Local Community Experiences of and Responses to Conflict-Induced Displacement from Syria: Views from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

The UN has described the Syrian conflict as "the most dramatic humanitarian crisis that we have ever faced". By August 2015, 1,114,000 refugees had fled Syria to seek safety in Lebanon, 630,000 had fled to Jordan and 1,939,000 to Turkey. Local communities, civil society groups and faith-based organisations in these countries are some of the most important actors responding to the refugee influx from Syria, filling major gaps which exist even when major aid programmes have been implemented by international agencies such as the UN. These civil society responses have included Lebanese, Jordanian and Turkish citizens providing food and shelter to refugees, local faith leaders offering spiritual support to people displaced by the Syrian conflict, and social and material support provided by protracted refugees who were already living in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey before the outbreak of the Syrian conflict.

All of these initiatives are clearly significant, but little is known about how and why local communities offer assistance to refugees. This project aims to enhance our knowledge by carefully examining a range of responses developed by the members of nine local communities in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, asking questions such as What has motivated these responses? and Who has benefited and who has been excluded from these responses? Another important question is How are these local responses perceived by 'traditional' humanitarian aid providers, including governmental Ministries, international humanitarian aid agencies, and UN agencies?

It is important to examine the different implications of local community responses to displacement for different reasons. For instance, although little evidence exists, the UN and traditional Northern donors are increasingly supporting 'local' responses to conflict because this is a way of sharing the 'burden' of providing aid and services to millions of refugees. At the same time, however, academic, political and policy observers express concerns that local responses may be motivated by political, ideological and faith-based priorities, rather than adhering to the international humanitarian principles of neutrality, universality and impartiality upheld by organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross. Detailed research is therefore urgently needed to ensure that local initiatives are neither prematurely celebrated nor unduly demonised.

This research aims to improve our understanding of the challenges and opportunities that arise in local responses to displacement, both for refugees from Syria and for the members of the communities that are hosting them. A team of local researchers will spend 6 months in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey carefully observing how the members of 9 local communities have responded to the arrival of refugees from Syria. They will interview a total of 270 local community members and 270 refugees, asking them about their experiences of providing or receiving local assistance; refugees and community members will also share their views through a number of participatory research workshops and creative writing workshops in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. 150 people who work with local, national and international organisations (including UN agencies) will also be interviewed, to examine their views of local responses to refugees from Syria. Doing this will help us identify whether there is national and international support for local community responses for refugees, or if national and international organisations believe that local responses should not be encouraged or allowed.

The project will use this research to develop recommendations for civil society groups, aid groups, governmental ministries and international organisations. These recommendations will provide suggestions on how local, national and international organisations can best work together to support the needs and human rights of people affected by conflict.

Planned Impact

Our project will provide a critical evidence base to inform the development of policy and practice that can appropriately address the needs and rights of conflict-affected people, including local communities and refugees. We will critically examine how, why and with what effect local communities have responded to the mass influx of refugees from Syria, with particular attention to both hosts' and refugees' experiences of these local responses. We will disseminate policy-relevant findings and recommendations regularly with key international, national and local stakeholders in the Middle East, Geneva (where most major humanitarian agencies have their HQs) and the UK, and with local community members, local service providers and refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Building upon the demonstrated success of the research team's knowledge exchange activities, we aim to impact upon policy development and practice in the specific context of responses to the Syrian refugee crisis within the life of the project. The broader implications of the project's findings to other conflict-induced displacement scenarios will also be disseminated broadly during the project, aiming to influence policy and practice within 12-24 months of completion.

This will be facilitated through our existing contacts with an established network of practitioners, policy-makers and academics working in the field of humanitarianism who are committed to critically exploring local community experiences and responses to conflict-induced displacement; this network is constantly expanding, including through the conference the PI is convening on gender, faith and humanitarian responses to forced migration in May 2016 at UCL. As the PI, Co-I1 and Co-I2's work with the Joint Learning Initiative (JLI) on the roles of local faith communities illustrates, we have a proven track record of engaging in knowledge exchange activities with stakeholders across the global North and South. Indeed, the members of the JLI - which include UNHCR, OXFAM, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Islamic Relief and Muslim Aid - will provide vital knowledge, advice and feedback throughout the project to ensure that our research is meaningful for academic and non- academic audiences, and that recommendations can be implemented accordingly. In effect, a significant range of key beneficiaries has been identified throughout the preparatory work for this project, and they are already committed to the success of the project.

A range of non-academic engagement activities and outputs will include literary translation workshops and literary readings to be convened in collaboration with PEN-International, PEN-England's University branches, and Stories in Transit, and the publication of translated creative writing in association with PEN-International, PEN-England and Stories in Transit in literary magazines such as Modern Poetry in Translation, Wasafiri and Lacuna. Podcasts, press releases, blog posts, contributions to online fora, and multimedia outputs including radio programmes will be published/distributed throughout the course of the project, providing accessible overviews of the research findings. As a whole, these activities and outputs will contribute to increasing public awareness and understanding of conflict and displacement issues, the politics of humanitarianism, debates regarding the role of local communities and civil society, and the importance of recognizing the agency of refugees and local communities affected by conflict.

The local researchers will develop their data collection, analysis and dissemination skills throughout the project. On-going training opportunities will enable them to develop their capability to undertake thorough and rigorous research in the region beyond the immediate life of this project. They will develop their publication profiles through co(authoring) articles based on their research, and will be encouraged to apply for grants for further research in the field.

Publications


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Fiddian-Qasmiyeh E (2016) Refugee-Refugee Relations in Contexts of Overlapping Displacement in International Journal of Urban and Regional Research
 
Title 'The Camp is Time' poem published 
Description Writer in Residence Yousif M. Qasmiyeh published and recorded a reading of his poem 'The Camp is Time' to the project website. 
Type Of Art Creative Writing 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact The post has been widely viewed and shared and has been downloaded multiple times from Yousif M. Qasmiyeh's personal site. 
URL https://refugeehosts.org/2017/01/15/the-camp-is-time/
 
Title 'Writing the Camp' poem published 
Description Writer in Residence Yousif M. Qasmiyeh has published and recorded his poem 'Writing the Camp' to the project website. 
Type Of Art Creative Writing 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact The poem has been widely viewed and shared, and has been downloaded multiple times from Yousif M. Qasmiyeh's personal account. 
URL https://refugeehosts.org/2016/09/30/writing-the-camp/
 
Description In the first few months of this research project we have been able to establish a thriving community of conversation via our online blog. This has seen a regular stream of non-academic engagement, with weekly views of blog, website and project related content reaching between 1,100 views per month at the beginning of the project to a current rate of 2,250 views for February. This has been complemented by the external contributions made by the PI and Co-Is to various media outlets, including The Conversation, where work relating to the project has been viewed thousands of times and shared hundreds of times on social media. The sustained interest and engagement that has followed on from these outputs is promising, and suggests that a considerable degree of public interest in the project has been already been generated. Whilst this interest does not relate directly to project findings (we are yet to carry out the field research, due to begin summer 2017), the discussions surrounding the project have been important in demonstrating the need for such research by identifying the limitations, challenges and opportunities that exist with regards to local community responses to displacement. This is a good first step toward overall impact.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal
 
Description Alastair Ager an invited consultant to the Ford Foundation's Religion and Inequality consultation (9 February 2017, New York)
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
 
Description GCRF Advisory Committee Membership for PI Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and Co-I Prof Lyndsey Stonebridge
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
 
Description PI Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh appointed to new DFID Research Advisory Group 'Expert College'
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
 
Description Advisory Board 
Organisation Christian Aid
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Our team have invited these organisations to our project launch, followed up with key personnel and established a project Advisory Board through which advice on the development on the research project will be sought.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners attended our project launch meeting and offered feedback on the development of the research project. Our partners have since joined the Advisory Board and continue to offer guidance on methodologies and the development of our research questions. One individual from our partner organisation Save the Children has also contributed a piece to our blog.
Impact Advice received relating to methodologies, research design and research tools.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Advisory Board 
Organisation English PEN
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Our team have invited these organisations to our project launch, followed up with key personnel and established a project Advisory Board through which advice on the development on the research project will be sought.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners attended our project launch meeting and offered feedback on the development of the research project. Our partners have since joined the Advisory Board and continue to offer guidance on methodologies and the development of our research questions. One individual from our partner organisation Save the Children has also contributed a piece to our blog.
Impact Advice received relating to methodologies, research design and research tools.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Advisory Board 
Organisation Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities
Country Unknown 
Sector Learned Society 
PI Contribution Our team have invited these organisations to our project launch, followed up with key personnel and established a project Advisory Board through which advice on the development on the research project will be sought.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners attended our project launch meeting and offered feedback on the development of the research project. Our partners have since joined the Advisory Board and continue to offer guidance on methodologies and the development of our research questions. One individual from our partner organisation Save the Children has also contributed a piece to our blog.
Impact Advice received relating to methodologies, research design and research tools.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Advisory Board 
Organisation PEN International
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Our team have invited these organisations to our project launch, followed up with key personnel and established a project Advisory Board through which advice on the development on the research project will be sought.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners attended our project launch meeting and offered feedback on the development of the research project. Our partners have since joined the Advisory Board and continue to offer guidance on methodologies and the development of our research questions. One individual from our partner organisation Save the Children has also contributed a piece to our blog.
Impact Advice received relating to methodologies, research design and research tools.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Advisory Board 
Organisation Save the Children
Department Humanitarian Affairs Team
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Our team have invited these organisations to our project launch, followed up with key personnel and established a project Advisory Board through which advice on the development on the research project will be sought.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners attended our project launch meeting and offered feedback on the development of the research project. Our partners have since joined the Advisory Board and continue to offer guidance on methodologies and the development of our research questions. One individual from our partner organisation Save the Children has also contributed a piece to our blog.
Impact Advice received relating to methodologies, research design and research tools.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Faith, Secularism and Humanitarian Engagement 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Co-I Prof Alastair Ager discusses faith based approaches to humanitarian practice at a talk in Columbia University, NY. The talk has also been uploaded and shared widely on YouTube.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TATQVvSxMbg&feature=youtu.be
 
Description Forced Migration Review Article on Refugees Hosting Refugees 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact PI Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh wrote an article for the Forced Migration Review relating to refugee-refugee humanitarianism and its relevance to this project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Hannah Arendt: On Displacement and Political Judgement 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Co-I Anna Rowlands wrote a piece on Arendt for the Refugee Hosts blog
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://refugeehosts.org/2017/02/01/hannah-arendt-on-displacement-and-political-judgement/
 
Description Lunch Time Lecture to UCL students, staff and the general public on the role of established refugees in a crisis (London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact PI Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh gave a lecture to UCL students, staff and the general public about the project research. This was also recorded and disseminated online by UCL.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhnRPET53Jk
 
Description Palestinian and Syrian Refugees in Lebanon: Sharing Space, Electricity and the Sky 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact PI Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh wrote a piece for the Refugee Hosts blog about her project related research in Baddawi refugee camp, Lebanon.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://refugeehistory.org/blog/2016/12/22/palestinian-and-syrian-refugees-in-lebanon-sharing-space-e...
 
Description Poetry as a Host 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Co-I Prof Lyndsey Stonebridge writes a piece on Poetry as a Host for the Refugee Hosts blog
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://refugeehosts.org/2016/11/13/poetry-as-a-host/
 
Description Refugee Youth, Conflict and Communities article in The Scotsman 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Co-I Prof Alastair Ager reflects on the global refugee crisis and on the challenges faced by refugee youth, and on the role played by local communities in meeting the needs of the displaced.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.scotsman.com/news/scotland-helps-migrants-as-they-face-a-nightmare-1-4234234#comments-are...
 
Description Syrian Refugees in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon Face and Uncertain 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact PI Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh wrote a piece about the project for The Conversation online platform.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://theconversation.com/syrian-refugees-in-turkey-jordan-and-lebanon-face-an-uncertain-2017-7074...