Refugee Awareness Week 2019 @ Various locations
Jan 28 – Feb 1 all-day

Refugee Awareness Week 2019, from January 28th to February 1st is a collaborative initiative of a coalition of York University student groups and supporting departments working on refugee issues and advocacy in order to promote awareness, solidarity and informed action in this field. Please join us at these important events!

Participating organizations in Refugee Advocacy Week 2019 include:

  • Amnesty International at York
  • Centre for Refugee Studies & its Syria Response and Refugee Initiative
  • Islamic Relief at York University
  • RefugeAid
  • The Student Council of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (SCOLAPS)
  • UNICEF at York
  • WUSC York University Keele Campus Committee

Up to the minute updates on the week’s activities are available at


Refugee Awareness & Engagement Fair

10 AM – 4 PM Vari Hall

Come out to meet York U student and staff leaders working in this field and learn how you can get involved in their activities and campaigns! They will have information on the challenges faced by refugees in Canada and globally and ways you can become actively involved in learning more and getting engaged in them.


Refugees and Human Rights in Turkey

4:30-6:300 PM York Lanes 280N

Hosted by: Amnesty International at York

Thousands of Turkish refugees are scattered across the world with Canada being one of the leading welcoming countries. More than 300 Turkish refugee families have landed in Toronto alone in the past 2 years. This panel discussion is aimed at raising awareness of human rights violations in Turkey and will serve as forum for rights defenders and refugee experts.

Event Page:



1. Rohingya Crisis Speaker’s Panel

6:00-9:00 PM 280N York Lanes:

Hosted by RefugeAid

This year, RefugeAid is collaborating with STAND Canada to co-host a speaker’s panel surrounding the Rohingya refugee crisis. As the plight of Rohingya refugees begins to receive less and less media coverage and less attention from political decision makers, we want to work to raise awareness about the consequences of statelessness for the over 700,000 refugees who have fled from genocide. Moreover, we would like to explore the implications and consequences of the broader global refugee crisis as well.

2. Yemen: The World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis

6-8:00 PM  Senate Chamber (North Ross 940)

Hosted by Islamic Relief at York University

The horrific conflict and humanitarian crisis in Yemen has reached unspeakable limits. In the midst of intensified attacks, stark famine, and a cholera epidemic, civilians are paying a devastating price. 3 million people have been forced to flee their homes because of the increased violence; 5 million children are especially at risk of starvation, dangerously on the edge of mass deaths. With hospitals and schools damaged and water in very short supply, immediate action is needed. Join us for a discussion on how you can provide relief and save lives.

***Donations to Islamic Relief Canada for its work in Yemen will be accepted at this event.***


1. Subalterity in Education within the Context of Displacement: From Ideology to Practice

2:30- 4 PM 280N York Lanes

A Centre for Refugee Studies (CRS) seminar featuring Ranu Basu, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, York University.

2. WUSC Film Night

6:00-9:00 PM 280N York Lanes

Hosted by WUSC York – Keele

Join the WUSC Keele Campus committee for a fun night on Thursday January 31, 2019 from 6pm-9pm @ Room 280 N YL, to enjoy refreshments and watch amazing films documenting the individual refugee experience. Also, learn more about the efforts of organizations working in the York University community to sponsor and support refugees!


Refugees 101 and Advocacy Training

2:30–4:30 PM Senate Chamber (North Ross 940)

Event page:

Please RSVP to:

This session, organized by Amnesty International at York and the Centre for Refugees’ Syria Response and Refugee Initiative will help students learn about key public policy issues and obstacles to the promotion and protection of refugees’ human rights in Canada and opportunities to work for better public policies to address them.

The event will include both guest speakers and the opportunity to immediately gain hands-on advocacy experience.

This event features guest speakers Francisco Rico Martinez, Co-Director of the FCJ Refugee Centre, Toronto, Justin Mohammed, Human Rights Law and Policy Campaigner at Amnesty International Canada, based in Ottawa and John Carlaw, Project Lead, York University Syria Response and Refugee Initiative and Graduate Research Fellow of York’s Centre for Refugee Studies.

Following the guest speakers students will be given the opportunity to join several “hands-on” advocacy efforts.

Up to the minute updates on the week’s activities are available at

CRS Seminar: Subalterity in Education within the Context of Displacement: From Ideology to Practice @ 280N York Lanes
Jan 31 @ 2:30 PM – 4:00 PM

With guest speaker

Ranu Basu, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, York University

CRS Seminar: Displacement and Dispossession through Land Acquisition: Kerala Experience @ 305 York Lanes
Feb 13 @ 2:30 PM – 4:00 PM

Guest speaker: Bushra Beegom, Assistant Professor in Sociology, University of Kerala (India) 

India is a land of human displacement as it is going through various phases of development.  More than sixty million people have been displaced since independence due to infrastructural and various developmental projects.  People are deprived of their livelihood, resources and amenities due to land acquisition for development projects which effects radical changes in the existing power structure, community consciousness and social relations of the affectees in the region. Beyond that the cultural and psychological trauma associated with human displacement is endless. As it is a developing country, acquisition of land for implementing development project is inevitable. India followed until recently the draconian Land Acquisition Act of 1894 which permitted acquisition of land for public purposes.   Even though there are amendments made to the Act and in 2013 a new Act was formulated for land acquisition and rehabilitation, there are still many problems faced by the people in association with human displacement and debates on  ‘public purpose and fair compensation’ still goes on.  Concepts like resettlement or rehabilitation have been neither properly perceived nor fulfilled in the proposed or finished projects.  With the emergence of private sector and capitalistic aims, this augmented the deprivation and disruption of socio cultural structure.  There are many issues related to land acquisition, fair compensation and rehabilitation of affectees. I examine the Indian experience of displacement, resettlement and rehabilitation by selecting two cases in the southernmost state in India, Kerala. The case of the Vizhinjam International Fishing Harbour project deserves global attention. The second one is the ICTT Project (International Container Transhipment Terminal). I intend to present the history of the projects, nature and extent of people displaced, challenges associated with ‘fair’ compensation and the failure of social policy to recognise the problems of affectees. The finding explicitly shows how the state perpetuates and shapes the lives of marginalised people.

Bushra Beegom is an Assistant Professor in Sociology at the University of Kerala (India) .  Her research interests are in the sociology of development, development induced displacement, and rehabilitation of affectees .  She was the Director of a research project funded by the Indian Council of Social Science Research and University Grants Commission, India.  She also explored gendered dimensions of displacement and the rehabilitation of women specifically.

CRS Seminar: Humanitarian Series I @ 626 Kaneff Tower
Feb 27 @ 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM

Hernan Delvalle, Rita E. Hauser Fellow, Harvard University and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (Netherlands)

Borders, migration, exclusion: The role of civil society and humanitarian aid in an increasingly polarized political context

The increase in border restrictions for asylum seekers and migrants raises pressing moral, legal, and political questions. How to respond to human migration has become one of the most divisive political issues of our time.  Through the experience of MSF’s operations at sea and on land assisting asylum seekers and migrants crossing the Mediterranean, the panel will explore how the plight of people on the move has been weaponized to serve a variety of political agendas. We will discuss how civil society, state institutions and political leaders struggle to define narratives to influence policy and public debate. This timely discussion should help us shed light on the dilemmas that emerge for societies both in Europe and in the Americas.

Hernan will offer an overview of the rise and fall of civilian-led operations to rescue asylum seekers and migrants in the Mediterranean between the years 2014 and 2018. Drawing on Hernan’s experience in MSF throughout this operation, we will explore the complex relationship between NGOs and state authorities at the southern European maritime border. We will see how the humanitarian deployment to ‘save lives’ came under fire for ‘aiding illegal immigration’ amidst a polarization of the political debate and growing pressures to ‘secure the border’ and prevent asylum seekers from reaching Europe. 

The case explores the challenges for civil society organizations assisting people marginalized by state border policy, and raises critically urgent questions around solidarity, identity, belonging, nationalism, xenophobia, and exclusion 

Hernan del Valle has led humanitarian aid operations for the past 15 years. His work has taken him across five continents assisting people affected by armed conflict and forced displacement. He was involved in Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) operations in the Mediterranean Sea, which over the past three years rescued tens of thousands of refugees and migrants fleeing Libya toward Europe in fragile boats. As MSF’s head of humanitarian affairs and advocacy, del Valle was a privileged witness to the difficult political challenges that emerged for MSF throughout this operation, not only in its relation with European governments but also engaging with a civil society bitterly divided by debates on migration.

His work at Radcliffe reflects on the role of and challenges for MSF in assisting people marginalized by state policy in this context. It explores the fundamental questions that emerge around borders, exclusion, identity, nationalism, citizenship, and fundamental rights in contemporary Europe.

Del Valle is a lawyer who specialized in international law and human rights at the University of Buenos Aires, in Argentina. He holds a master’s degree in politics of development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and has conducted work in forced migration at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in South Africa. He has been a guest speaker on the politics of aid and forced migration at Boston University, the University of Amsterdam, the University of Oxford, the University of Tokyo, and the University of Vienna.

CRS Seminar: Humanitarian Series II @ 280N York Lanes
Mar 6 @ 2:30 PM – 4:00 PM

Linn Biorklund Belliveau, Researcher/analyst Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research and Médecins Sans Frontières, CRS Affiliated Scholar

Borders, migration, exclusion: The role of civil society and humanitarian aid in an increasingly polarized political context

Linn will discuss how migration can be weaponized to serve diverse political agendas, including the growing tendency to frame refugees and migrants as political liabilities. The result is a degradation of access to adequate protection and humanitarian assistance, as well as the mechanisms they use to reach target destinations. Linn will present this perspective using first-hand experience working with Eritrean refugees fleeing towards the shores of Europe between 2013 – 2016 and sharing a critical perspective of State and humanitarian responses to the so-called ‘migrant-caravans’ from the Northern Triangle of Central America to the United States and Canada.  

Linn Biorklund Belliveau is a researcher/analyst, presently at Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research and at Médecins Sans Frontières. Affiliated to the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University. Specific areas of knowledge include forced migration, transnational networks, border externalization, and climate politics. Extensive experience with non-governmental organizations and the UN in the fields of humanitarianism and human rights. Worked in a wide range of countries in East Africa, Middle East and Latin America. Political Science degree from Stockholm University and a Master’s degree in International Relations from Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona.

CRS Seminar: The Role of Family in Constructions of the ‘Desirable’ Canadian Refugee @ 519 Kaneff Tower
Mar 14 @ 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM

With guest speaker:

Megan Gaucher, Assistant Professor, Department of Law and Legal Studies, Carleton University

CRS AGM and Anniversary Event @ 519 Kaneff Tower
Mar 20 @ 2:30 PM – 5:30 PM

AGM and anniversary event

Details to follow

CRS Seminar: Crisis, what (refugee) crisis? The business of ‘business-as-usual’ in EU migration governance @ 519 Kaneff Tower
Apr 2 @ 2:30 PM – 4:00 PM

With guest speaker:

Emma Carmel, Senior Lecturer, Department of Social & Policy Sciences, University of Bath

This presentation examines how the idea of  ‘the refugee crisis’ emerged at a specific historical moment in the European Union, what happened to this idea and why it matters. Using tools of policy anthropology I show how the idea of ‘the refugee crisis’ has given meaning and impetus to specific governing practices that disguise the political and moral economies of ‘business-as-usual’ migration governance in the EU. The idea of ‘the refugee crisis’ was adopted as a political strategy that calcifies structural inequalities between states, and between private market actors and ‘the Union’; and patterns of exclusion, detention, exploitation and expulsion for migrants.

Dr Carmel works at the intersection of sociology, political economy and politics, researching  the social and political dynamics of public policy governance. Her recent work examines the transnational governance of migration in the European Union and its implications for socio-political inequalities. She is starting work on the normalization of digital governance as an everyday governmental practice.

Refugee Rights Day in Canada @ , 014 McLaughlin College, Junior Common Room
Apr 4 @ 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM

Panelists to be confirmed

Co-Sponsored with McLaughlin College

Walling, Unsettling, Stealing @ 519 Kaneff Tower
Apr 9 @ 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM

Guest speaker:

Shahram Khosravi, Professor of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University


We live in a time of wall fetishism. Never as today have human beings been so obsessed with building walls. Walls are, however, old. Empires built walls, from the Great Wall of China, to Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England  and the Limes Tripolitanus of the Roman Empire in North Africa to keep “barbarians” out. And if we look closer we can see that there are still traces of the old imperial visions in the modern borders and border walls. In this talk I will look at the connections of wars and walls; walls and empires. I will argue that there is a link between the installation of border walls (here) and the unsettling of communities (there). The current border regime is part of a larger and older project of colonial accumulation by dispossession and expulsion; stealing wealth, labor force, and time. I will also argue that border crossing discloses the cracks in the dominant narration of borders and that travelers without papers denaturalize what are otherwise naturalized borders, politicize what are otherwise depoliticized borders. I will illustrate this argument by following travelers without papers along the railways in the Balkans; tracing Afghan deportees in Kabul; and narrating the social life of the materialities used in the wall between Mexico and the US.

Shahram Khosravi is Professor of Social Anthropology at Stockholm University and author of several books including Precarious Lives: Waiting and Hope in Iran (2017). He is also editor of the collection After Deportation: Ethnographic Perspectives (2017).