Dr. Dawn Chatty on Syria, Forced Migration, and Humanitarian Aid

Dr. Dawn Chatty is a University Professor in Anthropology and Forced Migration and the Director of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford. She is a social anthropologist with long experience in the Middle East as a university teacher, development practitioner, and advocate for indigenous rights. In advance of Dr. Chatty's visit to Monterey, California, The WIP connected with her to discuss Syria, forced migration, and humanitarian aid.

Dr. Dawn Chatty. Photo courtesy of CSUMB.

Dr. Dawn Chatty. Photo courtesy of CSUMB.

The WIP:  An unprecedented number of refugees have left Syria since 2011. What is the primary responsibility the international community has to displaced Syrians?

Dr. Chatty: It is both an ethical and political responsibility: ethical because the international world order has adopted a set of international instruments to protect people displaced by war and armed conflict (the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol); political because responsibility for this outflow of refugees is linked to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the Arab uprising of 2011.

WIP: What can the international community do better to support host states receiving a large influx of forced migrants and refugees?

D.C.: Funding is critical. If refugees from Syria are not going to be permitted to disperse into Europe on a temporary basis, then more support has to be given to the states in the region to provide adequate health, education and general protection. Some states are carrying the burden almost alone. Turkey, for example, has spent more than $4 billion to look after the 1 million refugees from Syria in their country. The US has spent a total of $2.9 billion since 2011 on refugees from Syria over the entire region. It simply isn't enough! To put it in perspective, the cost of rebuilding Gaza after the 50 day Israeli Gaza war this past summer has been put at $4 billion.

WIP: Talk about some of the efforts on behalf of nations who are doing well to support refugees from conflict zones such as Syria. What efforts can/should be replicated elsewhere?

D.C.:  Making sure there is no lost generation is a slogan adopted by the UN with regard to this crisis. This means funding adequate health and education infrastructure, supporting curriculum development, language training and apprenticeships for Syrian refugee children and youth (more than 50 percent of refugees from Syria are children) so that when it becomes possible to return they have skills with which to rebuild the country and society.

WIP: On The WIP, we have covered the Salvadorian immigration epidemic. Many migrants are children sent north by their families to escape deadly violence within Salvadorian society. Are these young people refugees? Why or why not?

D.C.: Yes if they cross an international border and they are fleeing violence and fear persecution on the basis race, religion or social group, then yes they are refugees and they should be protected.

The WIP: What is missing from media coverage of forced migration? Are there critical elements of such crises that are missing from the conversation?

D.C.: Generally the conversation goes in the direction of the negative, the negative impact refugees have on the economy, etc. In fact refugees - even those who only remain temporarily (temporary protection over 3-5 years such as what we saw among the Bosnian refugees in Germany) - make a positive contribution to national economies. We need to look at the possible benefits rather than just focus on the negative, which is often just based on rumour.

On November 17th, Dr. Dawn Chatty visited California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) to deliver a lecture called “Forced Migration and the Humanitarian Aid Regime.”  This lecture was hosted by the division of Social Behavioral and Global Studies (SBGS) of CSUMB, The Women's International Perspective (The WIP), and the division of Humanities and Communication (HCOM) of CSUMB.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *