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BCARS Publications

Members of the BCARS Directorship, Scholar Advisory Board, and Experts Network regularly author publications on a variety of Arab Region themes, including displacement and migration issues, citizenship rights in the Arab world, and human rights.

For publications before Spring 2016, please click here.

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Patrilineal Citizenship and Legacies of Colonialism in Jordan and Lebanon

December 2020:  Patrilineal citizenship refers “to the mechanism by which membership and identity in kin groups follows male descent” [1]. As such, the transfer of legal nationality can only be done by a father or other male relatives. Although patrilineal citizenship laws are common across the Middle East and North Africa, they are especially problematic in places that are also home to large populations of refugees and migrants like Jordan and Lebanon.

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COVID-19 and the Crisis of Citizenship in the Middle East: Prospects for Civil Society and Civic Revival 

August 2020:  Vulnerable populations across the Arab Region have become even more vulnerable due to COVID-19. Citizenship, and its promise of access to rights and services, is highly correlated with this vulnerability, to the point where the lack of citizenship and/or documentation creates concrete barriers to services and rights, particularly in already marginalized populations. Thus, when considering how to mitigate the negative consequences of COVID-19, it is not sufficient to simply treat the symptoms; governments and civil society organizations must also focus on the causes.

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Women and Nationality in the Arab World 

April 2020:  In most of the Arab world,1 women cannot pass their nationality onto their spouses and children on equal terms with men, and in many cases, women cannot confer their nationality at all. This means, for example, that the child of a Jordanian mother and non-Jordanian father is not and cannot become Jordanian. Even if that child is born and raised in Jordan, that child would need to apply for residency, could not access work sectors reserved for citizens (like medicine and engineering), and could not even donate blood to a Jordanian family member because of the child’s noncitizen status.

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Palestinian (non)Citizenship

February 2020: This study traces the historical trajectory of Palestinian nationality, from Ottoman citizenship, through the period of the British Mandate, the Nakba and dispossession of 1947-78 and through the ups and downs of subsequent conflicts, and includes a brief discussion of their current legal situation(s). Today, Palestinians live under at least five different forms of legal status that have been imposed upon them, including Jordanian and Israeli citizenship, various levels of legal residence and concomitant rights, and the continued statelessness of over half of their total population. 

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The Campaign to End Statelessness and Perfect Citizenship in Lebanon

November 2019: This report provides background information on statelessness in Lebanon, examines legal and policy barriers to obtaining and perfecting citizenship, proposes solutions, and discusses the progress that has so far been made. The report incorporates research and fieldwork conducted over the course of a year from stakeholders, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other experts about the key issues affecting statelessness and the risk of persons becoming stateless in Lebanon. The report maps the main issues, laws and polices affecting stateless persons and those vulnerable to statelessness; provides information on strategies being pursued to address the problems; and identifies additional strategies that might assist in the reduction of statelessness.

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Migrants and Refugees: Crisis Responses from the Middle East, the Balkans, and the EU

February 2019: Europe's "migrant crisis" did not start in Syria. It began, in fact, within Europe, in the heart of the Balkans, so to speak. Before the Syrian civil war began in 2011, or the refugee crisis began in 2012; before the establishment of the Za'atari camp in Jordan or camps in Turkey; and even before chemical weapons attacks in Syria or migrant deaths in the Mediterranean; Kosovo Albanians had been migrating (as refugees or economic migrants) to surrounding countries and well beyond. 

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Patriots without Passports 

November 2018: Jordanian women cannot pass their citizenship onto their children and spouses, while Jordanian men can pass theirs onto four wives. This policy leaves the children of Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians with limited access to public education, healthcare, and jobs. Although there are currently about 50 countries with some form of gender-based discrimination in their nationality laws, many states, like Egypt and Morocco, have removed this discrimination over the past 20 years.


The Search for Protection for Stateless Refugees in the Middle East: Palestinians and Kurds in Lebanon and Jordan

October 2018: Most Arab countries have not ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention/1967 Protocol or the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons, and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness has no ratifications in the Middle East. While regional conventions dealing with refugees in the Arab world have been developed, they have been honoured primarily in the breach. Further, many Arab countries do not have domestic laws governing the status of refugees or stateless persons per se, but have applied ad hoc policies to the waves of refugees that have entered and stayed – some for decades – in their territories.

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Vernacular Politics Sectarianism, and National Identity among Syrian Refugees in Jordan 

July 2018: In Jordan—home to some one million Syrian refugees—the vital roles played by vernacular politics, discourses of inclusion and exclusion, and sectarian social histories for Syrians are often considered unimportant when examining possibilities for integration or coexistence. Based on ethnographic research and participation in women’s religion classes in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan in 2014, I argue that while sectarian identities may not in and of themselves appear to divide the majority of Syrian refugees in Jordan from the majority of Jordanian residents (as Sunni Muslims), through utilizing a vernacular politics theoretical perspective I reveal that the sectarian orientations and localized histories of Syrian refugees have an understudied potential to create new forms of divisiveness in Jordanian society. 

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The Equal Right to Participate in the Conduct of Public Affairs in the Arab Region

January 2018: This study is a contribution to current efforts by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to elaborate international guidelines on equal participation in the conduct of public affairs, as mandated in Human Rights Council Resolution 33/22 of 30 September, 2016. The resolution reaffirmed the right of all people to be fully involved in and to effectively influence public decision-making processes that affect them, equally and without discrimination on any basis, as stipulated by international human rights law and by relevant General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions. This study is a preliminary assessment of the status of this right in 18 countries in the Arab region. 

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'I followed the flood': a gender analysis of the moral and financial economies of forced migration

December 2017: What would a gender analysis of refugee crises reveal if one expanded the focus beyond female refugees, and acts of physical violence? This paper draws on qualitative research conducted in Denmark, Greece, Jordan, and Turkey in July and August 2016 to spotlight the gendered kinship, hierarchies, networks, and transactions that affect refugees. The coping strategies of groups often overlooked in the gender conversation are examined throughout this study, including those of male refugees and those making crossings outside the context of a family unit. The analysis is theoretically situated at the intersection of critical humanitarianism and the politics of vulnerability, and rooted in debates about the feminisation of refugees and corresponding protection agendas. A key contribution of this work is the ethnographic tracing of how refugees embody these politics along their journeys. In closing, the paper sketches out some implications of the findings for humanitarian practices and identifies avenues for further research. 

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Negotiating Crisis: International Aid and Refugee Policy in Jordan

Winter 2017: Over the past six years, more than 5.3 million Syrians have fled the violence and deprivation of the civil war. The vast majority — 4.91 million people — have settled in just three host states: Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.3 The arrival of so many in such a short time has had significant effects on the political, economic and social climates of the host states. While the long-term impact of these trends has yet to fully manifest itself, small countries like Jordan and Lebanon will be affected for years and even decades to come, if history is any indication. 


Statement by Academics, Researchers and Experts for the Global Compact on Refugees 

October 2017:  Conclusions from the Conference on Responsibility-Sharing for Refugees in the Euro-Mediterranean Space at the American University in Cairo, October 2017. ​

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Refugees and Shifted Risk: An International Study of Syrian Forced Migration and Smuggling

Fall 2017: The role of smuggling in forced migration has been a leading policy challenge of the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East. This study investigates how anti-smuggling government policies have shaped migratory risks for Syrian refugees in five countries: Jordan, Turkey, Greece, Serbia and Germany. Original evidence from in-depth interviews, surveys, expert interviews, and ethnography reveal that government anti-smuggler policies have: (a) endangered Syrian refugees by shifting risk from smugglers to their clients; (b) distorted refugees’ perceptions of risk, and; (c) decreased refugees’ confidence in government representatives while increasing dependence on smugglers. These data are unique in scope and topic, expanding the existing literature with an emphasis on understudied experiences during migration. The paper concludes with a policy recommendation that acknowledges the reality of smugglers’ role in forced migrants’ decisions, offering a pragmatic alternative of strategic pre-emption of smugglers. ​

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The Financial Journey of Refugees: Evidence from Greece, Jordan, and Turkey 

September 2017: The Financial Journeys of Refugees investigates what money and financial transactions can reveal about the journeys and experiences of forced migration. We examine money as a key node of the displacement experience: fueling transactions among formal and informal actors along the way; determining livelihood options; shaping or restructuring kinship networks; and coloring risks, vulnerabilities, or protective forces available to refugees. Our inquiry highlights these transactions and the power dynamics that unfold among refugees as well as between refugees and formal or informal authorities.​


Photo Essay: Syrian Refugees Choose Turkey

April 2017: As much as 13 percent of the Jordanian population is made up of Syrians. While the refugee crisis is putting extreme pressure on Jordan, many Western countries took steps to block refugees from seeking asylum there, as illustrated in several recent policies in the United States and Europe. As resettlement to a third country becomes increasingly less likely for refugees living in regional host states, the United Nations and Western countries turned to local integration as a means to serve refugees and the host countries. The goals of local integration are to address the immediate humanitarian crises, help stabilize the current host states, and reduce the incentive for refugees to seek asylum in third, usually Western, countries.

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Challenges and Successes of Jordan's Work Permit Program for Syrian Refugees After One Year 

March 2017: At first glance, the March 2016 EU–Turkey deal, which gives visa-free travel and 3 billion Euros ($3.3 billion) in relief aid to Turkey if it stems the flow of refugees to Europe, seems to have worked. Turkey now hosts three times the number of Syrian refugees as all of Europe, and according to data from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), there has been a dramatic drop in the number of refugees moving from Turkey to Greece since the deal was enacted. However, for many refugees, the real reason behind the decrease in refugee flows into Europe lies in their own widespread preference to remain in Turkey, where they perceive a better life is possible.

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The Work Permit Initiative for Syrian Refugees in Jordan: Implications for Policy and Practice 

February 2017: A Joint Research and Policy Project of the Boston Consortium for Arab Region Studies and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Jordan​. This report provides a critical overview and analysis of the implementation of the work permit initiative for Syrian refugees in Jordan. It is targeted to practitioners who are implementing livelihood and related programming for Syrian refugees in Jordan following the February 2016 Supporting Syria and the Region donor conference in London. It is also intended for the general public, particularly in academic and policymaking fields, who are interested in livelihood programming and work permit initiatives for refugees.

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The Financial Journey of Refugees: Charting a Research Agenda-- Is Corruption a Relevant Framework?

February 2017: In this post, Roxanne Krystalli and Kim Wilson, who collectively specialize in financial inclusion, gender and violence, and research methods in vulnerable settings, discuss some of the emerging questions that their research has identified at the intersection of forced migration, money, relationships along refugee journeys, and corruption.

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Trump's comments about Iraqi oil are dangerous

February 2017: During his speech at CIA headquarters the day after his inaugu­ration as president, Donald Trump exhibited an igno­rance of modern Middle Eastern history and revealed how com­ments by a US president can feed dangerous conspiracy theories about the country’s intentions.

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Informing Syrian Refugees about Smuggling: First Findings from the Field

October 2016: Syrian refugees make numerous risky decisions. When and where to attempt a crossing. Which country to go through. Whether to use a smuggler. Which smuggler to use. These risks determine a variety of grim outcomes: deportation, detention, arrest, hospitalization and death. Governments bear tremendous costs for these events – financial and political. Many of these are migrant choices made from ignorance and misperception. They are preventable.

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The Pardee School Initiative on Forced Migration and Human Trafficking Annual Report 2016

July 2016 : When The Pardee School Initiative on Forced Migration and Human Trafficking (FMHT) was founded in March 2015, we began with the ambition to create a community of scholars, practitioners, and policymakers at Boston University (and beyond) to work on research, education, and advocacy with an impact in the field of forced migration and human trafficking.

Our inaugural year (2015-2016) has surpassed all of our greatest expectations. We held over a dozen events, expanded our membership to over 120 newsletter subscribers, and taught our first class that led to the creation of a mobile phone app for refugees in Jordan. Our members conducted research abroad as well as in Boston, and have worked with policymakers and policy implementers worldwide.

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The Promise of Magdoos: A Sliver of Hope in the Syrian Refugee Crisis

October 2016: Syrian refugees make numerous risky decisions. When and where to attempt a crossing. Which country to go through. Whether to use a smuggler. Which smuggler to use. These risks determine a variety of grim outcomes: deportation, detention, arrest, hospitalization and death. Governments bear tremendous costs for these events – financial and political. Many of these are migrant choices made from ignorance and misperception. They are preventable.

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