The research project team has received validation from the Swiss Network for International Studies to carry out their project, which will start between December 2022 and January 2023 during 24 months.
Tracing Syrian refugee return dynamics across South/North Divides: The interrelatedness of European repatriation decisions and regional (non-) refoulement The Syrian war has been ongoing for over a decade, causing millions of people to flee to neighboring countries and some to Europe. In response, the EU has minimized legal pathways to asylum and externalized the hosting of refugees to Syria’s neighbors. These countries encourage refugees to return to Syria, even though the UNHCR and human rights organizations deem such returns a violation of the non-refoulement principle at the heart of the international refugee regime.
Some European countries have also begun to consider Syria safe for return. Our preliminary research suggests that there is a relation between decisions to return refugees from the EU and in ‘the region.’ Yet, dynamics of refugee return tend to be studied separately, as either ‘South-South’ or ‘North-South’ return. This narrow focus obscures the interrelatedness of policies, interests and practices shaping global refugee governance. Addressing this gap, this project asks how decisions to return Syrian refugees in the Global North shape refugee return dynamics in the Global South. Innovatively combining theories and methods from geography, sociology, political science and legal anthropology, our project leverages interviews with state officials and collaborative research with NGOs in Denmark, the first EU country initiating Syrian refugee returns in 2019, and Lebanon and Jordan, two major regional host states that increasingly pressure Syrian refugees to return.
The project delivers timely knowledge on the inter-regional dimensions of refugee governance and an assessment of the future of the non-refoulement principle, which affects all refugees – including those currently fleeing Russia’s war on Ukraine – and by extension, the future of asylum politics.