Sara Hefny

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Brown U.

Grant number

Gr. 9462

Approve Date

April 25, 2017

Project Title

Hefny, Sara M., Brown U., Providence, RI - To aid research on 'Refugees a(t) Risk: Vulnerability, Security, and Italy's Humanitarian Corridor,' supervised by Dr. Jessaca B. Leinaweaver

Preliminary abstract: In 2015, a humanitarian corridor was created in Rome by a consortium of Italian ecumenical organizations in response to the ‘European Migrant Crisis’ and to help mitigate the displacement of the nearly six million Syrians from their warring country. The Corridor, a two-year pilot project, was launched after lengthy negotiations with the Italian government and allows Syrian refugees in ‘particularly vulnerable conditions’ to enter Italy by plane under the protection of a humanitarian visa from refugee camps in Lebanon. That same year, the city of Paris suffered a series of mass shootings and suicide bombings in a deadly, one-night attack that was later attributed to the Islamic State, or Daesh. That the attackers had fought in Syria and some of them had returned to Europe among the flow of migrants and refugees reinvigorated the already present fear over border control and security in a climate of terrorism. Refugees, in the eyes of Europe and the West, presented a paradox as people simultaneously at risk and a risk. The proposed ethnographic project follows the workers within the Humanitarian Corridor as they prepare for, assess, select, and resettle this select group of refugees. Based on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Italy and Lebanon, this project explores how aid workers understand and use the criterion of vulnerability as a means of assessment within the context of human crisis. By examining the tensions between humanitarian responsibility and national security, this project interrogates the ways national and global discourses shape local understandings of refugee deservingness and how these understandings are mobilized in high-stakes aid.