Trajectories of the Syrian diaspora in Europe

Project coordinator: Joshka Wessels

Little research has yet been undertaken to understand the newly emerging Syrian diaspora in Europe. The growing number of Syrian refugees in Europe is already impacting political landscapes in both transit and recipient countries. This project explores the everyday lives of Syrians who started to arrive in Europe in 2012 and aims to understand their trajectories, personal histories and key challenges that Syrian refugees face in establishing their new lives in Europe. In particular, this project investigates the lives of those Syrian refugees who come from drought stricken rural areas in Syria and the reasons why they fled to Europe. To increase this understanding, the project will bring together in-depth Syria scholarship and sustainable development studies, media and film studies and forced migration/refugee studies.

One of the reasons for the Syrian uprising that has increasingly been mentioned in academic research is the occurrence of climate change and prevalent droughts in the MENA region. More research in this relationship with the Syrian crisis is needed and a clear definition of what constitutes a “climate change refugee” is currently not agreed upon. The main theoretical question of this project therefore is if and in what perspective the influx of refugees arriving at the European continent can be placed within the framework of “environmental migration”. What climate change refugees have in common, is the complex but determinable relationship between environmental factors and migration, which calls for policy-oriented research that can provide grounds for effective conflict and resource governance improvements and expansion of international laws for the protection of these type of refugees.


Due to its unchartered territory, the research will include an extensive exploratory and cross-disciplinary approach into the topic. It combines field methods from social sciences, media studies and migration studies. The project will make use of digital research methods and ethnographic film as main tools to enhance the qualitative methodology. The fieldwork will be using ethnographic film, audio recordings and a mixed method approach involving desk-research and multi-sited ethnography. The ethnographic method also includes several frames of analysis, historical awareness, and attention to local contexts, trajectories and the lived experience. This includes the societal and political context that shapes the discursive narration with its semiotics and signs in the form of language, images and sounds, and the possible connotations connecting to them.