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The Humanitarian-Security Balance in the Response to the Iraqi Refugee Crisis

By Matty Verburg


This paper is about the humanitarian-security balance in the response to the Iraqi refugee crisis. Although over 2 million Iraqis are displaced within the borders of Iraq and a further 2 million have looked for refuge in neighbouring countries, this crisis has gone largely unnoticed by the international community. Both the host states and the refugees are suffering from this lack of response to humanitarian crises. Therefore this thesis looks into the question how we can explain the passive approach of the international community to the refugee crisis despite the enormous international involvement and attention for the war in Iraq. To come to a conclusion about this question, an assessment is made of the magnitude of the crisis. Then, I will look into the different mechanisms and paradigm shifts that the international community has gone through with regard to conflict resolution, and I will look at the implications of these paradigm shifts for the response to humanitarian crises in general and the Iraqi refugee crisis in specific. It appears that the rise of the security paradigm is the most important factor that determines how the international community responds to the Iraqi refugee crisis. Hereby it is influenced by the fact that security is not a neutral label. Therefore, state security or the security of the community is always put in favour of refugee populations and other vulnerable populations that find themselves not to “belong” to a certain community. Lastly, I will conclude what implications this neglect of a massive refugee population has for the future reconstruction of Iraq. I will conclude that there is a need to de-securitize the discourse around humanitarian situations because they can negatively affect conflict resolution

Topics: Letteren, Iraq, refugee, security paradigm, human security, refugee crisis, international community
Year: 2008
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