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The devastating conflict that caused immense suffering in Syria is now over a decade old, but while the humanitarian and political crisis are far from over, international interest in Syria has been waning.

The panel discussion Fortress Europe and the Syrian refugee crisis intends to stimulate critical reflection and debate on the dilemmas facing humanitarian and medical action in the Syrian conflict.

The conflict has had a profound impact in Syria, the region and beyond. At least 400,000 Syrians have lost their lives. More than 6 million refugees, out of a pre-war population of 22 million, have fled the country and 6.7 million are internally displaced. Over 13 million people continue to need assistance, and yet Syria seems to have dropped off the radar.

In this panel discussion, hosted in collaboration with Médecins Sans Frontières, experts with in-depth knowledge of Syria and the region will examine some of the challenges humanitarian organisations faced as a consequence of the war in Syria. They will examine the disjuncture between humanitarian solutions often built around containment policies and refugee populations’ request for protection and need to ensure the dignity, well-being, and respect of the asylum-seekers.

Everybody's WarThe discussion will focus on the use of siege tactics from Syria to its neighbours and from Europe to its international allies, highlighting how humanitarian actors are at worst contributing to sustaining besiegement and at best diverting attention from the political choices that lie behind the various forms of containment. Humanitarian actors implemented programs seeking to contain – to endlessly besiege – Syrians, rather than to assist them in finding protection.

The discussion will draw from the book Everybody’s War: The Politics of Aid in the Syria Crisis (Oxford University Press, 2021), which was co-edited by Michiel Hofman and to which Dawn Chatty contributed the chapter “When perceptions and aspirations clash: humanitarianism in Syria’s neighbouring states”.

Download event flyer (pdf)


Please register on Zoom here.


Amy Hoose, Events Officer:

Tamsin Kelk, Communications Officer:

Annual Harrell-Bond Lecture

The Annual Harrell-Bond Lecture is named in honour of Dr Barbara Harrell-Bond, the founding Director of the Refugee Studies Centre. It is held each year in Michaelmas term.

Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture

The Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture is held in Trinity term. It is named after Professor Elizabeth Colson, a renowned anthropologist.

Public Seminar Series

Each term the RSC holds a series of public seminars, held on Wednesday evenings at Queen Elizabeth House. Click here for details of forthcoming seminars.

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Forthcoming events

University of Sanctuary Fair, Part 1: University of Oxford as a University of Sanctuary

Wednesday, 24 April 2024, 2pm to 6pm @ Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre, Worcester College, Walton St, Oxford OX1 2HB

Humanitarian extractivism: the digital transformation past, present, future

Wednesday, 08 May 2024, 5pm to 6pm @ Seminar Room 1, Queen Elizabeth House, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TB

Film screening and discussion: Missing in Brooks County

Wednesday, 15 May 2024, 5pm to 7pm @ Seminar Room 1, Queen Elizabeth House, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TB

Forced Migration on Film: A Conversation with Marc Isaacs | Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture 2024

Wednesday, 22 May 2024, 5pm to 6.30pm @ Tsuzuki Lecture Theatre, St Anne's College, 56 Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6HS

Book launch: The Politics of Crisis-Making: Forced Displacement and Cultures of Assistance in Lebanon

Wednesday, 29 May 2024, 5pm to 6pm @ Seminar Room 1, Queen Elizabeth House, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TB

Skilled worker visas for refugees – a qualitative evaluation of the UK’s Displaced Talent Mobility Pilot

Wednesday, 05 June 2024, 5pm to 6pm @ Seminar Room 1, Queen Elizabeth House, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TB