Forced migration – displacement following violent conflict, large-scale development projects (e.g. dams), and environmental disasters such as droughts or fires – has been and continues to be a common occurrence in the Middle East. Examples include forced migration caused by the Israeli–Arab, Iraqi, Libyan, Syrian, and Yemeni wars and internal displacement driven by political, social, economic, or environmental upheavals. Many states in the region have been both sending and receiving states for forced migrants; this is exemplified most prominently by Syria, which was a receiving state for both Palestinian and Iraqi refugees, but has become the region’s chief sending state due to the ongoing war. The GIGA investigates forced migration in the Middle East as one example of South–South flows, which comprise over 80 per cent of global movements but are still underrepresented in both academic investigation and political debate.
In order to better understand forced migration flows inside the Middle East and beyond, GIGA researchers ask a number of questions:
- How do fundamental changes in a region’s political order interact with human mobility?
- What is the relation between major population movements and changes in social stratification, economic stability, and cultural cohesion?
- What role do global environmental change and its local effects play in migration flows?
- How can multiple vulnerabilities be uncovered within different flows, and how can we develop an understanding of forced migration that does not overemphasise mobility and border crossings at the expense of acknowledging internal displacement and (forced) immobility?
- What is the relationship between people who are moving and actors aiming to control such movement, and what kind of transnational exchange is occurring between these various actors?