Policy Project: Migration and Displacement

Worldwide displacement is at a record high, as war, persecution, instability, poverty, natural disaster and climate change have resulted in the displacement of approximately 60 million people are displaced globally, 38 million of whom are internally displaced. While migration and displacement are not new phenomena, the unprecedented levels of current displacement have triggered intense political debates, regional and local humanitarian responses, and protection challenges for migrants, including vulnerabilities of moving through armed conflict areas, risks associated with exploitation and mistreatment during transit, insecurity of refugee camps, detention, and processing centers, changing policies in countries of transit and arrival, and the need for longer-term solutions.

The work of the Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action (ATHA) in this thematic area aims to contribute to the humanitarian sector's efforts to enhance the protection of migrants, refugees, and internally displaced persons. Through undertaking research and convening discussions among experts and practitioners, ATHA is focused on bridging the gap between theory and practice to address the key drivers of vulnerability among migrants and displaced persons, and foster a space for humanitarian practitioners to engage in professional exchange about challenges and dilemmas relating to sustainable humanitarian responses to migration and displacement.

Below are resources produced by ATHA, as well as by other programs of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.


January 2016

In the Same Boat: Morocco's Experience with Migrant Regularization

Harvard University Winter Field Study Course 2016

Objectives of This Paper 

This collective policy paper summarizes the main themes of Morocco’s recent experience around migration policy. It draws upon many conversations with major stakeholders, group work, and site visits. We believe that thus far potential lessons from Morocco’s migration experience have generally been neglected in the current discourse around migration... MORE


Friday, March 10, 2017


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Sarah Martin is a gender-based violence specialist with nearly 20 years of experience in research, advocacy, training and project management with international organizations around the worldMORE

Thursday, February 9, 2017


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Since the peak in refugee and migrant arrivals on the Greek islands last year, subsequent border closures and the EU-Turkey deal have led many migrants to become stranded in GreeceMORE

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


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Two years of conflict in the Donbas region of Ukraine has continued to intensify since early March of this yearMORE

Friday, January 22, 2016 


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This year, hundreds of thousands of people crossed the Mediterranean and Europe’s eastern borders seeking refuge. But while global attention was fixed on the boats struggling through the waves, or huddled behind barbed-wire borders, little thought has been given to what happens nextMORE

Thursday, December 17, 2015 


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As the numbers of migrants and refugees entering Europe continue to increase, data collection and analysis, particularly through mobile technology, social media, and crowdsourcing, provide humanitarian actors with key insights into critical protection gaps and emerging trendsMORE

Thursday, September 24, 2015 


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A global refugee crisis is rapidly unfolding in Europe. Driven by protracted conflicts and persecution in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Eritrea, increasing numbers of refugees are making the dangerous journey in smugglers’ boats across the Mediterranean toward Greece and other European shoresMORE

Wednesday, August 19, 2015  


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In this episode, ATHA's Anaïde Nahikian speaks with Melissa Fleming, Chief of Communications and Spokesperson for the High Commissioner, at UNHCR, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for RefugeesMORE

Thursday, August 13, 2015   


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In this episode, ATHA's Anaïde Nahikian speaks with Louise Bloom, Research Officer at the Humanitarian Innovation Project at the University of Oxford, and Professor Alexander Betts, Director of the Refugee Studies Centre, also at the University of OxfordMORE

Thursday, January 29, 2015   


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Climate change and environmental degradation are increasingly becoming a humanitarian issueMORE

Thursday, October 23, 2014 


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On World Refugee Day this year, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported that the number of refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced people worldwide has exceeded 50 million peopleMORE


March 7, 2017

Revised Executive Order on Muslim Immigration and Refugees Continues to Betray Humanitarian Values and American Security

On 6 March 2017, the Trump administration signed a revised executive order banning entry into the U.S. by nationals of six Muslim-majority countries – Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – for 90 days, suspending refugee resettlement for 120 days, and lowering the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. from 110,000 to 50,000 in fiscal year 2017MORE

August 26, 2016

Food Security and the Data Revolution: Mobile Monitoring on the Humanitarian Frontline

This guest blog comes to us from Jean-Martin Bauer, Brittany Card, and Alice Clough with the World Food Program (WFP) food security analysis unit. MORE

July 11, 2016

From Transit to Reception: A New Reality for Refugees in Greece

“We do not face a refugee crisis, but a reception crisis,” is a common refrain heard in Greece these days, though it’s arguably applicable to Europe as a wholeMORE

May 31, 2016

EU-Turkey Agreement Undermines Refugee Protection in Law and in Practice

Since over a million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe last year – and nearly 4,000 perished or went missing on the Mediterranean Sea – European leaders have been scrambling to find solutions to this evolving humanitarian and political challengeMORE

March 9, 2016

Refugee Children Left Vulnerable in Europe

Children now account for over one third of refugees and migrants crossing the Eastern Mediterranean, reports UNICEF; and taken together, women and children account for nearly 60% of those on the move in Europe, a sharp increase from summer 2015 when men constituted 73% of migrant flows and children less than 10%. MORE

February 4, 2016

Refugee Relief in Calais Camp Falls Short

Jennifer Silverstone recently travelled to northern France to provide volunteer first aid to migrants and refugees at the Calais and Dunkirk camps. She is a wife, mother of two young sons and a registered nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital. MORE

January 26, 2016

In The Same Boat Morocco: Part III

As part of a refreshing approach to the issue of migrant access to the Italian labor market, the ASGI (Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration) offered us a recommendation that is as original as it is socially progressive: give migrants and refugees jobs that make them socially visibleMORE

January 19, 2016

In The Same Boat Morocco: Part II

Simultaneously dispatching her assistant on errands, monitoring and scolding children running awry, attending to her buzzing mobile phone and answering the questions of 16 Harvard researchers, Fatima Outaleb was an inspiration to meetMORE

January 16, 2016

In The Same Boat Morocco: Part I

Over the course of January 2016, a Harvard University Field Study is investigating migration into and out of Morocco, how the country has managed its migration and what lessons the EU and other states can learn from Morocco’s considerable experience in this field. MORE

December 17, 2015

European Refugee Crisis: Data, Technology & Coordination Briefing Note

This guest blog comes to us from P. Pham, M. Comes, B. Van de Walle, A. Wagner, C. Arkwright, N. Gibbons, and P Vinck. MORE

December 3, 2015

The Rohingya: Genocide in the Modern Era?

Ethnically and religiously distinct from the majority population, the Rohingya people in Myanmar face state-sponsored discrimination, and mounting evidence of serious human rights abuses, according to numerous recent reportsMORE

October 29, 2015

Havens or Targets: Would Syria Benefit from a Humanitarian Safe Zone?

In a protracted armed conflict, particularly a civil war, common sense would dictate that a “safe zone” – a protected area free of weapons and conflict, for the exclusive use of humanitarian actors and civilians – would do nothing but goodMORE

October 22, 2015

Refugees Welcome in Germany? Please Take a Number

A long line forms most days in front of the “LaGeSo” – the Landesamt für Gesundheit und Soziales, or State Office of Health and Social AffairsMORE

October 7, 2015

Why is the Temporary Protection Directive Missing from the Refugee Crisis Debate?

Europe is in crisis. Over 475,000 asylum-seekers have arrived by sea across the Mediterranean this year alone, with 84% coming from the world’s top ten refugee-producing countriesMORE

October 2, 2015

#RefugeesWelcome: How Smartphones and Social Media Empower Refugees and EU Citizens and Bring Change to European Refugee Policies

This guest blog post comes to us from Tina Comes and Bartel Van de Walle. Tina and Bartel are Senior Fellows at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI). Tina is Associate Professor in ICT at the University of Agder, Norway, Deputy Director of the Centre for Integrated Emergency Management, and Vice-President of the ISCRAM Association. MORE

September 3, 2015  

Data Insecurity: Refugee Protection in Light of Emerging Technologies

The use of biometrics by humanitarian agencies is quietly nearing its thirteenth birthday. As one of the first adopters of this technology, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has increasingly used biometric data collection technology, which includes fingerprinting, iris scanning, and facial recognition software, since 2002. MORE

June 11, 2015

Widespread Detention Practices Run Afoul of International Legal Protection for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Refugees and asylum seekers are facing increasing difficulties accessing international protection as the international community and host nations struggle to respond to the record 51.2 million displaced persons worldwide, including 16.7 million refugees. MORE

May 14, 2015

With Internal Displacement on the Rise, International Law Leaves Protection Gap

More people are fleeing conflict and violence than ever before on record, with the number of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons (IDPs) now exceeding 50 million people. MORE

April 29, 2015

Reactive Policies Remain Insufficient to Prevent Migrant Deaths

This guest blog comes to us from Professor David Polatty. David teaches military strategy, maritime security, and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief at the U.S. Naval War College (NWC) in Newport, Rhode Island, and is a co-founder and co-director of the NWC College of Operational & Strategic Leadership - Harvard School of Public Health “Joint Civilian-Military Humanitarian Working Group.” MORE

December 4, 2014

Syria's Arbitrary Denial of Consent Keeps Aid from Reaching Syrians in Need

With the Assad regime severely limiting international humanitarian access to Syria, most international relief effortshave focused on addressing the needs of the over 3.1 millionSyrian refugees in the region, including over a million each in Lebanon and Turkey, and hundreds of thousands each in Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. MORE

October 20, 2014

As Syrian Refugee Crisis Worsens, Critical Needs Go Unmet

As the Syrian refugee crisis continues, host countries and the international community are struggling to meet the growing needs of Syrian refugees, resulting in a significant humanitarian gaps. MORE

September 8, 2014

Palestinian "Double Refugees" Victimized Many Times Over

The displacement of Palestinians is not a new phenomenon. Since the 1948, when war led to the founding of the State of Israel, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have lived as foreigners in Syria and other neighboring countries. MORE

September 2, 2014

Conflict Migration on the Mediterranean: An Overshadowed Humanitarian Crisis

The number of irregular migrants crossing – and dying in – the Mediterranean Sea has surged in recent years, fueled by conflict and instability on the Sea’s southern shores. MORE

July 7, 2014

Global Refugee Crisis and the Mass Migration "Revolving Door Pattern": When Refugee Producing Countries Become Refugee Hosts

Commemorations for the 14thWorld Refugee Day[1] on 20 June drew to a close as the United Nations reported a sharp increase in the number of forcibly displaced persons worldwide, bringing new depth to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR)’s 2014 theme of “One family torn apart by war is too many.” MORE


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