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Refugee crisis analyzed

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Catalina Diaz
LV Life Editor

Alexander Betts, director of the Refugee Studies Centre, highlighted the approximately 5 million Syrian refugees that have been forcefully displaced within their own country’s borders Wednesday in the Campus Center Ballroom. 

Betts, a professor at Green-Templeton College at the University of Oxford, was the speaker for the annual Benazir Bhutto and Ahmed Ispahani International Lectureship.

He discussed the political and social effects of forced migration, proposed an improved agenda to rethink the system and provided a segment called “What Can You Do,” that suggested localized changes that spotlight the examined issues.

Although many Syrian refugees hold degrees, their skills are disregarded in many of the countries they’ve fled to.

“Talented people are unable to contribute,” Betts said.

During the beginning of Betts’ lecture, he introduced current systems in place for Syrian refugees and the living options they are given after displacement.

Betts said there are more than 65 million refugees worldwide. He described three “choices” refugees are forced to make in order to survive, based on their host country and that country’s economic status.

Betts said that the first choice, called encampment, is the idea that refugee camps provide basic assistance for food and shelter but are a disadvantage because they don’t have access to jobs. Encamped refugees give up their basic right to move and work freely.

Choice two, or urban destitution, is when refugees live in areas where economic opportunities are offered, but have less access to basic assistance.

The last choice is the dangerous journey option, which he displayed with a map of countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Throughout the map were small black and red dots that formed large clusters. 

Red dots represented drownings that occurred during forced migrations, and the black dots represented missing refugees.

Betts proposed a solution to the refugee crisis, called a “positive vision.”

Betts said that there needs to be three different systems put in place: rescue, where safe havens are established; autonomy, making jobs and education available for everyone;and a route out of limbo, where he described reimagined resettlement and also an updated Visa system.

He described a moment where he experienced a “deep sense of inspiration,” while helping children in the Netherlands.

“Man doesn’t live on food and water alone,” Betts said. “He lives on hope.”

It was during experiences like this that Betts said he understands the will to succeed and that ambition comes from within.

“I thought it was incredibly compelling and insightful, and shed a glimmer of hope,” said senior political science major, Hagop Housbian.

He added that the biggest antagonist element in society’s understanding of the Syrian refugee crisis is ignorance.

“I would say it’s not a matter of when these people go back home, it’s a question of if they go back home,” Housbian said. “It creates a sense of urgency to help them find not just their homes, but themselves again, because the burden that is on them is personally is unimaginable.”

“Everyone has their own exclusive story – and so too is the case when it comes to immigrants,” Housbian said. “These people don’t choose to leave their home country, but they are forced to leave their country.”

During his proposal, Betts called for the economic integration of immigrants and refugees until they returned to their countries.

Housbian agreed with Betts’ ideas, but finds that with the cruel realities of the world, his optimism is funneled.

The understanding of the human factor was a theme in many attendees’ takeaways from Betts’ lecture.

“Living in a refugee camp, there is a need for basic necessities, but there is also a will to work, there is a basic will to want to do something with your life,” said junior political science major Jackie Ku.

“It’s reasonable why it gets overlooked, but it’s not excusable,” Ku said.

Catalina Diaz can be reached at

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