Migration and displacement

Our research on migration and displacement aims to understand and recommend effective responses to forced displacement, multiple refugee and humanitarian crises and to advocate humanitarian action for a positive outcome.

From social and state responses to immigration and asylum, to the resultant gap in skills, educational and humanitarian needs within regions subjected to these crises; our research examines the theme of migration and displacement from a number of perspectives. More widely we work to help the reconstruction of societies affected by conflict to build effective policy and infrastructure which support displaced communities.

Following the Syrian conflict in 2011 and resultant refugee flows on a scale not seen since World War II, social and political responses to supporting refugees fleeing from conflict have required dramatic change, making this topic a central global challenge of our contemporary society.

With displaced communities crossing into other countries during conflict, as asylum seekers or irregular migrants, requirements for housing and public services grow rapidly and policymakers, the media and the public often engage in heated debates on appropriate responses.

The University of Birmingham is at the forefront of research into migration and displacement. The Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) is the first institute in the UK and one of the first globally, to focus on migration, displacement and superdiversity.

Projects available under this theme

Find out more about the project and apply directly to the scholarships via the listings below. You can also follow our guidance on how to apply to the Global Challenges PhD Scholarships.

Syrian refugees and higher education

Kiwan and Tsourapas

Education has been relatively neglected in the humanitarian response to the Syrian refugee crisis, the largest refugee crisis in recent history. We are now facing the global challenge of mitigating a ‘lost generation’ of educated Syrians. This studentship will aim to map access to higher education in the surrounding region and internationally, examining from the perspectives of refugees themselves how they navigate complex systems at local, national and international levels at the nexus of immigration and asylum policies on the one hand and education policies on the other.

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Transnational childhoods and religious migration: the case of missionary children in Africa and Asia

Laqua-O’Donnell et al

The transnational aspects of children’s migration have only recently come to be acknowledged. Historically, children were often treated as the appendix to transnational family mobility that was driven by adults (Edmund, Esser, 2015). This PhD project places children’s experience of transnational migration at the centre of investigation to examine their agency in the process. This is achieved by focusing on a group of children who have so far received little attention in the study of childhood and migration: missionary children. An increasing number of people from across the world travel to foreign countries to convert and evangelise, yet we know relatively little about missionaries, their children, and their role in global migrations.

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Sexual and gender based violence in the refugee crisis: understanding resilience in the refugee journey

Phillimore and Yakinthou

This proposal aims to explore the resilience of Syrian refugees who have experienced sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) on the refugee journey. Understanding the needs of vulnerable groups, especially women and children, has become urgent, not only because they now represent over half of the displaced, but also because of their increasing vulnerability within host communities. This studentship uses a social constructionist approach to address gaps in knowledge about experiences of SGBV in the refugee crisis.

The term SGBV enables us to look at violence from a gendered perspective and to acknowledge that whilst women and children are the main targets, men too can be victims. SGBV occurs in multiple situations, thus it is important to consider its emanations and identify vulnerabilities and opportunities for intervention. One such opportunity is the capacity for resilience among victims/survivors. The PhD will help address gaps in knowledge about the resilience strategies employed by victims/survivors of SGBV across the refugee journey. Using resilience theory and a retrospective narrative interview approach we will examine refugees’ own constructions of SGBV, enabling identification of critical events and classification of the resources employed for survival, as well as refugees’ evolving priorities and how these might be better supported.

This understanding will become an important step towards identifying the support needs of refugee victims of SGBV, developing solutions and advocating for policies to strengthen their resilience while driving policy and practice changes.

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