Panel discusses fate of Syrian refugees at Konover Auditorium

The Syrian Civil War has displaced millions of Syrians and their fate has been the subject of intense debate in parliaments and congresses across the world. That debate was continued Thursday evening at the Konover Auditorium, where panelists gathered to talk about what the world is doing to try to solve the problem today.

The panel was slated to have three speakers that was followed with a question and answer session. However, Dr. Anne Sa’adah, the Joel Parker Professor of Law and Political Science at Dartmouth College could not attend due to a family emergency.

The other two panelists, Dr. Jeff Crisp from Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Centre and Dr. Zaid Eyadat, a professor in residence within the University of Connecticut’s Department of Political Science and Human Rights Institute, provided extensive insight and answered numerous question about the refugee crisis affecting Syria and the dozens of other countries in the region

Crisp was the head of policy development and evaluation for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, an agency within the United Nations that is mandated to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide according to the UNHCR’s website.

While he did not have long to speak, Crisp was succinct in detailing a five point action plan to address the crisis. He was also very critical about not only the international community, but of the UNHCR, but with equal measure identified what those mistakes were and how to correct them in order to resolve the crisis.

“The humanitarian response system is at a breaking point,” Crisp said.

Following Crisp was Eyadat, who agreed with Crisp on several points throughout the lecture. An expert on international and comparative politics according a biography on a flyer handed out at the event, Eyadat touched on the influence of the international community as well as criticizing global response, but lending reason to those criticisms. He detailed instances that illustrated the desperate positions refugees find themselves throughout the refugee camps in the region.

For example, refugees have gone as far as arranging marriages with their children to wealthy outsiders, rationalizing that it will keep them safe and get them out of the camps.  

“I think the principle thing that I would say that for a conflict that’s so geographically and culturally far away is that it is very easy for outsiders to view the topic as unimportant and alien to us [in the U.S],” Lucas Bladen, a first-semester freshmen political science and human rights major said. “This presentation was good at humanizing the conflict in Syria right now.”

“I found the panel fully intriguing and thought-provoking in all respects. The challenge of having such a panel is that it focuses on a still lingering and burning global problem that is changing shape almost every day with a plethora of factors to be accounted for,” Sercan Canbolat, a Fulbright Ph.D. student within the political science department said. “The Q and A section was quite vibrant and there were many compelling questions posed by the UConn students.”


Matthew Gilbert is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.gilbert@uconn.edu.