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SYRMAGINE – Syrian Imaginations of Europe

Refugees’ attempts to flee to a certain country are usually preceded by imaginations about possible destination countries. These imaginations not only contribute to refugees’ decisions where to seek asylum but also have an effect on how refugees experience realities when they arrive in the destination country. The research project ‘SYRMAGINE – Syrian Imaginations of Europe’ focuses on how Europe is imagined by Syrians settling in two of Syria’s neighbouring countries (Lebanon and Turkey) and examines how their imaginations affect their attitudes to seek asylum in European countries.

SYRMAGINE understands ‘geographical imaginations’ of Europe as subjective human conceptions of a geographical location and stresses the differences between ‘imagined regions’ and reality. While the project focusses on imaginations of Europe, it also includes the perceptions of those who do not aspire to migrate further, imaginations of other destination countries and of a return to Syria in comparison. The project hence wants to analyse the complicated and conflicted perceptions of European human rights standards in the Middle East and aims at giving an insight into how Syrians in Lebanon and Turkey perceive the meaning of asylum, especially in comparison to the situation in their current place of settlement. The project adopts a mixed-method approach combining a survey (n=400-800), 40 semi-directive interviews and an online ethnography.

SYRMAGINE contributes to the academic literature on the active role of imaginations in refugees’ decision-making and has two main objectives: 1) to investigate the relation between refugees’ imaginations and decision-making and to study how the present country of residence compares to Europe (and other countries) as a destination choice, 2) to examine how refugees inform themselves about social and political realities in European countries.

Period: August 1, 2017 - September 1, 2019