In the Absence of Social Justice – the Case of Migrating from Syria
Zina Nimeh, UNU-MERIT
In academic literature, migration is often conceptualized as a phenomenon whose origin can be found among push- and pull-factors. Although push- and pull-factors analyses offer insightful conclusions, they binarily simplify a more complex situation which can be better represented by the image of a global net where interconnectedness plays an encompassing role. When analyzing the influx of migrants from Syria to the European Union, a framework of push and pull factors conveniently represents the Syrian civil war as the push and a possibility for a more human way of leaving after crossing the EU borders as a pull factor. However, if that was the only case, balance could be reestablished by the simple sedation of the conflict. Contrarily, this paper argues that the civil war is only an insular symptom of a deeply rooted situation of social injustice within the Syrian country. Thereupon, if a more encompassing framework representing the world as a global net where the choices of one country shape the political decisions of another is applied, the social injustice witnessed by the Syrian population does not find its origins only within the country but also beyond.
The question that serves as the backbone of this research is the following: Could the current migratory phenomenon between Syria and Europe be understood as a way of seeking justice, on an international level; and if so, on what grounds? Drawing on the work of four thinkers (Immanuel Kant, (Notion of Responsibility and Duty) Amartya Sen (The Capability Approach), Francis Fukuyama (State Failure) and Karl Polanyi (Political Origin of Economic Liberalization)), we argue that the EU (As part of a larger global community) has contributed to the state failure in Syria which led to series of events, culminating with the large migratory phenomenon we observe and as a consequence. The paper asks if Europe thus has an obligation (Not just a Human Rights one) to help its citizens. We argue that migratory phenomenon between Syria and Europe can thus be described as a way of seeking justice, in an international frame. Yet, unlike most researches that have analyzed this question - mainly in international relations - and which conclude that the EU’s responsibility boils down to the fact it has supported an authoritarian dictator, we argue that the EU is liable for the failure of the Syrian state because it has fostered the liberalization of the Syrian economy through several trade agreements, while the state was clearly too weak to efficiently function.
The constructed theoretical framework we use in this paper is based on amalgamating the work of the aforementioned thinkers and it approaches development from a human perspective. We operationalize the framework by conducting an extensive literature review of secondary source material such as trade agreements between Syria and Europe, as well as country studies, reports and academic articles, and we complement it with primary data collected via semi-structured interviews conducted in focus groups with Syrian refugees living in the Netherlands and Jordan.
About the speaker
Dr. Nimeh is an Assistant Professor of Social Protection and Human Development at MGSoG, and is the coordinator of the Social Protection Masters Specialization. She is also the co-coordinator of the Social Protection, Inclusive Innovation and Development research theme. Her work focuses on social protection and social security policy and financing, social exclusion, poverty and inequality measurement, governance reform and public policy analysis with a regional focus on the Middle East and North Africa. She obtained her PhD at Maastricht University through a Marie Curie Research grant. Her thesis, entitled ‘Social Citizenship Rights – Inequality and Exclusion (2012), dealt with the processes of social exclusion of national minorities and refugees. Outside academia she has had managerial and consulting experience in the areas of human development, social policies and public sector reform with focus on Employment and Education. She has applied experience in policy development and implementation and continues to work as a consultant for the ILO and UNICEF.
Venue: 0.16-0.17 (Boschstraat 24)
Date: 20 September 2017
Time: 12:00 - 13:00 CEST