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Leiden University takes part in new international research project TRAFIG/Creative solutions to the challenge of forced displacement

On 17th December, the Global Compact on Refugees has been adopted at the UN General Assembly. One of the central goals of the Compact on Refugees is to improve the protection and resilience of refugees and to enhance trust and cooperation between refugees and host communities. With the new EU-funded Horizon2020 research project TRAFIG, BICC (Bonn International Center for Conversion) together with research partners from Europe, Africa and Asia, seeks to contribute to finding solutions to protracted displacement. Leiden University is part of this interdisciplinary project through the Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance & Society, and the Institute for History.

The new EU-funded project TRAFIG (Transnational Figurations of Displacement) has officially started on January 1, 2019. TRAFIG introduces a novel perspective by focusing on refugee’s connectivity and mobility as a part of the solution rather than part of the problem of protracted displacement situations. “Our research project considers transnational and local networks as well as mobility as resources that displaced people use and upon which their resilience relies”, Benjamin Etzold, TRAFIG project leader at BICC, explains.

Through comparative empirical research in refugee camps and cities in Asia, Africa, and Europe, TRAFIG will analyze why displaced people live in vulnerable situations in host countries, how they sustain their livelihoods as well as how policy and humanitarian practice can better support their self-reliance. The project team will also trace refugees’ networks of interaction and support beyond their place of living and ask how these transnational connections shape their current situation and their future mobility trajectories. Last but not least, it seeks to better understand the relations between refugees and host communities and investigates the medium and long-term economic impacts of displacement. “Doing so, TRAFIG will provide academic evidence and more robust data on refugee movements and protracted displacement” Benjamin Etzold underlines.

Dr Carolien Jacobs, of the Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance & Society (VVI) will lead the empirical research that focuses on displacement in Africa. Amongst others, the team will study Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia and war-displaced Congolese in both Congo itself and in Tanzania. Carolien will be involved in data collection in Congo, together with Congolese partners, while Prof. Mirjam de Bruijn and Catherina Wilson of the Institute of History will carry out research in Tanzania together with local partners. “The two institutes and the other partners will intensively work together; to develop the field methodology, and to analyse and compare findings. Before starting the empirical work, we will carry out desk research on the displacement of people in the African Great Lakes region from an historical perspective, and on the governance regimes and legal structures that provide protection to displaced people”, Carolien explains. “At Leiden University, we are really excited to be part of this collaborative project that has great societal relevance”, she adds.

On the basis of its findings, the project will develop a rapid assessment tool in order to support policymakers and practitioners to enhance the self-reliance of displaced people as well as host-refugees relations through tailored programming and policy development. “With our innovative research and our rapid assessment tool, we do not only seek to improve knowledge on protracted displacement and refugees’ transnational lives, we also truly hope to contribute to improving policies and humanitarian programs and thereby towards reaching the goals of the Global Compact on Refugees”, Benjamin Etzold describes the project’s goals.  For this, the 11 research partners from Austria, Ethiopia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Jordan, the Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, United Kingdom, will closely cooperate with key stakeholders throughout the entire life cycle of the project.

The European Commission funds the TRAFIG project within its Horizon2020 research program. BICC is coordinating the three year project. The partners in this interdisciplinary and international research consortium are Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) in Norway, International and European Forum on Migration (FIERI) in Italy, International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) and Danube University Krems in Austria, Society for Human Rights and Prisoners' Aid (SHARP) in Pakistan, Sussex Centre for Migration Research in the United Kingdom, Leiden University in the Netherlands, and Yarmouk University in Jordan.

Further information
Dr. Carolien Jacobs
Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance and Society (VVI)
Leiden Law School
Reuvensplaats 3-4
2311 BE Leiden, the Netherlands
+31 71 527 4698

Prof.dr. Mirjam de Bruijn
Institute of History,
Leiden University
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
+31 71 527 8546



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