Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.


Fortress Europe and the Syrian refugee crisis

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 by the Refugee Studies Centre 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)

Time and location

Monday 31 January, 5:00-6:30 pm GMT



Annie Slemrod, Middle East Editor - The New Humanitarian

Annie is a journalist and Middle East editor at The New Humanitarian. From 2010-2013 she reported on Lebanon for Beirut’s The Daily Star, where she focused on Palestinian refugees. After leaving Beirut, she worked as freelancer for The New Humanitarian, The Independent, and The American Prospect. Annie holds a Masters in Near and Middle Eastern Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.


Reem Mussa (MSF)

Reem Mussa is a Humanitarian Advisor on Forced Migration at Médicins Sans Frontières/ Doctors without Borders (MSF) focusing on the humanitarian impact of displacement, asylum and migration policies. Reem supports MSF operations in terms of humanitarian analysis and research, design of projects and advocacy, specifically for operations in Europe, North Africa and Middle East. She has also served as the Humanitarian Affairs and Advocacy Coordinator in MSF COVID-19 Emergency Taskforce based in Brussels.

Dawn Chatty (Refugee Studies Centre)

Dawn Chatty is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and former Director of the Refugee Studies Centre (2011-2014) at Oxford University, where she still lectures. She is particularly interested in nomadic pastoral tribes, as well as young people among refugees. She studied at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) and Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague, in the Netherlands. She has lectured in the USA, as well as in Lebanon, Syria and Oman. Her expertise has led her to work with the major development agencies, such as UNDP, UNICEF and FAO. She is the author of Dispossession and Displacement in the Modern Middle East (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and Syria: The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State (Hurst Publishers, 2018) as well as a number of papers and reports including ‘Refuge from Syria: Policy Recommendations’ (Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford, January 2016). Dawn Chatty contributed the chapter ‘When perceptions and aspirations clash: humanitarianism in Syria’s neighbouring states’ to the book Everybody’s War: The Politics of Aid in the Syria Crisis (Oxford University Press, October 2021).

Michiel Hofman (MSF)

Michiel Hofman is one of the co-editors of the book Everybody’s War: The Politics of Aid in the Syria Crisis (Oxford University Press, October 2021). He worked for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in field missions between 1993 and 1998 as Emergency Coordinator and Head of Mission for MSF in Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Bosnia, Burundi, Sri Lanka, Brazil, South Sudan, and Kosovo, returning to his former career as freelance journalist in between missions. Between 1999 and 2001, Michiel cofounded The Antares Foundation, a Dutch nonprofit organization that supports local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in providing psychosocial support for staff working in high-stress environments. Michiel returned to MSF in 2001 working as Country Director in Russia, Director of Operations at MSF Amsterdam HQ, and as Country Representative for Afghanistan. Since 2011, Michiel has worked as senior humanitarian specialist for MSF based out of Belfast, concentrating on research, training, and operational support, as well as publications in the humanitarian field. He was the co-editor of The Politics of Fear, a book examining the Ebola response in West Africa (Oxford University Press, 2017).


Please register on Zoom here.


Amy Hoose, Events Officer:

Tamsin Kelk, Communications Officer: