Research Summary and Profile
- Research interests:
- Human rights, International Relations, Local Government, Politics
- Research keywords:
- Refugees, Forced Migration, Mobility, Refugee Camps and Settlements, Urban Displacement
- Africa, South America
- Summary of research interests and expertise:
Dr Nicholas Maple is a Lecturer in Refugee Studies at the Refugee Law Initiative. Originally trained in psychology and law, Nicholas has experience working for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Asylum Access in Latin America, advising asylum-seekers of their legal rights.
His research interests take a multidisciplinary approach to examining refugee and migrant displacement in Africa and Latin America. In particular, through a multi-disciplinary approach that combines insights from political science and socio-legal studies, his work to date has been interested in how mobility interacts with different forms of state-based reception, including urban settlement and encampment. He completed his Ph.D. in 2021, under the supervision of Prof Cantor at the Refugee Law Initiative (RLI), University of London. The thesis focused on how states manage the reception of refugees in southern Africa. The thesis has been turned into a manuscript and will be published by the University of London Press in 2024.
He has previously been involved in multi-regional projects relating to Africa, all with a strong policy focus. These include: an investigation of national, regional and continental migration frameworks with a focus on southern Africa; a study of the impact of the UN’s Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration on refugees’ right to international protection in southern Africa; and a report on the effect of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on refugees, migrants, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons.
His current research focuses on protection and solutions to displacement in Africa. Specifically, he is interested in developing new understanding on the relationship between protection and solutions for displacement; and the impact of host state policy on how protection and long-term support is conceptualized and offered to forced migrants on the ground.
Whilst working for the RLI, Nicholas has helped organise over 50 conferences, workshops, and seminars. He is also an assistant editor at the Refugee Survey Quarterly Journal, published by Oxford University Press.
- Publication Details
Date Details 01-Aug-2023 The Role of Institutional Architecture in the Reception of Refugees in South Africa
South Africa has a progressive legal refugee framework and retains a national refugee reception system comprising of several key pieces of institutional architecture, which include a nationally run refugee status determination (RSD) procedure, and appeal and judicial review mechanisms. All of these are prescribed in law to ensure implementation of the state’s international obligations towards asylum-seekers and refugees. Yet, since being established in the mid-1990s, the national refugee reception system, which is overseen by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), has been plagued by allegations of corruption, serious legal and procedural flaws in the application of the law, and national policies that continually breach international law. This article asks what impact the overarching management of refugee affairs being under the control of DHA has had on individual institutions. Has the DHA been able to truly assert influence over all aspects of the asylum system or have individual institutions been able to carve out their own institutional identity which helps insulate them from broader ideology and allows them to place their mandate for the protection of refugees as a priority? In this way, the article speaks directly to the role institutional identity plays within national refugee reception systems and the impact these issues have on how government officials and institutions implement relevant legal frameworks.
01-Apr-2023 Zimbabwean Forced Migrants in South Africa: The Continual Search for Solutions to Long-term Displacement
Article on Zimbabwean Forced Migrants in South Africa: The Continual Search for Solutions to Long-term Displacement. Refugee Law Initiative Blog
01-Feb-2023 Compatible Compacts? The 'social life' of vulnerability, migration governance and protection at the Zimbabwe - South Africa border
Do the Global Compacts’ engagement with questions of vulnerability match with the realities of African migrants living on the African continent? In this article, we engage this discussion using South Africa as a case study to examine the representation of vulnerability in the Global Compact on Migration (GCM) and Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) and how these approaches interact with the everyday experiences of irregular migrants in South Africa. We examine this relationship by looking at a humanitarian border space that has been significantly shaped and transformed by migration and humanitarian interventions in the past two decades.
09-Jan-2023 The Influence of the Global Refugee Regime in Africa: Still “Akin to a Distant Weather Pattern”?
We are honoured to present this special issue of the Refugee Survey Quarterly on the contemporary role of the global refugee regime in Africa. The five articles offer diverse and distinctive perspectives on the impact of the global regime on the lives of forced migrants on the African continent. We are particularly thrilled to have collaborated with authors working in and on Africa to publish these new analytical contributions.
01-Sep-2022 From global to community: The availability of protection mechanisms for refugees in South Africa
Protection mechanisms aimed at assisting refugees emerge at different scales, from the global to the local. In host countries such as South Africa, formal mechanisms are meant to support refugees in finding various forms of protection, including legal and social protection. Yet, research over the last few decades has repeatedly shown that in regions such as southern Africa ‘current mechanisms are not offering effective and efficient access to refuge for those in need’ (Papademetriou, 2015). As a result, refugees and other forced migrants are regularly required to locate more informal mechanisms at the ground level, through social networks and civil society. This paper is interested in the range of formal and informal protection mechanisms available to refugees in South Africa, and how these mechanisms interact with each other. Specifically, using a multi-scalar approach, the paper investigates the reality of protection for refugees in South Africa, and the role different key scales of analysis (the global, the national and the ground) play in how refugees locate forms of protection.
04-Jul-2022 Local Integration: A Durable Solution in need of Restoration?
Local integration has long been seen as the “forgotten” durable solution to refugee displacement1 evidenced by the reluctance of governments across the world to accord refugees a new citizenship. This article goes further. It argues that local integration as a durable solution has not been merely forgotten, but deliberately avoided at a national, regional and international level. As a result, its veracity as a realistic durable solution for the majority of refugees is now in question.
The article examines ways in which states seek to evade local integration. It begins by investigating the multiple tactics used by wealthier governments to elude responsibility both at a national level and through the influence they exert over global refugee responses. It then explores how countries hosting the greatest numbers of refugees, with a specific focus on Africa, have allowed significant numbers of refugees into their territory but have then maintained a short-term approach that has, in practice, blocked local integration as a durable solution. We argue that a mix of global, national, and local processes and forces have effectively conspired to diminish local integration as a durable solution to the point that it has all but vanished from the political arena. The implications for refugee populations of these processes and forces – talked of collectively as the politics of evasion – are profound.
While refugees continue to find ways to negotiate their own access to communities and labour markets, this is often done against national, regional, and international policies rather than with them. Ultimately, by highlighting its value as a durable solution, while showing that there is almost uniform acceptance by states and international organisations working on protection concerns that it is no longer politically viable, this article hopes to restart an urgent conversation about the value of local integration and how it can be reinvigorated.
08-Jan-2022 Global health (security), immigration governance and Covid-19 in South(ern) Africa: An evolving research agenda
The Covid-19 pandemic provides a stark reminder of the political tensions associated with the field of immigration and health, highlighting the central role that nationalism, racism and xenophobia play in determining responses to communicable diseases. The blurring of global health, immigration governance, and the global health security agendas has long been recognised. However, an improved understanding of the politics influencing these entanglements, specifically within the context of the Covid-19 response in low- and middle-income country contexts, is urgently needed. This includes – but is not limited to – the immediate concerns surrounding inclusive social, political and medical responses to Covid-19; vaccine nationalism – at both global and national levels; and calls for ‘vaccine passports’.
To this end, we draw on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) context – one associated with high levels of diverse population movements and a large burden of communicable diseases – to explore responses to Covid-19. We unpack tensions surrounding the management of migration and the ways in which sovereignty impacts attempts at building regional, coordinated responses to migration and health, and consider how this affects progress towards global health targets. With an initial focus on South Africa, we build on previous work exploring the blurring of global health, immigration governance, and the global health security agendas in SADC, and draw from ongoing research on the governance of migration and health within the region. This includes current and evolving research exploring migration and Covid-19, initiated in March 2020 when the first cases of Covid-19 were identified in Southern Africa.
The aim is for these findings to catalyse a new and evolving researh agenda to inform the development and implementation of appropriate pandemic responses in a region associated with some of the highest levels of inequality globally. To this end, an evolving research agenda should be responsive to current needs. We suggest that, in SADC, priority research should focus on improving our understanding of (1) the political factors influencing the (dis)connections between migration and health governance structures in the context of Covid-19, and how to overcome these in the context of a pandemic; and (2) the motivations for and implications of a ‘vaccine passport’ system on movement within and beyond the SADC region. This requires a reactive, cross-disciplinary, regional research network. In a context where funding for research is increasingly inaccessible, this requires innovative, informal, collaborative engagement.
01-Sep-2021 Covid-19 & Migration Governance in Africa
Occasional Paper No.2. Researching Migration & Coronavirus in Southern Africa (MiCoSA)
01-Sep-2021 Migrants & the Covid-19 Vaccine Roll-Out in Africa
Migrants & the Covid-19 Vaccine Roll-Out in Africa. Occasional Paper No.1. Researching Migration & Coronavirus in Southern Africa (MiCoSA)
01-Sep-2021 Excluding Migrants Undermines the Success of Covid-19 Vaccine Rollouts
Blog on excluding Migrants Undermines the Success of Covid-19 Vaccine Rollouts. The Conversation Blog
27-Jul-2021 Contemporary Perspectives on Internal Displacement in Africa: An Introduction to the Refugee Survey Quarterly Special Collection
On behalf of the editorial team at the Refugee Survey Quarterly,1 we are proud to present a Special Collection of research on the theme of internal displacement in Africa. Each of the five articles in this journal issue provides a distinct contemporary perspective on how internal displacement, and the response to it by governments, agencies, and local political and economic actors, plays out on the African continent. Moreover, to shed new light on this phenomenon, the collection of articles brings together a range of different disciplinary views, encompassing analyses from the standpoint of law, governance, economics, health, and social and political science. We are delighted to be able to offer a platform to publish these new analytical contributions to the study of internal displacement from researchers working in and on Africa.
Internal displacement represents an important topic in the field of forced displacement research. In numerical terms alone, the scale of internal displacement globally is momentous. The figures for last year estimate that, at the end of 2020, some 55 million people were living in situations of internal displacement across the world, 48 million as a result of conflict and violence, and 7 million as a result of disasters.2 Indeed, such estimates suggest the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) is far greater than that of refugees or other forced migrants.3 Moreover, in terms of poverty and access to health, the available data suggest that IDPs tend to experience worse outcomes than other conflict-affected populations, at least in contexts where internal displacement is driven by conflict or violence.4 Furthermore, internal displacement clearly generates significant social, political, economic, cultural, and legal challenges for affected countries at the local and national levels.
01-Jul-2021 Relevant or Redundant? The Future of the International Refugee Protection Regime
Blog on the Future of the International Refugee Protection Regime. Refugee Law Initiative Blog
01-Jun-2021 The Peripheral Role of the Global Refugee Regime in Southern Africa: Protection Challenges in Urban Spaces.
Blog on the Peripheral Role of the Global Refugee Regime in Southern Africa: Protection Challenges in Urban Spaces. Protect Project.
10-Oct-2020 Immobility and the containment of solutions: Reflections on the Global Compacts, Mixed Migration and the Transformation of Protection
Since negotiations began in 2015 on the two Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees, many within academia have felt uncomfortable engaging with the processes. This reflects a general weariness around new international cooperation agreements, the perceived control over the two processes by key international agencies, and an apparent lack of postcolonial voices in the drafting and consultation stages. However, with both Compacts now adopted, there has been a marked increase in engagement within academia and policy circles. This postscript to the special issue reflects on the discussions presented in the essays and the Compacts more broadly. The focus is on two main themes that emerge when reading this special issue: (1) forms of protection; and (2) the concept of mixed migration. This essay finds that within both these two themes, attention continues to focus on protection and movement between states, rather than between regions. As such, it remains uncertain how the Compacts will be able to shift the dominance of self-serving policies imposed by the Global North. Nevertheless, the essay concludes by attempting to find some glimmers of optimism. Currently, there exists the political space (however slight) for various actors to try and utilize the Compacts to improve protection and opportunities for migrants who adopt mobility strategies – particularly for those who choose to move between global regions in this postcolonial era.
01-Nov-2018 Book review of Kristin B. Sandvik and Katja L. Jacobsen, UNHCR and the Struggle for Accountability: Technology, Law and Results-based Management
Book review of Kristin B. Sandvik and Katja L. Jacobsen, UNHCR and the Struggle for Accountability: Technology, Law and Results-based Management (Routledge Humanitarian Studies, Routledge, 2016). International Community Law Review.
02-Jul-2018 What’s Behind Zambia’s Growing Welcome to Refugees?
Blog on What’s Behind Zambia’s Growing Welcome to Refugees? The New Humanitarian Blog
21-Sep-2017 Book review of Penelope Mathew and Tristan Harley, Refugees, Regionalism and Responsibility
Book review of Penelope Mathew and Tristan Harley, Refugees, Regionalism and Responsibility (Elgar Studies in Human Rights: Elgar, 2016). International Community Law Review.
01-Sep-2016 Rights at Risk: A thematic investigation into how states restrict the freedom of movement of refugees on the African Continent
Through a thematic analysis of national legislation and state policy, this paper looks at how states in Africa with encampment policies interact with refugees’ right to freedom of movement. While research in the past has focused on why governments and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have utilised camps and restricted movement, relatively little research has been carried out on how these policies are achieved in relation to states’ international human rights commitments. By analysing state behaviour in Africa through the framework of international refugee and human rights law, it becomes apparent that the majority of states with camps have some form of restrictions on a refugee’s right to freedom of movement, with many breaching at least the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and potentially the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The study found a broad focus on national legislation and regional instruments over international law in interpreting this right. This suggests a regional customary law may be emerging, which allows for potentially serve restrictions on freedom of movement.
Date Details 2022 Covid-19 and Migration Governance in Africa
Maple, N., Walker, R. & Vearey, J. 2022. Covid-19 and Migration Governance in Africa. Report for the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
2022 Fostering Economic Integration and Inclusive Migration Policies and Practices that Safeguard Human Rights and Advance the Free Movement of People, Goods and Services, Focusing on South Africa and the SADC Region
Wanjiku Kihato, C., Freemantle, I., Maple, N. & Parshotam, A. 2022. Fostering Economic Integration and Inclusive Migration Policies and Practices that Safeguard Human Rights and Advance the Free Movement of People, Goods and Services, Focusing on South Africa and the SADC Region. Report for the Open Society Foundation for South Africa.
- Research Projects & Supervisions
Details Accessing Protection and Solutions in Africa
Africa hosts a considerable proportion of the world’s refugee population. However, many African states follow global trends in adopting increasingly securitised approaches to cross-border movement. As a result, many refugees face various forms of marginalisation and are forced to live precarious lives in informal enclaves of towns and cities or in refugee camps and settlements. International refugee responses remain focused on short-term immediate aid and safety, routinely only offered within the confines of refugee camps and settlements. Similarly, for many host states, protection is understood within the confines of the refugee camp and through the global refugee regime and the international community. Meanwhile, solutions for refugees are becoming more and more constricted, with countries of origin often too unstable for return, resettlement numbers at an all-time low, and host countries reticent to offer pathways for citizenship. At the same time, increasing numbers of forced migrants are rejecting camp-based reception policies for urban centres, where they attempt to find their own protection and secure personal and economic aims, often in ways that conflict with national, regional, and international refugee policy.
This new project investigates these contemporary issues as they relate to refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons in Africa. It seeks to develop new understandings on: i) the relationship between protection and solutions for displacement; ii) the impact of host state policy (both at the national and local) and international and regional policies on how protection and long-term support is conceptualized and offered to forced migrants; and iii) the interaction between these policies and localised forms of protection and belonging found at the ground level. The project also serves as a hub for the inter-disciplinary exchange of ideas and research on these topics, between scholars on continent and the RLI.
Past PhD topics supervised:
Dates Details From:
How states manage the reception of refugees in southern Africa
<p>Modes of refugee reception in Africa vary greatly, from the confines of refugee camps to local neighbourhoods in sprawling, contemporary African cities. The majority of states adopt a form of encampment reception policy, nevertheless, there is wide variation on the ground in terms of implementation of these policies. Conversely, a minority of states still adopt free-settlement approaches whereby newly arrived refugees are permitted to move freely and settle anywhere on the territory, including urban centres. This thesis investigates these variations by asking <em>why</em> states respond to refugee arrivals in such diverse ways; and how these varied reception policies shape a refugee&rsquo;s ability, particularly in terms of mobility, to engage with local communities and markets when pursuing their own personal and economic aims.</p><p>To address these questions the thesis utilises two country case studies: Zambia and South Africa. Through these case studies, the thesis&nbsp;develops an original and nuanced understanding of contemporary refugee reception in southern Africa. This understanding repositions reception as more than simply an ephemeral moment (such as crossing a border, a formal registration process or reaching a refugee camp). Instead, it is seen as a process that reflects the multi-directional and multi-locational dynamics of contemporary refugee arrival including, significantly, the role reception policies play in shaping a refugee&rsquo;s ability to engage with local communities and markets in an attempt to pursuit their own personal and economic aims.</p><p>Ultimately, the thesis argues that state-based reception policy at the national and local level (via a multi-scalar approach) is formed through on-going and highly contingent processes of negotiation between institutional actors. Indeed, the project&nbsp;&nbsp;shows how these reception policies are not absolute but mediated by constantly changing political priorities of the host state. The leading consequence of this is the conditionality and the underlying temporariness of the refugees&rsquo; situation in southern Africa, paralleled by diminishing protection spaces, to which international actors such as UNHCR appear to acquiesce.</p>
- Relevant Events
Knowledge transfer activities:
Details The role of security and stability in how states in southern Africa respond to refugee movement
Presented on the role of security and stability in how states in southern Africa respond to refugee movement at 'Bordering Migration Workshop 'Theoretical Debates and Recent Developments in Border Policies and Practice' organised by Lincoln Alexander School of Law, Toronto Metropolitan University, Toronto, Canada.
The impact of the Global Compact on Migrants on migrants’ access to public health services in South Africa
Presented two papers on the impact of the Global Compact on Migrants on migrants’ access to public health services in South Africa during Covid-19 at the International Studies Association International Conference in Montreal, Canada.
Refugee Recognition, Self-reliance and Rights
Invited by the ASILE project, to participate as Speaker in the ASILE Project Annual Event that took place in Cape Town, South Africa during the 25, 26 and 27 January 2023. On the Panel dedicated to 'Refugee Recognition, Self-reliance and Rights'.
Refugees beyond the headlines: Navigating emerging and protracted challenges in 2022
Invited to present on a round-table entitled "Refugees beyond the headlines: Navigating emerging and protracted challenges in 2022" for World Refugee Day by the Institute for Migration Studies at the Lebanese American University.
Decolonising Global Migration Law: Towards Building a Collaborative Research Agenda
June 2022: Part of the organising committee for the ‘Decolonising Global Migration Law: Towards Building a Collaborative Research Agenda’ workshop, held at the Centre for Fundamental Rights, Hertie School, Berlin.
Various forms of protection adopted by forced migrants in southern Africa
Presented a paper on various forms of protection adopted by forced migrants in southern Africa at the ‘Migration, Displacement and Citizenship in an Urban World Virtual Conference’, organised by the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility, The New School in New York.
International Protection in South(ern) Africa: UNHCR and Regime Shifting in the Urban Space
Presented a paper entitled, ‘International Protection in South(ern) Africa: UNHCR and Regime Shifting in the Urban Space’ at the 2021 Protect Project Annual Conference.
The Contemporary Role of the Global Refugee Regime in Sub- Saharan Africa
Convened and presented on a panel of early academics on ‘The Contemporary Role of the Global Refugee Regime in Sub- Saharan Africa’ at the 5th Annual Refugee Law Initiative Conference. My paper was entitled, ‘The Peripheral Role of the Global Refugee Regime in Shaping Refugee Reception Policies in Southern Africa.’
Local Integration: A Durable Solution in need of Reinvigoration?
Presented “Local Integration: A Durable Solution in need of Reinvigoration?' at the RLI Annual Seminar Series.
Alternative Forms of Protection Found by Refugees, Asylum-Seekers, and Other Forced Migrants in Africa
Convened a panel of early academics from the African continent on the topic of ‘Alternative Forms of Protection Found by Refugees, Asylum-Seekers, and Other Forced Migrants in Africa’ at the 6th Annual Refugee Law Initiative Conference.
The future of international protection
Invited to present as part of a final roundtable on the future of international protection at the final Protect Conference in Brussels, Belgium.