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Led by by Refugee Law Lab Director Sean Rehaag, and Associate Director Petra Molnar

The project gathers academics, lawyers, and technologists at a Refugee Law Laboratory in a wing of York University’s Centre for Refugee Studies. This Lab will replicate the feel and energy of a law and tech start-up, bringing together researchers with expertise in law, data science, computer programming and statistics to examine the unique and interdisciplinary dimensions of legal analytics and AI in refugee law decision-making. This diverse team will interrogate the under-explored intersection of administrative decision-making and technological developments that have increasingly far-reaching impacts on human lives and human rights. The team will do so by working with one of the most comprehensive databases on refugee adjudication in the world (outside of databases maintained by governments or international organizations), which has been constructed by Professor Rehaag through prior SSHRC funded research, and which will be updated and expanded for this project. Specifically, the project aims to:

  1. create new substantive and methodological knowledge about refugee law decision-making by leveraging legal analytics and AI technologies
  2. explore the human rights implications of these new technologies in an era where those subject to these technologies encounter various intersecting vulnerabilities;
  3. test the viability of a public model for developing and deploying legal analytics and AI in legal decision-making in a way that counters, rather than exacerbates, power imbalances; and,
  4. provide training opportunities for students and emerging scholars who will go on to be leaders in this field.

Led by Prof. Jennifer Hyndman along with co-investigator Bronwyn Bragg, Postdoctoral Fellow

This SSHRC Partnership Engagement Grant seeks to unpack the links between the migration status of meatpackers and their experience of COVID-19. This project has three objectives:

  1. To produce new knowledge about the intersection of immigration and temporary migration policies and the health and safety of immigrant and migrant ‘essential’ workers.
  2. To identify the specific manifestations and impact of COVID-19 on immigrant and migrant workers in the meatpacking industry in Southern Alberta.
  3. To identify possible strategies, opportunities and challenges related to improving the health context of workers in meatpacking.

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Led by Prof. James Milner at Carleton University, along with CRS co-applicants Profs. Jennifer Hyndman and Dagmar Soennecken along with partners across Canada, USA, Kenya, Lebanon, Jordan, Australia and Tanzania

This is a team of researchers and practitioners committed to promoting protection and solutions with and for refugees. Their goal is to ensure that refugee research, policy and practice are shaped by a more inclusive, equitable and informed collective engagement of civil society. Through collaborative research, training, and knowledge-sharing, they aim to improve the functioning of the global refugee regime and ensure more timely protection and rights-based solutions for refugees. Their work is focused in the global South, which hosts 85% of the world’s refugees, and responds to the needs and opportunities identified by their partners in major refugee-hosting countries.

Led by Prof. Sean Rehaag

This project examines the legal and humanitarian implications of Canada’s use of executive powers to close the Canadian border to refugees. It also considers legal and policy strategies to ensure that responses to COVID-19 do not come at the expense of asylum seeker’s rights.

Led by Prof. Sean Rehaag in partnership with FCJ Refugee Centre

This project aims to assist FCJ in deciding how to best advocate to create additional paths to post-secondary education, and to then leverage this education to secure permanent residence status (PR) for enrolled students by working closely with students enrolled in this program and with other precarious status youth who are seeking to pursue a post-secondary education.

Led by Prof. Craig Damian Smith

This project brings together Political Science, Economics, and Migration Studies with civil society to examine pressing scholarly, policy, and social questions around refugee integration.

The Syrian refugee crisis has left governments and organizations in need of evidence-based policy for facilitating newcomer integration. Many states are considering adopting a version of Canada’s unique private sponsorship model, which allows groups of citizens to financially and legally support refugees who have been recommended for resettlement by UNHCR. The search for new models is a response to increasing anti-refugee sentiment, and specifically public opinion against government expenditure on large-scale influxes. Public opinion in Canada, on the other hand, remains largely in favor of resettling refugees given that private citizens play an active role in the resettlement process. Privately-Sponsored Refugees (PSRs) also have better integration outcomes than Government Assisted Refugees (GAR).

GARs are recommended for resettlement based almost exclusively on criteria of vulnerability. They have lower literacy rates, lower professional status, and less proficiency with Canada’s official languages. Whereas PSRs arrive to a dedicated sponsorship group, GARs rely almost exclusively on settlement case workers for support. In Toronto, the average case load per worker is around 70 families. GARs thus experience a dual barrier to integration.

While there is strong anecdotal evidence that social networks contribute to better integration, causal mechanisms are not well understood. We propose a randomized experiment to evaluate the impact of increased social ties between recently-resettled GARs and established Canadians. We work with a unique dataset and cohort of respondents through the Together Project.

The Together Project, based in Toronto, is a nonprofit civil society organization matches GARs with “Welcome Groups”, of five or more Canadians, emulating the social network support of the private sponsorship model, but with refugees who have already arrived. Because of the high number of new arrivals, not all GARs can be matched. We work in partnership with Together Project and the Munk School to implement a randomized design to select study participants for matching. By comparing those who are selected to those who are not, we will measure the causal impact of social ties on integration metrics including employment, language, education, and civic engagement. We will also examine the impact of the quality of social ties. Together Project makes its matches using a preference-ranking tool, not unlike a dating algorithm. A good match between GARs and Welcome Groups may be an important determinant of successful integration. We will collect data on outcomes one year after arrival in Canada.

This study has important policy implications. Private sponsorship may have benefits relative to government sponsorship, but it also may generate externalities in terms of negative perception of relatively lower-performing GARs. Our project will provide important evidence to policymakers as they consider the costs associated with resettlement options, and other governments and organizations who might consider replicating it. Second, our project can identify newcomers who benefit most from social networks, or the types of social network dynamics that positively affect the most cases. A long-term, rigorous analysis offers the opportunity to study these dynamics in real time. Finally, findings can show whether volunteerism can strengthen social ties for new arrivals and whether this leads to improved integration, and whether Canada’s two track resettlement model creates two tiered integration outcomes.


Led by Prof. Michaela Hynie

This research will compare how government-assisted refugee (GAR) and private-sponsored refugee (PAR) resettlement programs support long-term social integration pathways for refugees and the impact of these pathways on physical and mental health. Research will take place over a five-year period. Resettled refugees have poorer health than host populations, and studies show that social integration affects wellness; however, there is a lack of research examining how the experiences of settlement and integration contribute to the long-term health of refugees.“ Canada’s private sponsorship program for resettled refugees is unique in the world, and is of considerable interest to other countries, but its effectiveness relative to government sponsorship is largely unknown,” said Hynie. “This grant is an important opportunity for us to understand how, and under what conditions, the different resettlement programs in Canada support the long-term health and well-being of resettled refugees in Canada, and to gain a deeper understanding of the social determinants of refugee health.”

Led by Prof. Jennifer Hyndman

The overall aim of the project is to produce and share new knowledge about private refugee sponsorship in Canada. Since March 2016, and at the September 2016 UN Summit in New York City on refugees and migrants, the federal government has committed to ‘exporting’ its expertise about Canada’s unique private resettlement program for refugees. At present, however, very little is known about what characteristics of place and people are correlated with and sustain ongoing sponsorship by private citizens, whether in cities and more rural areas. This project will fill a gap in the scholarly literature, but will also have several applications in policy and practice. In 2016, Canada is expected to resettle 44,800 refugees (Casasola, 2016), more than ever before in a single year; almost half of these will be privately-sponsored in whole or part.

Led by  Dr. Antonio Sorge

This project examines the dynamics of an encounter among Italian-Canadian return migrants, refugees from the global south, and refugee rights advocates in rural Sicily. The research site is Cattolica Eraclea, a rural town in southeastern Sicily where property seized from the Mafia has been used to offer work and housing to refugees who have been resettled locally. At the same time, Italian-Canadian return migrants, primarily organized within the “Association Cattolica Eraclea,” a community and business association in Montreal, have over the past two decades settled and created a transnational dynamic in their town of origin or ancestry. This research will produce insights into an emergent vision of Sicily as a culturally hybrid zone defined by a history of cross-border flows, reflecting a process whereby Sicilians actively seek to recentre the Mediterranean Sea as the fount of the island’s cosmopolitan identity. The articulation of such a vision of Sicily is noteworthy within the context of the current clampdown on migration at the behest of a populist rightwing coalition government in Italy. As a site of both return migration and refugee resettlement, the town of Cattolica Eraclea offers the ideal location to examine this question.

Led by Prof. Ozgun Topak

This project examines the refugee vetting process. It examines the complex intersections between surveillance and humanitarianism and analyzes how, extreme surveillance practices, perhaps paradoxically, expands and becomes normalized through humanitarian initiatives such as refugee resettlement.

Led by Prof. Luann Good Gingrich

This study aims to measure social exclusion – in particular its intersecting, multidimensional, and relational dynamics – with the imperative to devise a meaningful and practical conception of social inclusion for policy formulation and service delivery. In close consultation with collaborators from three community partners (City of Toronto, Social Planning Toronto, and Caledon Institute), the PI and the two academic co-applicants are using secondary quantitative analysis of complex, large-scale datasets, informed by qualitative exploration, to achieve the following specific objectives: to measure the economic, spatial, and socio-political forms of social exclusion; to analyze how these forms of exclusion interact and reinforce one another; to examine social dynamics defined by race/ethnicity, immigrant status, age, gender, and sexuality, with regional comparisons; to detect mitigating factors and strategies; and to translate findings to facilitate targeted social policies and improved ground-level practice.

Led by Prof. Ranu Basu

This internationally-based research project examines a striking triangular link between Toronto, Canada and two cities in the global South (Kolkata, India and Havana, Cuba) to produce a timely new analysis of the interrelationship between the quality of state-based education, the subalterity of displaced migrants, and implications which these issues have for the urban public realm. State funded public education, long valued as a critical tool for reducing inequality, promoting economic mobility and advocating for social justice, can have an ongoing transformative effect on the evolution of the public realm. The ideologies, policies and practices of state-funded education distinctly shape various aspects of social justice, including the way urban spaces are produced and contested by those most vulnerable. Adopting a human rights approach, especially for subaltern communities with unique needs and vulnerabilities, has never been more critical in an era of continued neoliberal restructuring which is simultaneously characterized by global unrest, conflict, violence and increased mobility. This project is of particular relevance in reassessing Canada’s role in the global debates on public education as a transformative practice for social mobility and peace building.

Led by Prof. Christopher Kyriakides

Focusing on the 'Syrian refugee crisis,' this two-year project investigates the impact of refugee reception discourses on the intra/inter-ethnic identities of Syrian-origin citizens resident in Canada and the United States. Refugee reception discourse is public speech (written or oral) which may stereotype
refugees as mistrusted national others. The project examines the effects of 'Syrian refugee' stereotypes on Syrian-origin Canadian and American citizens.

Led by Dr. Craig Smith

This is a study exploring relationships between refugee legal aid, quality of counsel, the fairness and efficiency of asylum procedures, and access to justice for refugee claimants in Canada.

Led by Dr. Kathryn Dennler

This project uses mixed methods research, drawing on data from federal agencies, government documents about deportation of refused refugee claimants, and interviews with refugee lawyers and consultants who have experience contesting deportations. The goal is to investigate deportations of
refused refugee claimants: the steps involved in the deportation process, the risks and opportunities at each step, and the success rates of legal remedies to deportation. The findings will be shared with service providers, advocates, and refused refugee claimants.

Led by Prof. Michaela Hynie

The goal of this project is to support access to more equitable, effective and appropriate virtual mental health services for refugee newcomers across Canada. Anxiety about COVID-19 is high and is negatively impacting mental health (Galea, Merchant, & Lurie, 2020). Immigrants report more COVID-related anxiety than other Canadians (LaRochelle-Cote & Uppal, 2020) and are more likely to be high-risk essential workers (Turcotte & Savage, 2020). Among immigrants, refugees may be the most vulnerable to elevated distress, while also facing the greatest cultural and structural barriers in accessing mental health services (Byrow et al., 2020). Identifying and addressing the accessibility of mental health care for this population will benefit all immigrants, who often share some, if not all, of the same risk factors and barriers.

Led by Prof. Sean Rehaag, co-applicant Prof. Benjamin Perryman (University of New Brunswick) and collaborator Air Passenger Rights (APR)

This project will increase understanding about how the eTA enables overseas racial profiling and how eTA revocations are linked to refugee interdiction.

The project will:

  1. Produce an open-access article examining the operation of the Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) and considering how Canada racially profiles travellers to prevent refugees from reaching safety. This will be the first article to consider the eTA since it was implemented.
  2. Research and draft complaints to the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Committee to Eliminate Racial Discrimination to show how eTA-enabled racial profiling practices breach international law.
  3. Bring public attention to the eTA, the use of new border technologies to racially profile, and the fact that Canada works to intercept refugees on the basis of their race through an op-ed and strategic media engagement.

Led by Prof. Saptarishi Bandopadhyay

The controversial category of ‘environmental refugees’ threatens to overwhelm existing refugee protection frameworks directed at victims of political persecution. According to the UN, in 2018, some 17.2 million people in 148 countries were displaced by disasters. As things stand, political efforts,
legal frameworks, and scientific governance policies are failing to address the problem. States routinely deny legal protection to environmental refugees by viewing them as victims of environmental degradation and ‘natural’ disasters rather than of political persecution. This is a powerful master narrative that has been normalized by governmental declarations, expert analyses, political rhetoric, and media reports. By contrast, recent scholarship has shown, Climate Change will produce vicious cycles of armed conflict, political persecution, and environmental collapse around the world.

The project's primary objective is to produce an interdisciplinary history of this crisis that will critically examine this master narrative segregating ‘nature’ and ‘politics’ to explain when and why it emerged, who it serves, and how it has contributed to the present displacement crisis.


Website: If you've made a refugee claim, you need to :: Meet Gary

Led by Dr. Hilary Evans Cameron, the goal of the project was to increase the accessibility of an English-language website that provides key legal information to refugee claimants. The website’s text was viewed by an editor who specializes in drafting ‘plain language’ legal education materials, and then the site was translated into the four other languages spoken by the majority of refugee claimants in Canada.

Website: Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) – Making educational programs available where refugees need them

The Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) Project aimed to make educational programs available where refugees need them. In the Global South there are currently some 15.2 million people caught in refugee situations, often for ten years or more as an outcome of war, human rights violations, and/or persecution in their home countries. Attending university or accessing other tertiary degree programs has been almost impossible. CRS faculty Wenona Giles and Don Dippo led this project.

Website: Syria Response and Refugee Initiative (2015-2019)

In 2015 the University launched its Syria Response and Refugee Initiative, led by a project team of students and recent York graduates until its conclusion in April, 2019. The project was hosted and strongly supported by the Centre for Refugee Studies (CRS) and its staff since its inception, with financial support from the Provost’s Office and Osgoode Hall Law School. Both the Osgoode and CRS communities generously shared their time, facilities, knowledge and resources with the SRRI’s staff and project participants, while the entire campus mobilized behind sponsorship and other efforts.

Website: Refugee Research Network

The Refugee Research Network (RRN)was created to mobilize and sustain a Canadian and international network of researchers and research centres committed to the study of refugee and forced migration issues and to engaging policy makers and practitioners in finding solutions to the plight of refugees and displaced persons. This initiative built on previous efforts towards establishing a global network of researchers in the field of refugee and forced migration studies funded by the Canadian SSHRC Knowledge Cluster program. Prof. Susan McGrath C.M. led this project.

Final Project Report

Website: Forced Migration and Big Data

This two-year research project brought together a unique interdisciplinary network of leading social and computer scientists from three universities (York, Wilfrid Laurier and Georgetown) working with humanitarian experts (including UNHCR Canada and CARE Canada) to improve humanitarian
responses to displaced people. Using ‘big data’ about Iraq drawn from Georgetown’s vast, unstructured archive of over 700 million extended open-source media articles (EOS) supplemented with other data sources including qualitative interview data of humanitarian workers, the main objective was to refine computer analytic tools and theories of migration to identify early indicators of forced displacement. Being able to anticipate who is being displaced and to where will assist humanitarian actors in planning for and responding to their needs. Ideally, the displacement can be prevented; however, an early warning can possibly provide safe corridors for escape and facilitate the effective and efficient pre-positioning of shelter and basic supplies to improve the conditions of those fleeing. Prof. Susan McGrath C.M. was the lead on this project.

International social work education has become a priority among Canadian schools of social work and one of the strategies to achieve this goal is the development of joint research ventures. This research partnership was a joint venture among three Canadian Universities and the National University Rwanda that will promote professional social work education and practice in Rwanda and inform global social work practices, knowledge and curricula. The expected outcomes included the generation of new social work knowledge that incorporates indigenous knowledge and methods with international social work theory and practice; the building and strengthening of partnerships between and among Canadian and Rwandan institutions, practitioners and researchers; the local support of social work practice and education; and, finally, the improvement of the well-being of the people of Rwanda. This project contributed to an emerging body of knowledge in Canadian concerning social work engagement in a globalized world. As such, it helped to inform current issues and debates pertaining to the indigenization of social work knowledge which has direct implications for developing post-colonial social work practice with Aboriginal peoples in Canada and the social inclusion of immigrants and refugees in our context as well as applications of best practice as part of international partnerships. Prof. Susan McGrath C.M. was the lead on this project.

Website: The Indochinese Refugee Movement 1975-80 and the Launch of Canada's Private Refugee Sponsorship Program – Conference

The Centre for Refugee Studies and the Canadian Immigration Historical Society are working together on a multi-pronged project that will review the historic significance and contemporary relevance of the 1975-80 resettlement of Indochinese refugees though the Private Sponsorship Program. This initiative was led by Prof. James C. Simeon.

Website: Critical Issues in International Refugee Law (CIIRL) II

The Critical Issues in International Refugee Law Research Workshop was part of the “Refugee Law” Research Clusters of the Refugee Research Network (RRN), led by Prof. James C. Simeon.  It brought together distinguished Superior and High court judges, legal scholars, leading academics as well as senior governmental and international organizations officials, specifically from the UNHCR, but also other UN agencies, and other interested parties, to consider a limited number of critical issues in international refugee law.

Website: CARFMS – ORTT

The Online Research and Teaching Tools website provides the public at large with easy and ready access with the information, methods and techniques required in order to excel in both their research and teaching in the interdisciplinary field of refugee and forced migration studies.

Website: Centre for Social Work Education and Practice – Synthesizing Local & International Social Work Practice in Rwanda

This research project, led by Prof. Susan McGrath C.M. built on an established partnership of Rwandan and Canadian Schools of Social Work that share a commitment to social justice and university/community collaborations.