Global Conflict and the Refugee Crisis

Joint Block Seminar

The Haifa Center for German and European Studies and CGES Berkeley, University of Haifa

Professor Crawford, Professor emerita, Travers Department of Political Science, UC Berkeley

Katharina Konarek​, PhD Candidate, Haifa Center for German and European Studies



Other links


Course Requirements

Your Instructor


lecture outlines

statement on Plagiarism




Wars, conflict,persecution, state failure, and even climate change have forced more people than at any other time since records began to flee their homes and seek refuge and safety elsewhere. Most of the world’s 60 million refugees in 2015 were fleeing ethnic and religious conflicts. We will explore the central issues at stake for both refugees and host countries, including protracted refugee states, why refugees must take life-threatening journys once they have been forced from their homes, issues of resettlement, and the impact of the crisis in Europe. We will then focus on some of the root causes of the crisis in global ethnic and sectarian conflict, and the Syrian conflict as a case study, Finally, we will look to the future and the search for workable and robust solutions.


Seminar Program
Venue: University of Haifa

Friday, May 12, 2017

8:30-12:00               Session 1: Overview

This session covers the basics and provides an overview of:

  • the number of refugees and internally displaced persons
  • definitions of terms (refugees, forced migrants, Asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, etc.)
  • Where do refugees come from and where they are going?
  • historical overview, looking at refugees and asylum from antiquity until today, focusing more deeply on Jewish refugees, as well as the internal displacement of the Japanese in the United States during World War II
  • international legal issues as well as looking at the 1951 Law and the 1967 protocol, the broadening mandate of the UNHCR during the cold war, and the UNHCR’s widening definition of what constitutes a refugee.
  • the regions and crises producing refugees: Afghanistan, Central America, Myanmar, Nigeria, South Sudan, Eritrea, Syria and the Arab Middle East, with special attention to the regions producing refugees that flee to Israel.

12:00-14:00             Lunch in Haifa Downtown (Falafel Hanasi)

14:30-19:00             Field Trip 1 – The refugee hub in the South of Tel Aviv

  • Meeting with refugees from the Eritrean Women Community Center and Israeli activists in Levinski Park, the refuge hub of Tel Aviv
  • dinner at "Kitchen Talks"

Sunday, May 14, 2017

16:00-20:00             Session 2: Why don't refugees fly? A refugee needs four lives

In this session we will examine the crisis for the refugees themselves from four perspectives. The unit will be organized around the premise that refugees need four lives, in order to land on their feet and survive:
1) Refugees must first escape torture and death at home,
2) they must then escape life-threatening conditions as they flee to temporary safety
3) they must escape death on the journey to find asylum
4) they must survive danger and threat of deportation when they arrive to asylum-granting countries.

We address the question: “Why don’t refugees fly” when we examine the life-threatening journey to asylum-granting countries in Europe and North America. We will illustrate the crisis from the asylum seekers’ perspective by directly addressing the refugee crises in Israel and the decisions of the Israeli Supreme Court which twice struck down legislation regarding the treatment of African refugees in Israel.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

9:00-14:00               Field Trip 2 – Holot Refugee Prison in Israel

16:00–20:00            Session 3: How has the influx of refugees become a “crisis” for asylum-granting countries?

This session will focus on Israel and Europe, and primarily on Germany. We begin by looking at the situation in Israel: the influx of asylum seekers brings to light Israel’s struggle to consolidate its values as a Jewish and democratic state and square those values with security concerns. The government has erected a surveillance fence along the border with Egypt, Israel has refused to absorb Syrian refugees, and asylum seekers are treated as infiltrators under Israeli law. In Europe, refugees are arriving in a period of economic decline which migrants have the potential to mitigate. We will examine the current crisis in historical perspective, i.e. the 12 million ethnic Germans who fled or were deported from Eastern Europe after WW II, Turkish “guest workers,” and refugees from the Balkan wars. We will look at IMF data on refugees and the European labor market and policies that might facilitate integration. We can then turn to the experience of 2015 which exposed the weaknesses of EU institutions (Schengen, Dublin) and the contradictions of the EU’s asylum policy. We then turn to politics, the rise of xenophobic nationalism and the radical right, looking in particular at Germany and the division of the population between the two cultures of welcoming refugees and rejecting them. We will look at Angela Merkel’s changing policies and the current agreement with Turkey, as well as the current state of refugee integration in Germany.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

16:00 – 20:00   Session 4: Causes of the refugees crisis: conflict and
climate. Why do people flee?

In this session we will delve into the conflicts and forms of persecution that produce refugees. This section would be largely theoretical, drawing on the work on ethnic and religious conflict that I and others have done. We will begin by looking at who is being persecuted today and why, showing that most of today’s conflicts that produce large numbers of refugees are ethnic and religious in nature. Then we will examine theories of conflict from social psychology as well as evolutionary/primordial theories, religious exceptionalism, and constructivist theories, particularly those espoused by Crawford, Brubaker, Laitin, and Fearon. We will then turn to the question of disaster and climate refugees as a neglected cause of forced displacement. The focus here will be on the estimated 20 million refugees from Africa and Asia, and the fact that there is no international protection for these “refugees.”


Wednesday, May 24

(REMARK: We can hold this session in the Golan, in Majd Al Shams Community Center and then travel to the border)

9:00-14:00               Field Trip 3: Golan and the border with Syria

  • Visit of the Shouting Hill and the Valley of Tears (Majd Al Shams)
  • Meeting with Syrian representatives in Majd Al Shams
  • Visit of the border to Syria (Merom Golan/Qunaitra)

14:00-16:00             Druse Lunch in Majd Al Shams

16:00–20:00            Session 5: Syria: A Case Study in Conflict and Climate as causes of the refugee

In this session, we will take the theories and information from the previous session and use them as tools to dissect the causes of the Syrian war and why it has produced so many refugees.

  • What are the “necessary conditions” in the history of imperialism, nationalism, secularism, and authorianism that set the stage for the current Syrian crisis?
  • How did the drought of 2006 contribute to the crisis?
  • What is the role of “political entrepreneurs” in creating the “sufficient conditions” for the current war?
  • How did extremists, gangs, and the government’s shadow militia overcome moderates in the political process?
  •  How did the war become sectarian?
  • What is the role of outside forces and the international community?

20:00                      Syrian Dinner at a Druze home in Majd Al Shams

Sunday, May 28

16:00 – 20:00                    Session 6: Solutions and Conclusion

In this session we will review the course “takeaways” up to this point and look at possible solutions. These solutions can be divided into short-term responses to the humanitarian crisis of the refugees, medium-term solutions to the integration of refugees in host countries, including integration into the work-force, social integration, and combating right-wing xenophobia. Other medium-term solutions include strengthening EU institutions, solutions to protracted displacement, and economic development, safer routes to sanctuary, and the refugee cities approach. Longer-term solutions must address the current roots of the refugee problem: conflict and climate. Wars do end, peace building is possible, and environmental degradation can be mitigated.

20:00                                 Farewell Dinner