Date of Award

8-2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

Anthropology

Major Professor

Tricia Redeker Hepner

Committee Members

Gregory Button, Andrew Kramer

Abstract

For nearly a decade, Eritreans have been fleeing their oppressive government and the human rights violations that occur within Eritrea‘s borders. This flight usually takes them across the nearest border, but there appear to be choices that refugees make along the way that lead to patterning of flight, selection of certain countries of safe haven and emerging hierarchies of third countries of resettlement. For geopolitical reasons, Eritrean refugees are both safe and at risk in Ethiopia. However, it is in Ethiopia that a highly trafficked refugee camp, Shimelba, was created in 2004. Beginning in 2009, the US has been accepting Eritrean refugees from this camp as a group resettlement. As the world economy continues to deteriorate, however, life in the US may be more difficult for refugees than ever before.

This thesis will focus on the expectations of refugees before and during the process of group resettlement, and the complicating factors involved in resettlement, including US policies on terrorism, political interference in resettlement cases by Eritrean political groups, and the pressures to ―thematize‖ personal narratives for the purposes of resettlement success. Interviews were conducted with refugees expecting to be resettled to the US on the front end of the group resettlement, as were employees at international organizations who work in the protection and resettlement sector. To gain an understanding of the effects of group resettlement on the diasporic community, I contextualized refugees‘ experience with respect to the transnational ties that bind those in exile to those still inside Eritrea. These ties can be seen as transnational networks that permeate boundaries between citizen and refugee, home and abroad, political and social, and link refugees to the broader Eritrean diaspora in unexpected ways.

Through this analysis, I have concluded that because Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia are accepted prima facie, they do not have a firm understanding of human rights concepts, and have undergone a change in subjectivity only concerning the experiences of awaiting resettlement as subjects in the two transnational spheres through which they navigate.

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