Tackling the Causes for Flight? The Changing Features of German Refugee Policy in Jordan

Project: Research council

Project Details


Over the course of 2016 Germany became 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 relates directly to the Syrian refugee crisis and Germany's commitment to the 'Jordan Compact', an agreement that trades substantial donor commitments for opening up the Jordanian labour market to Syrian refugees. German humanitarian and developmental interventions have, however, not only increased in volume but also changed in focus. There is now a persistent attempt to pursue humanitarian and developmental goals simultaneously, primarily by providing employment and income-generating opportunities to Syrians, as well as Jordanians. At the same time, more traditional humanitarian and developmental interventions have been maintained, ranging from financial contributions to UN organisations to supporting infrastructure development and service provision. The stated aims to stabilise Jordan as a major refugee hosting country, and to assist Syrian refugees, are part of a broader attempt to “tackle the causes for flight”, the title of one of the most prominent German initiatives in the field. This, in turn, is part of the wider political strategy to prevent further migration to Germany.

This transformation and its effects have not yet been subject to substantial analysis. This project therefore seeks to understand the changing features and effects of German refugee policy in Jordan. Rather than seeking to establish causation – e.g. employment provision directly decreases onwards 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 turns the conventional mode of analysis around, as while countless studies have been carried out on Syrian refugees over the past six years, the investigative lens has rarely been directed at 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 programmes. 3) It seeks to create a network for and around a larger research project that investigates the co-evolution of German refugee policies and refugee governance in the Middle East.

Intended outputs and impacts

• The PI held a one-day roundtable in Amman with relevant stakeholders from among German, Jordanian and other agencies active in the region in September 2017. The roundtable sought to disseminate and discuss first results of pilot fieldwork (conducted in Aug / Sept 2017 by the PI), facilitate engagement between academia and practitioners, and discuss ideas for a larger, comparative grant proposal in the future. A roundtable report has been disseminated more widely among stakeholders to facilitate sustained dialogue about the project.

• The PI will publish a brief report about the fieldwork and the roundtable for the 2018 CBRL bulletin.

• A research paper will be submitted to a leading forum for academic and professional discussions around refugee issues, in order to disseminate research findings to both academic and non-academic user-groups.

• On the basis of the pilot research and the workshop, the PI will develop a larger grant proposal on the co-evolution of German refugee policy and refugee governance in the Middle East, which builds on substantial stakeholder engagement.
Effective start/end date1/05/1731/03/19


  • The British Academy


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