Searching for a "Clean Population": A Study of Canada's Group Processing Program
Batarseh, Robert Christian
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation examines the historical development, from the interwar years to 2015, of large-scale refugee resettlement to Canada -- or what in recent years has come to be known as the Group Processing Program. Beyond various discussions of the humanitarian and foreign policy dynamics of such programs, there has been little scholarly attention to the ways in which large-scale resettlement of refugee groupings operate. The dissertation aims to fill this scholarly gap by asking: how are such resettlement decisions made? What criteria are used in deciding which groupings of refugees are selected for resettlement in Canada? To answer these questions, the dissertation relies on a mixture of archival research, document analysis, and interviews with key UNHCR and Canadian government officials. In addition, it examines Canadian practices in a comparative context, with particular attention to the equivalent program in the United States, the Priority-2 Group Referral, as well as the UNHCRs group methodology approach. Group resettlement decisions are typically framed in humanitarian language and Canadian officials have long been uneasy with discussing the exclusion, or even the assessment, of refugee groupings. Secrecy is thus integral to the decision-making process. The dissertation examines this secrecy as well as unease in relation to biopolitical practices whereby officials sort what they view as homogeneous and vulnerable grouping of refugees with clear boundaries from heterogeneous, messy, porous, and risky ones. At work in group resettlement programs are risk management techniques that examine the risk, health, settlement potential, and admissibility of groupings of refugees. Group processing decisions rely on the biopolitical management of refugees, whether in camps or elsewhere, making them visible, ordering refugees, and permitting the carving out of groups of refugees. The dissertation begins to address the absence of discussion in the literature over how resettlement decisions are made. In doing so, it provides an opportunity to critically reflect on how biopolitics, risk management techniques, and border practices are employed in the crafting and sorting of groupings of refugees for resettlement.