In Summary
  • Complicating the world’s “refugee crisis” is the phenomenal rise of far-right populism as an “us versus them” ideology — in Europe and the United States.
  • A clear progress from rhetoric to reality is paying off, translating to a new progressive refugee protection regime across the region.
  • The new progressive refugee policies in the Horn of Africa reflect the more robust global response to the populist politics now eroding the global protection of refugees.

As the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) convened a three-day International Scientific Conference on Forced Displacement and Mixed Migration in the East and Horn of Africa on May 8-10, 2019.

The world is in the eye of a stormy and the biggest wave of refugees since World War II.

A mix of conflict, persecution, violence and natural disasters has displaced a record 68.5 million people around the world, among them 25 million refugees.

The Horn of Africa region — Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan — accounts for some of the world’s most protracted cases of displacement in the World.

The region has over 3.2 million refugees originating mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and South Sudan and over 5.6 million Internally Displaced Persons within Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.


Complicating the world’s “refugee crisis” is the phenomenal rise of far-right populism as an “us versus them” ideology — in Europe and the United States.

Populist politics has not only been a threat to global democracy and security but has also been responsible for the worst anti-immigrant sentiment and severely restrictive policies on asylum.

Anti-migration and anti-Muslim ideas and sentiments have served as the “great unifiers” among far-right political formations and communities, contributing to hostilities to refugee migrations.

Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign was punctuated by anti-immigration rhetoric.

The campaign for Britain’s exit from the European Union during the 2016 Brexit referendum was also characterised by strong anti-immigration sentiments.

The influence of right-wing populist parties in the world’s wealthiest asylum sphere has seen these countries adopt unilateral and security-driven responses to effectively limit the numbers and manage the flows of refugees and migrants.


Africa has its own share of anti-refugee populists. Ironically, South Africa — widely touted as the “rainbow nation” — has an anti-immigration problem.

Ahead of the crucial May 8, 2019 election, African nationals — a mixed bag of undocumented migrants, asylum-seekers, refugees, and citizens — were targets of new bouts of xenophobic attacks.

South Africa’s official opposition party, Democratic Alliance (DA), took an overtly hard anti-immigrant stance signified by its campaign promise to “Secure Our Borders”.

The Horn of Africa is caught between a rock and a hard place as vicious geopolitical rivalries ripple through the region, exacerbating the crisis of refugee protection.

The rivalry has played out in a violent way in Yemen, which has been hosting refugees from the Horn of Africa.

The region is now experiencing reverse migrations as Yemenis fleeing war seek safety in Somalia, Djibouti, Sudan and other countries in the Horn of Africa.

Driving solution to the refugee crisis in the Horn of Africa is the mantra of “African Solutions to African Problems”.

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