The ACRPS held a workshop this weekend in Doha on Forced Migration in Arab Countries. The event was designed to bridge a gap in the Arab study of migration and brought Arab researchers concerned with studying forced migration in the Arab world, both external and internal, to participate in this workshop. The event focused on five Arab countries: Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Sudan, which produce the largest volume of refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide. Sessions throughout the two-day workshop discussed a wide range of topics such as causal factors, state responsibilities and prospects for repatriation or integration.
In his opening remarks, Haider Saeed, head of the research department at the Arab Center, emphasized the importance of providing an academic thought forum to explore the phenomenon of forced migration in the Arab region, with Arab forced migrants making up 40% of the world total. Most of the literature on this issue consists of policy papers and reports, with scarce theoretical research available in Arabic. Saeed named the collapse of the post-colonial Arab state as the general framework within which forced migration took place. But this workshop was held to go further than looking at causes, instead investigating the concepts of integration and repatriation, the responsibilities of refugee-producing states, and the legal frameworks surrounding the matter. He noted that forced migration is one of the ideal subjects for the Arab Center to cover as a dynamic issue which concerns wide fractions of society.
The first session looked at cases of internal displacement within Arab countries, covering the violence of Darfur, the forgotten struggles in Yemen and displacement and identity conflict in Iraq, focusing closer on the Yazidi minority. The next session was dedicated to internal displacement within Syria, the role of sectarianism and the role of foreign actors in demographic transformation. The third session explored forced displacement in the context of settler colonialism in Palestine. The day's events were wrapped up with a session on the prospects of repatriation for Syrian refugees scattered around the Arab Mashreq and the phenomenon of informal healthcare provision among refugee populations in Lebanon.
The second day of the workshop began with a session on the coping mechanisms and processes of integration and assimilation in Turkey, Britain and the Netherlands. This was followed by a session on the European response to asylum seekers from Arab countries and who arrive by way of irregular migration routes. The panel touched on discrimination among refugee groups trying to reach Europe from North Africa and the smuggling networks profiting from the various humanitarian crises. It also discussed the rise of populism in Europe and the process of integrating refugees into the labour market. The final panel explored international protections for the forcibly displaced offered by international law, taking a closer look at legal mechanisms and international rights.
The workshop came to an end with a roundtable discussion debating the challenges and prospects for humanitarian action on displacement and forced migration. The attendees gave insight on a number of issues related to forced migration, bridging practical expertise and theoretical research in a lively conversation. The success of this workshop will be measured in its ability to spur a trend towards the study of forced migration, one of the greatest challenges facing the Arab region of this century.