Open Borders, Local Closures: Municipal Curfews and the Lebanese Response to the Syrian Refugee Influx

Tuesday, February 04, 2020 at 12:30pm to 2:00pm

Building 9, 451
105 MASSACHUSETTS AVE, Cambridge, MA 02139

Part of the Myron Weiner Seminar Series on International Migration with guest speaker Lama Mourad

With the largest refugee population per capita in the world, Lebanon now hosts at least 1.1 million refugees alongside a local population of approximately four million. Up until late 2014, the Lebanese government maintained what has been called a policy of “no policy”: maintaining de facto open borders, little regulation of Syrians within its territory and refusing to build any formal camps to house the population. In light of this apparent state absence, municipalities emerged as the "frontline" actors in the governance of Syrians on Lebanese territory. Most prominently, municipalities across the country adopted restrictive curfews targeting Syrians.

This talk will explore her paper which seeks to explain why certain municipalities adopted curfews, while others did not?  Drawing on evidence from an original dataset of spatial, demographic, electoral, and budgetary data on over 1000 Lebanese municipalities and 120 interviews and ethnographic evidence from a year of fieldwork, she finds that the variation in the implementation of municipal curfews targeting Syrians is explained not by factors related to the presence of Syrians themselves, such as demographic pressure and inter-ethnic dynamics, but rather by local electoral competition and the the spill-over effect of this competition on neighbouring areas. Contrary to much of the expectations in the literature on host-refugee dynamics and ethnic politics, she argues that local responses are driven primarily by local leaders’ need to project a sense of order to residents. In areas where neighbouring towns and villages have recourse to discriminatory curfews, mayors and municipal leaders faced greater pressure to act, and curfews present a relatively low cost policy mechanism through which to alleviate fears and project authority.

About the speaker:
Lama Mourad is a postdoctoral fellow at Perry World House, University of Pennsylvania, and a SSHRC-postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and University of Pennsylvania. She received her PhD from the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. In 2018-2019, she was a pre-doctoral fellow with the Middle East Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School of Government's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.  She specializes in comparative politics and the politics of migration, with a regional focus on the Middle East.

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Co-sponsors:  MIT Center for International Studies

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Free and open to the public | Refreshments will be served

Sponsored by the Inter-University Committee on International Migration
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The Inter-University Committee on International Migration
Since its establishment in 1974, the Inter-University Committee on International Migration has been a focal point for migration and refugee studies at member institutions, which include Boston UniversityBrandeis UniversityThe Fletcher School of Law and DiplomacyHarvard UniversityMITTufts University, and Wellesley College. The committee is chaired by MIT as a program of the Center for International Studies (CIS).

Migration Seminar Series
During each academic year, the Committee sponsors a seminar series on international migration, The Myron Weiner Seminar Series on International Migration, held at MIT's Center for International Studies. The seminars explore factors affecting international population movements and their impact upon sending and receiving countries and relations among them.


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