nine voluntary agencies have the official responsibility for resettling refugees into communities throughout the United States. They find their clients new housing, schools, and jobs. They help them get social security numbers and open bank accounts. They play an indispensable role in helping refugees settle into their new homes. But the work of integration, of truly building a life in a new country with a new language, new transportation system, new labor market, and a whole new set of social norms is a much bigger job, one that in many families is being done stoically, even heroically, by young refugees in their teens and early twenties.

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Origins Breed Commonalities, Camaraderie, and Conflict

By Aastha Dua and Subin Mulmi, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. The authors observed the South Asian identity play out in interesting and diverse ways among the migrants interviewed. The dynamic between the general populations of these countries—oscillating between brotherly love, jealousy, and rivalry—was reflected in full, as if in a microcosm, among the South Asian migrants traveling to America in their interactions with each other. This essay is an attempt to describe this dynamic, culled from the interviews that were conducted by the authors with the migrants and from their own observations in the CATEMs (Temporary Care Centers for Migrants) and the surrounding areas in Costa Rica.

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Language Isolation on the Migrant Trail

By Charlie Bentley, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. I connected to most migrants I interviewed using the same first casual topic: “I’m struggling to get around without Spanish. What about you?” Despite having the help of two Spanish-speaking colleagues, I still found that traveling through Colombia without Spanish language skills was an immense challenge.

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In Adjusting to New Labor Markets, Migrants Draw on Past Experience and Retain a Strong Sense of Pride in Being Able to Contribute

By Conor Sanchez, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. Popular notions of migrants as unskilled or uneducated laborers, while sometimes true, are often false. Their jobs back home may not have always ensured adequate income, a factor that could have played a role in their decision to migrate, but they often required some technical knowledge or training. Our subjects had worked as photographers, teachers, accountants, sociologists, and business owners. Some were property owners, tending to farms and livestock or selling various kinds of merchandise out of their home. In many of the interviews, it also became apparent that these jobs had clearly formed an unshakeable part of their identity.

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Migrants Hold onto Their Religious Identities for Emotional Support and to Build Networks Crucial to Their Journeys

By Lea Abi Zeid Daou and Nidhisha Philip, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. Writings on why religion is of significance to individual migrants have explored themes of religion as a reason for migration, religion as a means of sustenance in difficult circumstances, religion as an identity marker in new socio-cultural contexts, and religion as a source of reconciliation and healing. In this essay, we explore some of these same themes, basing our insights on interviews with trans-continental migrants traveling through Costa Rica and bound for the north.

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What Can Hotels Teach Us about Smuggling?

By Maria Teresa Nagel, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. There is limited research describing the smuggling industry and its actors, particularly in Central America. Our study hopes to address this knowledge gap by disclosing how human smugglers lodge their clients and the role hotels play in the smuggling ecosystem.

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Tracing the Financial Journeys of Nepali Migrants

By Subin Mulmi, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. The 2015 earthquake in Nepal resulted in the deaths of 8,970 people with 22,302 injured. Several reports have estimated that more than one million houses were destroyed, affecting the lives of six million people. Only a handful of families have been relocated to safer places. Even before the quake, the country was reeling from the effects of the decade-long civil war that claimed the lives of 13,236 people and led to the disappearance of thousands more. In June 2009, the Nepal IDP Working Group reported that up to 70,000 people displaced by the conflict had not yet found durable housing. They remained unable to return home, integrate locally, or resettle elsewhere.

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You and I Are Not Friends: The Challenges of Ethnographic Study in the Migration Field

By Padmini Baruah, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. Transnational migration has been one of the most talked-about phenomena of the past decade. With prolonged armed conflict, economic crises, and climate change affecting different parts of the world adversely, it is not a surprise that an estimated 258 million people live in a country that is not the country of their birth.1 Much news has been generated on this subject, and multiple studies have focused on the macro aspects of this issue. However, equally vital is not losing sight of the fact that while broad patterns and theories can explain the macrophenomenon of transnational migration, each migrant’s story is ultimately a subjective and entirely personal lived experience. The powerful contribution of the individual narrative as well as of ethnographic observations to academic studies in this field cannot be overlooked.

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