PhD Studentship - Sexual and Gender-based Violence during the Refugee Journey: Vulnerabilities, Inequalities and Responses

University of Birmingham - School of Social Policy

Location: Birmingham

This PhD studentship is aligned with the Europe and Global Challenges funded project Sexual and gender-based violence during the refugee journey: vulnerabilities, inequalities and responses. This project runs for three years from 1/1/18 and aims to explore the resilience of Syrian refugees who have experienced sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) on the refugee journey. With the advent of the Syrian conflict in 2011 and resultant refugee flows of a scale not seen since World War II, responses to supporting refugees fleeing from conflict have needed rethinking as the situation began to be described as a “crisis”. Countries adjacent to Syria received millions of refugees with initial attempts to build temporary accommodation centres ineffective, and the majority of those displaced residing in cities. As they crossed into Europe as asylum seekers or irregular migrants, requirements for housing and public services grew rapidly and policymakers, the media and the public engaged in heated debates on appropriate responses. Several countries tightened border-control and introduced policies to limit rights to family reunion reduce access to services and to out-source responsibilities to countries outside Europe.

State responses to forced migration revealed several inadequacies in emergency management of humanitarian crises. None of the collaborative efforts to overcome the challenges of forced migration addressed difficulties encountered by vulnerable groups. Understanding the needs of vulnerable groups, especially women and children, has become urgent, not only because they now represent over half of the displaced, but also because of their increasing vulnerability within host communities.

The scale of the refugee crisis has not allowed for the development of appropriate services and facilities, meaning those who have experienced sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) lack the opportunity to seek treatment. Experiences in detention, the authorities’ culture of disbelief and the insistence on repeated re-telling of SGBV experiences, can further traumatise individuals (Medical Foundation 2004). The consequences of SGBV can be profound if treatment is not received or is inappropriate. Undisclosed SGBV (Pittaway & Bartolemei 2001) and associated PTSD (Phillimore 2011) may account for refugee women’s poorer health outcomes compared with men’s (Cheung and Phillimore 2016). Through the process of resettlement, victims/survivors meet barriers to service uptake–including services’ inability to respond to the complexities of refugees’ SGBV experiences (Vaughan et al. 2016), or to understand the ways in which survivors can be resilient and the support they need to enhance that resilience.

Applicants should have a good first degree and have received training in research methods. They may have a Masters degree in a related field with a disciplinary focus from the social sciences or a relevant medical science. They will also be able to demonstrate excellent research skills either gained through working in the field or through an MA/MSC programme. They will possess excellent interpersonal skills and awareness of how to work with vulnerable respondents including understanding ethical considerations associated with such work. They will have a demonstrable interest in working with refugees and/or survivors of sexual or gender based violence. Ideally, they will speak Arabic and have some knowledge about, or experience of, the border countries currently offering sanctuary to Syrian refugees. Candidates will also have the opportunity to undertake part of their fieldwork in one of the project partner countries, namely Turkey, Sweden or Australia.

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Midlands of England