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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  News & Events  /  News  /  News Archive  /  2016  /  September 2016  /  Community responses to mass displacement from Syria

Community responses to mass displacement from Syria

Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh awarded major AHRC-ESRC Grant

Community responses to mass displacement from Syria

Over 4.4 million refugees from the on-going Syrian conflict have so far sought safety across Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Essential assistance, solidarity and support have been provided by local communities, civil society groups, established refugee communities and faith-based organisations, but little is known about the motivations, nature and impacts of such responses.

On 12th September an interdisciplinary and participatory research project was launched into these responses, led by Dr. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, (UCLGeography) supported by a £800,000 Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security (PaCCS) research grant from the two UK Research Councils.

It is among the first funded through the UK Government’s new Global Challenges Research Fund. Her collaborators include Professor Alastair Ager (Queen Margaret University and Columbia University), Dr. Anna Rowlands (Durham University) and Professor Lyndsey Stonebridge (University of East Anglia).

The project aims to improve understanding of the challenges and opportunities that arise in local responses to displacement, both for refugees and for members of hosting communities.

The team will carry out in-depth ethnographic research with nine local communities across Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey into how they have experienced and responded to the arrival of refugees from Syria. The project will examine their experiences of providing, seeking, receiving and being excluded from different forms of support. The influences on these processes of gender, political opinion, ethnicity and religious identity will be a particular focus.

In turn, the extent of wider support for local community responses to refugees will be examined through interviews with over 100 people working with local, national and international organisations (including UN agencies).

The dominance of the ‘humanitarian narrative’ frequently results in the silencing of refugee own experiences and the framing of refugees as suffering victims. Workshops with refugees and local communities will allow participants to document, trace and resist experiences of and responses to displacement, and present them to a wide range of audiences in the Middle East and the UK. The project thus aims to challenge the image of the individual suffering refugee with evidence of the creative resistance and resilience of different communities and traditions of refugees and hosts.

The research aims to inform policy, practice and service provision at local, national and international levels, assisted by working closely with project partners and collaborators including: the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities (whose members include Islamic Relief, OXFAM and UNHCR); English-PEN, PEN-International, PEN-Lebanon and PEN-Turkey; and Professor Dame Marina Warner’s mobile storytelling initiative, Stories in Transit.

Follow project updates on and @RefugeeHosts


Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh