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Abstract: Humanitarian assistance coupled with an unsustainable policy of regional containment have only created greater poverty and misery for Syrians fleeing civil war. How this has been allowed to happen on the southern shores of the Mediterranean – where extraordinary social linkages and networks have existed for centuries – lies mainly in the disparities between perceptions, aspirations and behaviour among refugees, practitioners and policymakers in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. This article highlights in particular three such disconnects: the a historical approach to engaging with displaced people in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, which has led to the implementation of international blueprints of humanitarian support that are disconnected from people’s needs; the imposition of an encampment policy at odds with displaced people’s need for temporary settlement enabled through their own social networks; the redundancy of humanitarian practitioners’ background and experience in dealing with the particularities of displaced populations in the Eastern Mediterranean, and the failure to build on practices that work.

More information Original publication




Journal article


Institute of Development Studies

Publication Date



47 (3)


19 - 33