Priorities

While by no means an exhaustive list, CRS aims to build or build on research clusters in the following areas over the next 5 years:

1) Refugee Education

For the next four years, CRS will host the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees Project (BHER), funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development at a total of $4.5m. This project delivers postsecondary education to refugees in the Dadaab camps of Kenya, and is by far, CRS’s largest project. Yet, all of these development funds must be channelled directly to educational services and programs for refugees. There is no budget for research. Hence, research funds will be sought to a) analyze the politics of delivering such a program to refugees and to local Kenyans in the same region (Garissa District); b) conduct collaborative ethnography and other qualitative research about the project, its delivery, and impact in this temporary settlement; c) explore the geopolitics of Global South-Global North partnerships. With more than ¾ of the world’s refugees in limbo without a home in 2014, projects like this one deliver portable skills and make a difference in the lives of refugees on the ground. In 2014, CRS secured an IDRC grant to fund research and networks that will bring nursing education to refugees in Kenya. In October 2014, an Insight Grant to compare the links between state education for refugees and migrants in India, Canada, and Cuba was submitted for consideration.

2) Researchers Without Borders: Developing South-Global North Partnerships

Through a Partnership Development Grant to be submitted in November 2014, CRS will create an international, inter-disciplinary and cross-sectoral network of experts to develop three core areas of forced migration studies: methodology, inequalities in knowledge production, and pedagogy. This partnership will develop new inter-disciplinary research approaches, strategies and tools that are specifically adapted to forced migration, as well as the ethical challenges inherent in working in contexts of unequal power relations. Research will also address the challenges of global inequalities in knowledge production and dissemination: while most forced migration takes place in the Global South, the majority of research and teaching on forced migration issues is concentrated in the Global North. Through this partnership, CRS will advance student training to meet the needs of forced.  By building on a current network of 15 refugee-related research centres worldwide – facilitated to date by the RRN, CRS, and York – and including key practitioners from Canadian and international organizations, we will produce and mobilize knowledge with, about and for forced migrants in new ways and new places.

3) The Role of Big Data in Humanitarian Response

Through a Partnership Development Grant awarded in 2015, CRS will forge collaboration across the social sciences and computer science using ‘big data’. CRS has been part of a U.S. team at Georgetown for two years, exploring the potential of big data from a large database called EOS (formerly Raptor) which houses over 600 million data in multiple languages of a range of public documents, from NGO reports and news articles in multiple languages to social media posts. CRS has been offered access to these data without charge, and has approached York faculty in Computer Science and Informational Studies to assess their interest in collaborating on a foray into the available data, with a view to understanding forced migration patterns and potential and enhancing humanitarian responses on the ground through this knowledge. Alternative methods using existing and more manageable datasets (i.e. census data, UN data, etc.) would also be included in the work to see what insights can be derived. Working with faculty in Disaster Emergency Management at York, CRS will extend its humanitarian agenda and use innovative methods that bridge computer science and social sciences to address forced migration in new ways.

4) Urban Refugees

More than half the refugees UNHCR serves now live in urban areas, in addition to millions of displaced and unregistered victims of violence, wars and catastrophes who survive in cities and towns in cognito and lead hidden lives. Urban refugees are vulnerable to exploitation, human trafficking, arrest and detention. They are often seen as in competition with the local underclasses and thus are also subject to inter-communal violence, riots, looting and killings.  The Syrian crisis is a good example of urban refugees who live with extended family or off their own savings in urban centres. While some are encamped, many live in cities in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. CRS researchers are conducting research with Syrian refugees living in urban centres in Turkey and Jordan. One research-active CRS faculty is analyzing Iraqi, Iranian, Syrian, Kurdish and other Middle Eastern urban refugees surviving in Turkish towns and cities, particularly non-conventional means of building and sustaining survival networks. York is well-positioned to support existing research and launch new projects that address the global challenge of 3 million Syrian refugees and 6.5 million internally displaced persons. An internship with CARE Canada has been launched, with two graduate students conducting research in Jordan in 2014 and an ongoing commitment to continue. Expanding and formalizing these internship and research opportunities with CARE and other NGOs through MoUs will be a priority.

5) Refugee resettlement at Home and Abroad: ‘Resettlement Diplomacy’

CRS is a leader in producing research with and about refugees resettled to Canada and other host countries. CRS will continue to have a leading role in research on refugee resettlement, but will aim to link ‘domestic’ dynamics of settlement in communities across Canada with the broader politics and policies of international cooperation and diplomacy around issues of refugee resettlement in the global context. Through an Insight or PDG grant application, the notion of strategic resettlement among donor states and ‘resettlement diplomacy’ on a global stage will be probed. Of 16 million refugees in the world today, almost ¾ are stuck in a protracted situation with no permanent legal status to stay, work, and make a home. In short, the current refugee regime is broken. Its three solutions to ‘refugeeness’ are not working: people cannot return home; they are generally not allowed to stay permanently in neighbouring countries; and less than 1% of refugees have access to resettlement. Resettlement is not a solution but rather a strategy of providing protection for refugees. Exploring ways to create more protection and more spaces for people who want them will be a research priority in the coming 5 year term.

6) Transitional Justice

Transitional justice includes both judicial and non-judicial measures that address legacies of violence and human rights abuses. These politics and processes of truth commissions, reconciliation, reparations, and the like emerge after conflicts and abuses end, but before refugees and other displaced persons can return to their homes. CRS has considerable expertise in this area through its members, and has forged international connections at the last two meetings of the International Association for Studies in Forced Migration in Calcutta and Bogota. Strengthening these partnerships and building a common research agenda across countries and civil societies affected by war and atrocities will take time, but is an important priority for CRS in the coming term. An Insight application was made in fall 2014, and the potential for a partnership with interested researchers from India, Colombia and elsewhere make this is funding possibility downstream.

7) Building a National Refugee Archive

In 2013 CRS celebrated 25 years as a research centre and held a signature international conference, funded in large part by CIC, to mark the occasion on the 30th anniversary of the Indochinese refugee arrivals to Canada and elsewhere. Held in partnership with the Canadian Immigration Historical Society, testimony from refugees who experienced displacement during this Cold War conflict and who came to Canada was collected and consolidated with other oral histories already on record. The conference has been followed by a sustained interest and network among many of those who attended to create a national archive of refugee experience in Canada. In late October 2014 plans were being laid to generate a funding application to collect more oral histories from those who settled in Canada from Southeast Asian during the ‘boat arrival’ period and to catalogue and begin building a national archive, starting with original materials currently stored at Scott Library on the Keele campus.