Randomized control trials for refugee camps

A recent review of refugee accounts stresses there are no words to describe how awful these camps are. The authors ask what I take to be the profoundly important question: “why it is that some of us write from inside the camps, and others from outside”?

Why, indeed, are they in camps and not us?

My modest proposal, then: Randomized control trials (RCTs) would be undertaken to assign people to camps (“us as them”) and control groups (“us as still us”). The random assignment would mimic, more or less, the contingency of current camp assignments.

As volunteers would be needed for the RCTs, which would bias results, the trials would need to be long-term. Replacements for those who die during the RCTs should be expected as some camps have been in existence for even longer. (You could randomized the selection of camps and add a small budget to monitor and assess the few who graduate out.) Funding would, of course, require deep pockets, but RCTs are all the rage now in elite foundations.

If indeed significant differences are found in the attitudes and beliefs about camps between those arbitrarily assigned to camps and those in control groups, then a major policy change should be considered for the continuance or termination of refugee camps: Imposing a penal draft–to randomly select citizens to serve their country as camp inmates, if only on the grounds that those outside are as guilty as those inside.

Principal sources

Ewing, B. (2018) “Socializing Punishment.” The Point Magazine Issue 17.

Swift, J. (1729). A Modest Proposal: For preventing the children of poor people in Ireland, from being a burden on their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the publick. Accessed online on March 1 2022 at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1080/1080-h/1080-h.htm

Teferra, G. and K. Reed (2022). “‘No Words’: Refugee camps and empathy’s limits.” Accessed online on March 1 2022, at http://www.publicbooks.org/refugee-camps-empathy-narrative/

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