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1 May 2017 - 31 Mar 2018

New pilot research project on the changing features of German refugee policies in Jordan and the Middle East

Former MWF Katharina Lenner is starting a new research project, funded by CBRL, that analyses the changing characteristics and effects of German-led and /or funded interventions relating to the Syrian presence in Jordan

In the course of 2016, Germany has become the second largest bilateral donor in Jordan after the US, with an aid volume of £357 million for humanitarian and development projects. This rise in relevance has been connected to the Syrian refugee crisis, and Germany's commitment to the 'Jordan Compact', which agreed on substantial donor commitments in return for Jordan opening up the labour market to Syrian refugees. German humanitarian and developmental interventions have since not only increased in financial volume, but have also changed focus. In an attempt to bring together humanitarian and developmental interventions, programs have been initiated or topped up in order to get more Syrians, as well as Jordanians, into formal employment. These efforts, channelled through agencies like GIZ and KfW, aim to simultaneously help turn the Syrian presence in Jordan from a burden into an asset for the country and “tackle the causes for flight”, the title of one of the most prominent German initiatives in the field. This, in turn, is supposed to prevent further migration flows to Germany. At the same time, more traditional humanitarian, as well as developmental interventions have been maintained alongside the new employment orientation. These range from financial contributions to UN organisations involved in the refugee response, to support in infrastructural development and service provision (e.g. through municipalities), which has long been a mainstay of German development policy in Jordan and elsewhere.

This process of transformation, and its effects, have not yet been subject to substantial analysis. This pilot project therefore seeks to understand the changing features and effects of German refugee policy in Jordan. Rather than seeking to establish causation – e.g. opening labour markets directly decreases migration – it asks what these interventions actually do, i.e. what their political purposes and effects are. Thereby, it contributes to a better understanding of the role major donors play in the Syrian response. This is necessary, as while donors have commissioned countless studies on their objects of intervention and scholarly literature on the Syrian presence in neighbouring countries has blossomed over the last years, the investigative lens has rarely been turned back on this group of very powerful and influential actors. Yet in order to understand the full set of dynamics at play, and their potential effects on refugee governance, the reach of donor engagement beyond their stated goals must be built into the conceptual landscape of the problem. German led or funded interventions in Jordan provide a particularly interesting case for such analysis, given their significance, their emphasis on ‘push’ factors, and their attempts to bring together humanitarian and development approaches.

The pilot research has three main objectives: 1) It seeks to gauge the scope of German led and/or funded humanitarian and developmental interventions pertaining to the Syrian crisis in Jordan, and assess how they relate to previous forms of intervention in these fields. 2) It attempts to understand the social life of German refugee policy by identifying and looking in more depth at the practices of two select employment-oriented projects/ programs. 3) It seeks to create a network for / around a larger research project in which this pilot is embedded. This latter project will focus on the co-evolution of German refugee policy and refugee governance in the Middle East, and analyse dynamics of shaping and translating these policies both in Germany and in select Middle Eastern countries.

The pilot research is funded by the Council for British Research in the Levant (CBRL). 

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