Teresa Perosa (Jordan)

Teresa Perosa is a graduate student at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University. After working for six years as a journalist covering world affairs based in her hometown of São Paulo, Brazil, she is pursuing a master's degree in international affairs, concentrating in human rights & humanitarian policy and specializing in gender and the Middle East. She worked as a special correspondent reporting from Colombia, Venezuela, the US, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Her work on the Za'atari Refugee Camp, in northern Jordan, was awarded at the International Red Cross Humanitarian Journalism Prize in 2017. At SIPA, she is President of the Gender Policy Working Group (GPWG), a student-based organization which aims to foster the debate on gender in the different areas of policy, and is the Communications Chair of the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG). Teresa holds a BA in Journalism from the University of São Paulo. Her interests include refugee and migration policy, gender, post-colonial and critical theory. After returning from her fellowship over the summer, Teresa discussed with AP the impacts the fellowship had on her. "Working on a CBO helped me to better understand the challenges of program design and implementation for refugees, especially in a hotspot on this issue, like Amman".

The privilege of movement

20 Jun

Protest held in the beginning of June against the family separation policy, currently being put forward by the US government (Photo credit: ACLU)


What does the “zero-tolerance” policy for people crossing the southland border in the U.S. have to do with refugee women seeking economic and psychosocial support in Hashemi Shamali, a low-income neighborhood in the eastern part of Amman?

Between words like refugee, asylum seeker, economic migrant, legal, illegal, border, control, security, much of what is fundamental – preserving human dignity – is lost. And I cannot help but feel a deep connection between the horrifying scenes and reports we have been flooded for the past month, of children being ripped off the arms of parents who dared to flee violence and lack of opportunity, and the suspended lives of the refugees living in Amman.

They are both products of an ever-growing insecurity climate for the vulnerable and an increasingly closed down world to the ones that need the most.

Evidence for this emerges pretty much everywhere. We can see it in the impacts of the Plan Frontera Sur in Mexico, commissioned still by former US president, Barack Obama, and its outsourcing of repression and violence. More blatantly, during the past year and a half, between the “Muslim Ban” and the deep cut in the numbers over refugee acceptance, the US effectively redrafted its refugee reception policy which reached never seen before lows ever since the country took resettlement as a matter of strategic importance, since World War II.

Even in my home country, Brazil, usually hailed as welcoming and open, signs of closure have started to emerge in daily discourse. In 2017, a comprehensive new immigration law, drafted by specialists and scholars and which substituted the antiquate rules on the theme that were created during the military dictatorship was hailed as one of the most comprehensive, progressive reforms on the issue in the world. However, once it reached the Executive, the document had a series of its innovations vetoed, on the grounds of national security. Even before, when facing the influx of Haitians, coming from a country wrecked to shreds by the earthquake in 2010, few, but growing, voices against their presence arose. The same occurs now, as the continuous crisis in Venezuela prompts immigrant influxes on the northern part of the country, and renewed calls for the closure of the borders occur. As if this was possible. As if this was acceptable.

In global governance fora, the ways in which both the refugee and migrant discussion is occurring, today essentially in the spaces of the Global Compacts on each theme, also prompts worry. More specifically, on the issue of how the member States show an extreme preoccupation with a “strengthened focus on addressing root causes and planning for solutions, including voluntary repatriation and resettlement, from the onset of emergencies”– meaning doing everything that can be done to prevent people from leaving their country.

I am often confronted by views that make a point in separating migration policy from refugee policy. There is a well-founded reason for that, as legal norms for both groups are based on different assumptions. But, is there a hardship ruler, a scale, a maker to determine what type of suffering and need is more acceptable than others? What separates Alan Kurdi from the wailing 6-year old Salvadorian girl, pleading for her mother and aunt? Maybe a land border instead of the Aegean Sea? Mind you, I am not advocating (at least, not at this point) for the disbandment of those categories, the migrant and the refugee, but for more critical reflection upon what is the basis in which they are set.

Because those categories are fundamentally political ones, handled and argued for depending on a particular intention. That is, who then gets to be a refugee? Who gets then to be a migrant? And who gets to be the “expat”? Ultimately, if movement is a privilege, it is less and less attainable for those whose life depends on it.

There is much work to be done.

Today, as it is World Refugee Day, Global Giving is matching donations up to $2,500 for refugee-related projects. The Advocacy Project currently holds a campaign for the Hope Workshop, which serves as a basic income source for women refugees in Amman and is where I am working this summer. Any donation is much appreciated. You can find the ongoing campaign here.

And – should you have any other funds to spare, please also consider making a donation to legal rights groups which work with immigrant children cases in the US, like the ACLU. They are needed more than ever.

Posted By Teresa Perosa (Jordan)

Posted Jun 20th, 2018


  • Samantha Givens

    June 20, 2018


    Teresa, thank you so much for sharing this with us. I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts and am becoming more and more aware of the situation.

  • Ali West

    June 20, 2018


    I really appreciate how informative your blogs are so far – I am truly learning a lot. Thank you and keep up the great work!

  • Corinne Cummings

    June 20, 2018


    Hi, Teresa. Another fantastic post–please keep them coming! The information that you provide is both engaging to read and enlightening. I cannot even begin to imagine witnessing children ripped away from their parents who are only trying to escape the violence and lack of opportunities in their home countries. There is a lot of work to be completed in Amman. Thank you for your service and commitment to this cause. My deepest respect goes out to those fighting for a better quality of life in other countries, due to the oppression and hardship they face in their home country. Best wishes, Corinne.

  • Princia Vas

    July 2, 2018


    This was a great read! Thank you for sharing this information with us. I love that your post makes the readers think and reflect 🙂

  • Iain Guest

    July 8, 2018


    Totally agree – World Refugee Day is the time to reflect on the common challenges that face all forced migrants, regardless of their motives. Very perceptive and useful analysis. As for who is a refugee, that question is being much asked here in the US. Perhaps you could tell us how Jordan answers it in a future blog?

  • Donna Olson

    July 10, 2018


    There is so much to reflect on in this post. I love the connection you made between what you are witnessing in Jordan and problems we are facing here in the U.S. The added perspective from Brazil, reinforces how far spread these issues are.

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