Analysing Gender and Vulnerability in Integration Policy Arenas


ORGANISERS | Susan Rottmann and Naures Atto

This panel examines gender and vulnerability in the context of European migration governance and integration policy. Some papers use fine-grained analyses of men and women’s experiences of belonging to disadvantaged or vulnerable groups (ethnic, religious and sexual minorities) to critique, broaden and reshape policy. Others use analyses of gender and vulnerability to push beyond simplistic and universalized categorizations of migrants. The panel explores disjunctures between policies on macro levels, the actions of meso level actors and refugee experiences on micro levels. Many papers apply intersectional analyses, examining how gender and ethnic identities intersect with other identities (i.e. class, religion, age).

Chair: Charis Olzsok - Discussant: Naures Atto & Susan Rottman

Abstracts & bios

Migration Governance in Iberia: how Lisbon and Barcelona approach their increasing diversity

Cláudia Araújo, Nova university of Lisbon - Social Sciences and Humanities Faculty

In this study, I compare migration and integration management at the municipal level, focusing on two cities in the Iberian Peninsula: Lisbon and Barcelona. This analysis points to ideological and positional differences between the two municipal leaderships, as well as convergences, departing from the participatory dimension of local policy making in this area of governance. I demonstrate that both cities´ strategies are based on mainstreaming, imbedding migrant integration across various policy areas, involving services targeted at the entire population and multiple policy actors, both institutional, private and – most particularly – civil society, with the reliance on CSOs being higher in Lisbon, where these organizations are given responsibility for most policy implementation, with the city´ strategy being constructed around downgrading migrant service providing to the third sector. Being that mainstreaming is also based on coordination between different policy levels, I uncover a clear difference between the two cities – while Lisbon leadership closely follows national government´s and European Union´s policy, Barcelona stands in clear opposition not only with both central and regional governments, but also with the EU. I also demonstrate how gender became a fundamental dimension in urban migration governance in the Catalan city, starting from a feminist interpretation of the presence of migrant women in the reproductive sector and evolving into an effort to gender mainstreaming in the policies and practices developed by the municipality, while Lisbon adopts a “gender-downgrading” strategy, as it leaves to local CSOs the creation and implementation of a gender-sensitive integration strategy. I conclude by exploring the contradictions between institutional policy making and the needs and desires of migrants themselves, even when these are clearly expressed in public avenues leading to local-policy making.


Cláudia Araújo is a doctoral candidate on Global Studies, at NOVA University of Lisbon – her research focus on social movements and local governments, particularly in terms of migration and integration governance. She has a masters on Migrations, Inter-ethnicities and Transnationalism also from NOVA University and two honours degrees, one in French and African Studies at FLUL, another at Tourism Management at IPVC.

Syrian Resettlement in Oxford and the Reconfiguration of Normative Gender Roles

Dunya Habash - Dr Naohiko Omata, Refugee Studies Centre - University of Oxford

Drawing on qualitative field-research with resettled Syrian refugees in Oxford, this presentation explores the challenges and responses to integration from the refugee perspective, looking in particular at changes to the socio-cultural sphere. The Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (SVPRS) was initially introduced in 2014 by the UK Government with the aim of providing a safe and legal route for the most vulnerable Syrian refugees to travel to the UK. By 2018, a total of 28 families had been received via SVPRS in central Oxford, one of several cities across the UK to accept Syrian refugees. The process of adapting into a new living environment with cultural norms that significantly differ from the home culture has presented new opportunities but also considerable adjustment challenges for the Syrian families, especially in regard to gender subjectivities and parenting practices. In an attempt to analyze these challenges via the perceptions of integration and cultural adaptation of resettled Syrian refugees in Oxford, we conducted 50 semi-structured interviews with refugee families, as well as staff members from Oxford City Council, community-based groups, and refugee-assisting NGOs between January 2018 and March 2019. Our findings reveal a significant transformation in gender and cultural subjectivity among the resettled Syrian refugee community in Oxford. For example, egalitarian British social norms and governance policies are causing tension between Syrian men and women as husbands are challenged to accept that their wives must enter the work force, be co-signatories in legal and financial documents, and have separate bank accounts, social practices that are foreign to many Syrians. Our study adds to the understanding of the reconfiguration of normative gender and cultural roles in displacement, knowledge that is crucial for improving integration policies that should take into consideration the socio-cultural gender dynamics of the refugees’ home culture.


Dunya Habash is currently a Researcher and Outreach Officer for the 'Living in Harmony' project at the Woolf Institute, Cambridge. She joined the Woolf Institute after completing an MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies at the University of Oxford, where she is currently also working as a researcher with Dr Naohiko Omata (RSC Senior Research Officer) on a project about resettled Syrians in Oxford. She holds undergraduate degrees in Music and History from Birmingham-Southern College, where she embarked on her first substantive project with Syrian refugees, a documentary on Jordan's Zaatari refugee camp titled 'Zaatari: Jordan's Newest City'.

Yezidis: The Case for a New Definition of Trauma

Michelle Sanders - Psychologist, Austin, Texsas

The Yezidis are a religious, cultural and ethnic minority primarily located in the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq. Throughout their history, they have been targets of persecution and subjected to 72 genocides, the most recent of which was perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in August of 2014. This paper offers insights related to the individual, familial, community and intergenerational transmission of trauma Yezidis have, and continue, to experience. There is a focus on the unique components of psychological trauma reported by

Yezidis and the transmission and manifestation of that trauma. The methodology is an analysis of case studies that have been conducted through one-to-one interactions with, and direct therapeutic interventions provided by, a trauma psychologist. It is suggested that Yezidis experience trauma that is unlike trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). It is proposed that Yezidis experience “complicated trauma” that encompasses all aspects of individual, familial and community life. It is suggested that “complicated trauma” may be related to living in chronic fear of threats to physical safety and the lack of emotional security which is confounded by anxiety related to the welfare of missing family members. This paper proposes that further research is needed related to the ongoing trauma experienced by Yezidis. There is an emphasis on the dire need for local and international mental health professionals who are


Michelle Sanders is a licensed psychologist in New York and Texas and has a private practice in Austin, Texas. She specializes in treating children, adolescents, and adults who have experienced trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Dr. Sanders received her M.S.Ed., and Psy. D. from Pace University in New York City. She has held faculty positions at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York and at Pace University in New York City. Dr. Sanders has done humanitarian work in several countries in the Middle East and South America and speaks Spanish fluently. Dr. Sanders’ most recent humanitarian work has taken her to Kurdistan three times in the past year to work with the Yezidi people. In Kurdistan, she consults with NGOs and provides trauma intervention training to local psychologists. In the United States, Dr. Sanders has established a private Go Fund Me to provide milk powder and formula to children in Kurdistan. She also conducts free seminars to educate people about the history and current plight of the Yezidis. Dr. Sanders has a wide and varied knowledge about Yezidi people, culture, religion, social strata and intergenerational trauma.

How vulnerable are those who cross the EU's border today?

Evie Papada, University of Loughborough

Being an aspect of the   asylum process in the EU historically, the ascription of vulnerability concerns two related bureaucracies : the refugee determination process and the process of admitting third country nationals at borders. Put simply, those deemed vulnerable,  are afforded (by law) treatment during the process of determination of their status that meets their special needs and demographic characteristics as vulnerable. In a context of growing restrictions to those crossing the EU’s border in search for international protection,  a tendency to award those who are vulnerable with a wide range of exceptions from procedural hurdles is becoming commonplace. The ‘immunity’ granted to vulnerable Syrians from return to Turkey, following the Greece-Turkey readmission agreement is a case in point. In this paper I examine  the rise of the category of vulnerability in relation to spatialised discourses of safety and EU border enforcement practices. In doing that I (re)locate vulnerability assessments from a concern about people's experiences and recovery from trauma and harm, into a concern for border management.


Evie Papada is a PhD Candidate in Human Geography at the University of Loughborough. In her research she explores the ways in which logics of humanitarian management of migration manifest in ongoing EU policies of immigration and border controls. Her doctoral thesis is concerned with the rise of vulnerability within the moral economies of EU immigration and border controls. She has previously coordinated research outputs for the Mediterranean Migration Research Project, an ESCR funded consortium. Prior to her academic endeavors, Evie held policy and research related positions within international humanitarian organizations. She is the co-author of ‘New Borders: The Hotspot Approach and the European Migration Regime” by Pluto Press.

Perspectives on Reproduction and Sexuality amongst Syrian Refugees in Lebanon: Family planning as a vehicle of ‘Resilience’

Katherine Ripullone (MB BChir, University of Cambridge, academic FY doctor at University of East Anglia & Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital), Ali H Alsaif (MD, Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University, Saudi Arabia), Ali Z Ghassani (MD, MPH Medical and research Advisor at Amel Association, and Instructor at Lebanese International University), Ali Ghaddar (Lebanese International University, Beirut and Observatory of Public Policies and Health, Beirut); Kate Womersley (MB BChir, University of Cambridge, academic FY doctor at University of Edinburgh & NHS Lothian)

More than 1.5 million Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon since the Syrian crisis began in 2011, and the number of Syrians in Lebanon is increasing. This is due in large part to the high birth rate amongst Syrians in Lebanon - the average birth rate for Syrian refugees in Lebanon is approximately 35,000 per year. This high rate has increased healthcare spending, with approximately half of secondary care expenditure going to obstetric care. Refugees frequently suffer from poor living conditions, high population density, struggles to secure good hygiene and numerous other factors that exacerbate the risks of pregnancy and increase the need for secondary, and even tertiary obstetric care. This conformation of challenging conditions negatively affects the health of mothers and babies. The humanitarian response is well established with many international NGOs, different UN agencies, as well and various Lebanese ministries engaged on different levels. Reproductive health has been and continues to be prioritized, with significant progress in providing contraceptive methods and in delivering a highly- effective primary care family planning program. A wide variety of contraceptive methods are accessible and available for free at primary healthcare centres throughout Lebanon. In addition, there have been regular awareness campaigns and education sessions. In this study we identify and explore Syrian refugee’s’ perceptions of and beliefs surrounding family planning methods. We highlight the cultural, religious and social factors that affect the utilization of family planning and how these are changed in the context of emergency and displacement. We examine how choices about family planning are understood by Syrian refugees as a vehicle for expressing ‘resilience’ and reasserting social, political and kinship ties in the face of displacement. We particularly focus on how this context affects women who are facing a variety of gendered expectations of their changing social and productive roles. Finally, we note the limitations of ‘resilience’ as a concept for capturing these responses.

Methods: We used a mixed-methods study design, using both quantitative questionnaires and qualitative interviews. We conducted approximately 14 focus groups (targeting both male and females), around 300 quantitative questionnaires and 40 one- on- one long form interviews. The questionnaire was adapted to cultural norms.

This research was conducted with Amel International - an NGO that works closely with the Lebanese Ministry of Health and the UNHCR to provide primary care, facilitate access to tertiary care, and coordinate welfare responses for Syrians and low-income Lebanese living throughout Lebanon.


Katherine Ripullone is an academic doctor at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and a research associate at the George Institute at Oxford University. Her research covers mixed methods approaches to gendered health outcomes, women's global health and international health policy. Before graduating from the Cambrdige graduate medicine course she worked in the International Health Research Group/ Global health and genetic epidemiology group at the University of Cambridge and Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute with a focus on Hepatitis C in Sub-saharan Africa, research capacity building and equitable data sharing. She also has experience in clinical and public health research in Baltimore and holds degrees in Government and Economics the London School of Economics and Biomedical sciences from Goucher.

For this paper, Dr Ripullone worked with Dr Ali Ghassani MD, MPH, Director of health programmes and research at Amel International Association. Dr Ghassani is working with Amel to embed research into NGO responses to emergency health needs to inform future policies. He also lectures at the Lebanese International University in biostatitics and coordinates regional healthcare with the Lebanese Ministry of Health. Dr Ali Ghaddar, PhD, Lebanese International University, Department of Biomedical sciences has research interests in addiction pschyology, harm reduction, migrant health and abuse and has experience with mixed methodological studies. Dr Ali Alsaif, MD is a trainee doctor in the region of Qatif, Saudi Arabia and was the main coordinator and facilitator of this research in Lebanon. Other contributors include Mohammad Al-Zayed (Health Program Manager, Amel International Association), Dr Kate Womersley (academic trainee doctor, University of Edingburgh) and Dr Christopher Martin (PhD Social Anthropology, Education Advisor Cambridge University Press).