Fifty-five percent of the world’s refugee population resides in the Middle East making it home to the largest concentration of refugee populations globally. The largest amongst these are Palestinian refugees produced as a result of war who are stateless in some contexts, internally displaced in others, and victims of secondary and tertiary displacement in still other contexts. They also include an influx of Iraqi refugees engendered by the 2003 US war against, and occupation of, Iraq. Since the advent of the Arab Uprisings, these refugee communities have steadily grown as a result of armed conflict and civil unrest, particularly in Syria, Libya, and Yemen as well as in the Sudan, and Somalia.
The Middle East is also the site of a significant migrant labor force especially in the domestic, service, and construction sectors. Despite their large numbers, they reside in the Middle East with relatively little to no government regulation. The lack of greater oversight together with their diminished political power subjects this vulnerable population to considerable exploitation.
Beyond those populations who have been forcibly displaced or who have voluntarily sought economic opportunities across borders are a number of other stateless populations suffering from de facto and de jure statelessness like the Kurds of Syria as well as the children of refugee men and/or of women born out of wedlock in Lebanon and Egypt, for example.
The region’s density of migrant and refugee communities is not commensurate with the scholarly research, civil society advocacy, or social awareness regarding their conditions. This Project seeks to encourage scholarly production, advocacy efforts, and political awareness concerning transitory populations across the Middle East. It aims to address pertinent questions regarding applicable law, the socio-political status of these communities, as well as the political initiatives necessary to address their pressing needs. Some of those questions include:
The Refugees & Migrants Project seeks to explore these questions in several ways, including:
1) Country Assessment Roundtables
These roundtables will be formatted as one-day workshops bringing stakeholders, institutions, government agencies, legal experts, and activists into conversation with one another. The purpose of the workshops will be to assess how a decentralized network of laws, services, aid, and government intervention function to shape the lives of migrant communities (refugees, IDPs, stateless persons, and labor). It should culminate in a brief Report that reflects the work of each participant as well as overall observations and recommendations.
2) Open-Source Databases (Country-by-Country Assessment)
The databases are meant to be a regional survey of laws, scholarship, and institutions related to refugees and migrants. These include:
a. Immigration Law: An assessment of immigration laws in place in each country (domestic), as well as regional and international instruments (i.e., protocols, treaties, mechanisms), related to labor migrants. This database should also include reports and documentaries in Arabic and English that have surveyed these issues.
b. Refugee Law: An assessment of refugee laws in place in each country (domestic), as well as regional and international instruments (i.e., protocols, treaties, mechanisms), related to refugees, stateless persons, and IDPs. This database should also include reports and documentaries in Arabic and English that have surveyed these issues.
c. Civil Society Organizations: A list of civil society organizations, organized by country, that deal with refugee and/or migrant related issues.
d. Scholars & Research: A list of scholars, journalists, think tanks and academic institutions, organized by country, that deal with refugee and/or migrant related issues.
e. UN Agencies: A list of UN agencies that function in each country and deal with refugee and/or migrant related issues.
3) Jadaliyya Thematic Page
Since its establishment, Jadaliyya has published scores of articles and reports related to refugees and migrants in the Middle East across its country, OIL, and Reports page. These articles can be readily featured on a separate page dedicated to these issues under the header: Refugees & Migrants. The Page should also host the open-source databases, the interviews, as well as the outcomes of the Country Roundtables.
4) Status Hour Audio Journal Program
The Status Hour Audio Journal already features content in Arabic and English. It is an ideal site on which to publish audio interviews, lectures, and profiles of refugees and migrants in the Middle East. With the proper capacity, it can become its own monthly program with regular hosts.
Noura Erakat, Assistant Professor, George Mason University
Omar Dahi, Associate Professor, Hampshire College
Researchers & Administrative Coordinators
Nidal Bitari, Independent Researcher and Advocate
Musaab Baalchi, Independent Researcher
This workshop/conference is made possible in part due to a grant received by the Arab Studies Institute and George Mason University. The grant is run by Bassam Haddad, Director of the Arab Studies Institute and the Middle East and Islamic Studies Program at George Mason University. The grant aims at enhancing publicly engaged scholarship and analysis in and on the Arab world.
The Arab Studies Institute is the parent organization for Jadaliyya, Tadween Publishing, Quilting Point Productions, Status Hour, and the Forum on Arab and Muslim Affairs.