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).

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'.

Reassessing the Social Inclusion of Syrian Refugees in Turkey: A Perspective from Social Workers

Can Calici, Istanbul University- Cerrahpasa

Istanbul, as one of the most urbanized regions in Europe has confronted a mass influx of refugees during the Syrian civil war and now is the largest hosting city in Turkey for Syrian refugees. This study aims to shed a light on the intervention mechanisms by addressing the contradictions between the institutional structures and social inclusion of Syrian immigrants in Istanbul. In this context, we investigate the awareness and experiences of social workers’ throughout the process of performing their profession concerning support, protection and guidance to vulnerable refugees. We conducted in depth interviews with social workers at organizational supporting units who have a critical role in providing psychosocial support and averting social exclusion. The content of the interviews reveals three key conclusions. First, the emotional labour of social workers’ as it refers to the management of emotions in everyday work routine is crucial for assisting vulnerable groups in acute situations especially cases concerning their humanitarian protection. Second, the institutional inclusion initiatives developed by local and regional authorities are relatively functional in the areas of providing basic accommodation, health and educational rights to refugees. Third, the cultural and gendered based biases of immigrants and the lack of over-arching coordination between institutional structures and mechanisms lead to a partial inclusion in areas such as employment and participation to everyday life, which in turn diminishes the visibility of refugees as urban citizens.


Dr. Calici is a faculty member in the Department of Social Sciences of the Institute of Forensic Sciences and Medicine, Istanbul University. After graduating from the department of social anthropology in 2008, he respectively became a specialist in forensic social sciences in 2011 and received his PhD on the same field in 2016. His doctoral dissertation is about the social change and its impact on crime trends in Turkey and his general research interests are criminology, victimology and criminal justice.

Bordering economies, vulnerabilities and migrants’ mobilities in Libya.

Marthe Achtnich, University of Oxford

The intersection between transnational European migration governance and local bordering practices in Libya produces an informal bordering economy that rests on ambiguous modes of surveillance, is shaped by state and criminal actors, and linked to a bioeconomy extracting value from migrants’ lives. Focusing on the experiences of sub-Saharan migrants who choose to stay in Libya instead of taking a boat to Europe, this paper explores how these bordering practices operate in the everyday through generating affective spaces of exploitation and related vulnerabilities. Migration is governed through the proliferation of such spaces, blurring the lines between legal and illegal, and moving beyond simplistic and fixed categorizations of migrants. The paper shows how migrants respond to these vulnerabilities and build resilience through affective means of coping. In conclusion, it discusses relations between informal bordering practices and an emergent migrant 'bioeconomy' (Andersson 2018), in particular the extraction of value through migrants’ bodies, their money-producing abilities, as well as immobility.


Marthe Achtnich is a Fellow by Examination in Anthropology at Magdalen College, University of Oxford. She is an anthropologist working on mobility, migration and informal economies with a focus on unauthorized migrants’ journeys from sub-Saharan Africa via Libya to Europe. Her current research project (Mobility Economies) builds on her doctoral work on Mobility in Crisis (DPhil, University of Oxford, 2017), an ethnography of migrants’ mobilities through the Sahara desert, detention centres and smuggling houses in Libya, across the Mediterranean sea by boat to Malta, and onwards through Europe. Before returning to Oxford for her current fellowship, Marthe was a Wiener-Anspach Postdoctoral Fellow at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and was awarded a small research grant by the Society for Libyan Studies (2017-2018).

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).

A refugee-centred analysis of ‘Migration Governance’

Victoria Hall, University of Cambridge

A refugee-centred analysis of ‘Migration Governance’ – and its many diversities, inconsistencies, and contradictions – within a socio-cultural, anthropologically determined framework of exploration/inquiry. This will utilise an ethnographic consideration of the groups of refugees being escorted to mainland Europe via so-called ‘rescue missions’, led by independently owned companies/organisations that intervene through the use of boats and (more recently) small planes. Specifically, the heightened political atmosphere and debate in Italy, with growing far-right ideals and very contemporary changes to the law (for example, Matteo Salvini’s currently relevant decree); leading to a series of ‘stand-offs’ in waters close to Lampedusa, amongst many other issues. I will, from this, construct an understanding of how this is perceived by the groups of refugees themselves, and also the employees conducting these ‘missions’, and how the interrelationships between these perspectives can begin to be more fully examined. With these perceptions themselves contributing to the founding of the many premises constituting narrative, ‘selfhood’, and the multiplicity of relationships/interactions, amongst many other aspects evident within the sociality of such projects.

I will, here, also explicitly state that it is not my project to look for ‘coherence’ – I am not creating a meta-narrative, but, rather, I am allowing people to speak in all of their complexity, and the composite (and contextual) strands to emerge; with some then coalescing into ‘selves’. Thereby conceptually integrating ethics into the narrative(s) of the ‘self’ that are evident and available within this ethnographic data. This will also require an acknowledgement of the contours of narratives within different social contexts; particularly narratives of the ‘self’. Specifically: when does it matter; and what makes it most ‘significant’? Necessitating, also, a consideration of narratives in relation to language – most importantly, defining carefully how we may state all narratives to be political in nature, and why this is crucial in this exact refugee and refugee-intervention framework. Working towards an analysis of what this may tell us about ‘Migration Governance’, and the further questions that it may prompt.


Victoria Hall is a PhD student at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge. She is exploring the anthropological significance of concepts of "self" and "selfhood", through the ethnographic lens of issues surrounding "subjectivity" and "relationality" within communities in the relatively recently formed state of Uttarakhand (until 2007, named Uttaranchal), North India. In particular, examining alternative freedoms, different "truths", and the conceptual considerations that are implied via religious pluralism within an increasingly diversified Indian state. Specifically, looking at the perceptions and possibilities of shared meanings; questioning if an ethical, moral, or even political "mainstream" can be a coherent notion anthropologically, and in terms of regional experiences, identities, and choices at the "lived" level of relationship, communication, and interactivity. And, if so, how any of these questions can be perceived in conversational tandem with the unique environment of the Garhwal region of the Uttarakhand state.

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.