Well, 2020 didn’t go exactly as we had planned!
Due to the COVID-19 disruption, the Centre for Refugee Studies had to move to remote operations. We all scrambled to learn how to teach, learn, conduct research, share knowledge, and undertake administrative tasks virtually. Many CRS events had to be cancelled or postponed, including our 2020 summer course on refugees and forced migration. Additionally, research travels and visits were interrupted.
While most of us have faced disruptions in various ways, those disruptions have not been experienced evenly by all members of our community. People facing disproportionate challenges included those with care responsibilities, serious financial difficulties, less than ideal workspaces, medical conditions, and those with other pre‐existing challenges that were exacerbated by the pandemic.
Tough times indeed! However, CRS is a resilient and creative community. We have found ways to keep our Diploma and Certificate programs going, have experimented with online learning pedagogies, have held many remote CRS Seminars, and have co-hosted events with many partner organizations. In doing so, we have learned valuable lessons about opportunities to make CRS research events more accessible to people worldwide. Many of our researchers continue to forward their research agendas – and we are doing what we can to support those efforts.
Among the highlights from this past year include the new Refugee Law Laboratory that we have established at CRS, in partnership with Osgoode Hall Law School, with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. We are also proud that several CRS faculty and external affiliates secured funding to urgently study intersections between COVID-19 and forced migration, including important research on refugee access to virtual mental health services. The CRS-hosted journal, Refuge, has published a special issue on the pandemic. Our affiliates also put forward several successful grant applications involving partnerships with non-profit organizations in the refugee field – including some led by emerging scholars who do not yet have tenure track positions. This past year, we also awarded the inaugural Anthony Richmond Scholarship for graduate student research on forced migration and environmental change. The first award went to a York University student studying in Dadaab, Kenya, via the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees program.
In addition, we are very pleased that former CRS Director, Jennifer Hyndman, has taken on a new leadership role in research at York University, and we are looking forward to working with her. We have also made substantial progress in renewing the CRS Charter, and we expect successful completion of the rechartering process in the coming months. We are also looking forward to hosting the annual CRS Graduate Student Conference, which is being co-organized with students at the Centre for Excellence in Research on Latin America and the Caribbean. Finally, we are in the process of planning a virtual version of the annual CRS Howard Adelman Lecture in the early summer term.
So, as we embark on 2021, CRS has lots on the go, as always. We are hopeful that we will finally reconnect with our community in-person later this year – and we eagerly anticipate a celebration to mark the occasion! Still, we recognize that things remain challenging for many CRS faculty, staff, students, and affiliates. If there are ways that CRS can help members of our community navigate those challenges, please feel free to reach out.
Director, Centre for Refugee Studies
Director, Refugee Law Laboratory
Support research relating to refugees and other displaced people: https://crs.info.yorku.ca/support