UN Women Humanitarian work - Za'atari Refugee Camp

The Responsible Deal: where and how to best protect and integrate Syrian refugees?

"Global migration and human displacement are at the highest levels since the Second World war. UN statistics suggest tat around 1 billion people - or one in seven - now live outside of their country or region of origin, and human mobility is set to continue in the future. We pledge to link our academic work directly to pressing migration issues to contribute to evidence-based targeted, effective, and well-communicated policy measures."

Beirut Declaration, 7th November 2017

Responsible Deal pursues pathbreaking research on the regional and global evolution of the Syrian refugee ‘crisis’.

Through a programme of impact and policy engagement, it has provided decision-makers with cutting edge findings on the Syrian refugee population, foregrounding their concerns, interests and aspirations. The project has delivered multiple events and publications since its launch in 2016, at the high point of the crisis in Europe.


The Project

The Responsible Deal Project aims to understand the impact of humanitarian and asylum policies on refugee decision-making and integration, with a special focus on Syrian refugees. By foregrounding the perspectives and interests of Syrian refugees, we offer policy-makers with the tools they need to address the challenge of migration in the 21st century from a rights-based perspective.

The programme focuses on delivering sound policy recommendations in response to an assessment of three interrelated topics: integration and protection of asylum seekers in host countries, asylum policy design and responsibilities of the EU, national and the role of national and local actors  in refugee integration in host countries.

The project produced several research outputs, including policy recommendations, publications and expert roundtables. These are listed below.



Journals articles

Ala Alrababah, Daniel Masterson, Marine Casalis, Dominik Hangartner, and Jeremy Weinstein (forthcoming), The Dynamics of Refugee Return: Syrian Refugees and Their Migration Intentions, British Journal of Political Science (accepted for publication).    

In order to understand how refugee crises end we require an understanding of when and why refugees return home. We study the drivers of refugees’ decision-making using original observational and experimental data from a representative sample of 3,003 Syrian refugees in Lebanon. We find that conditions in a refugee’s home country are the primary drivers of return intentions. Refugees’ decisions are influenced primarily by safety and security in their place of origin, their economic prospects, and the availability of public services. Personal networks and confidence in information are also important. By contrast, the conditions in refugee-hosting countries––so-called “push” factors––play a much smaller role. Even in the face of hostility and poor living conditions, refugees are unlikely to return unless the situation at home improves significantly. In addition to the data from Lebanon, we explore the generality of our findings using a second original survey of Syrian refugees in Jordan.  

A pre-publication draft can be read here

Ali Ali (2021) Disaggregating Jordan’s Syrian refugee response: The ‘Many Hands’ of the Jordanian state, Mediterranean Politics.

This is a disaggregated study of different factors which shaped Jordan’s Syrian refugee response. It considers the response’s internal workings and how hosting a large displaced population from the Mediterranean state of Syria is distributed across different public institutions with the involvement of international actors. The argument is that an agenda intent on securing the status quo influences the response, but that it is not always coherently implemented by the many hands of the Jordanian state. The main aims are to resist the permanence of Syrians so as not to undermine the demographic balance that favours Trans-Jordanians; to secure income for hosting Syrians; and to limit the possibilities for formal Syrian economic competition with Jordanians. At the same time, and related to these aims, there are initiatives to render Syrians legible, and these legibility initiatives serve different goals depending on which hand of the state is enacting them. The paper is based on qualitative fieldwork conducted from December 2016 to March 2017 in Jordan. It features interviews with Jordanian officials from national and municipal institutions, and with staff from international organizations.

Ali al-Ali et. al (2021) What difference do mayors make? Municipal politics in the Syrian refugee response in Lebanon and Turkey.

 With the majority of refugees now in urban areas, mayors and municipal authorities have been recognized as increasingly important policy actors in the global refugee regime. However, there has been little systematic academic research exploring the conditions under which mayors make a difference to refugee-policy outcomes. Theoretically, the paper outlines a heuristic framework aimed at disaggregating key variables, including the independent influence of mayors, in shaping municipal-level outcomes. Empirically, the article assesses the role of municipal authorities and mayors in the two most numerically significant host countries for Syrian refugees: Turkey and Lebanon. It comparatively examines variation across six metropolitan municipalities to show that mayors matter because they may mediate the implementation of national policies and because they sometimes adopt supplementary refugee policies and practices at the municipal level, which may be more or less proactive or more or less restrictive than central-government policy.

Book Chapters

Ali al- Ali (2020) Displacement and state transformation; The coercion and systemic discarding of the Mandaeans and Palestinians of Iraq 2003–2010 This chapter examines the displacement of under-researched minority populations of Iraq who were targeted after regime change in 2003. It shows how the Palestinians of Iraq were portrayed—rightly or wrongly—to be loyal to the old order; while the Sabaean Mandaeans, an ancient religious minority, were marginalised and regularly targeted in post-Saddam Iraq, and what the implications were for displacement. The chapter makes a conceptual contribution with the notion of systemically discarded populations: groups deemed to be superfluous or threatening to a nascent political order that emerges after acute systemic transformations. Being systemically discarded is a process that involves exclusion and displacement. Displacement is not equated with forced migration, rather it is a process through which the displaced are subjected to increased constraints and threats in their daily lives. Forced migration is a possible outcome of this process. The chapter’s additional scholarly contribution is the introduction of concepts from moral philosophy to explain the coercive elements of the displacement process. The process is conceptualised as one with phases and counter-phases, during which the discarded and displaced populations use material and other resources available to them to resist exclusion and evade threat. The chapter is based on extended interviews with Iraqis who were resident in Syria during 2010 and 2011.

Ali al- Ali (2020) ‘Baghdad: War and Insecurity in the City’ in Cities at War: Global Insecurity and Urban Resistance.


Policy Briefs

How do state and civil society stakeholders in Jordan view the EU-Jordan compact?   January 2023

Mansur, Y, Yassin, N, and Mourad,Y., et al, 2023. How do state and civil society stakeholders in Jordan view the EU-Jordan Compact? Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI), American University Beirut.

Demagogy, improvisation, populism and politicization: the case of the EU-Lebanon compact  January 2023

Anouti, S, Yassin, N., Mourad, Y., Awab, Z., 2023. Demagogy, improvisation, populism and politization: the case of the EU-Lebanon Compact, Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI), American University Beirut. 

Turkey-Eu politics through the lens of civil and state actors  January 2023

Nimer, M., Arpacik, D., Yassin, N., Mourad, Y., 2023. Turkey-EU politics through the lens of civil and state actors, Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI), American University Beirut. 

Integration and Well-Being of Syrian Youth in Turkey

Rebecca Bryant and Maissam Nimer outline the findings of the Responsible Deal research into the lives and livelihoods of Syrian youth living in Turkey. These findings were presented at the closing conferences of the project in May and June 2022. 

Bryant Nimer Policy Brief Syrian Youth Turkey

Roundtable Discussion: Supporting Syrian Refugees

A note containing key points made at the Brussels expert roundtable co-hosted by the European Council of Foreign Relations (ECFR) on the 6th May 2022.

LSE ECFR Readout Brussels Expert Roundtable 2 (1)

Syrian Refugees in Global Context: Protection, Insecurity and Governance

 A note containing key points made at the public conference organised by on the 21st June 2022 at the RSA, London.

LSE Readout Responsible Deal Conference 21st June

Returning Home? Conditions in Syria, Not Lebanon, Drive the Return Intentions of Syrian Refugees

 A comprehensive report published by IPA’s Peace & Recovery Program with support of researchers from the Immigration Policy Lab (IPL). The report constitutes a representative survey of 3,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon from August-October 2019 to learn about their return intentions. It finds the conditions in Lebanon do not play an important role in predicting return intentions, but rather local conditions in people’s hometowns.

The Dynamics of Refugee Return: Syrian Refugees and Their Migration Intentions

A study on the drivers of refugees’ decision-making using original observational and experimental data from a representative sample of 3,003 Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The papers finds that conditions in a refugee’s home country are the primary drivers of return intentions.




Responsible Deal has organised 15 major conferences and workshops and 22 public events across the lifetime of the project (see ‘Policy Engagement and Impact Report’ for the full list). In 2022, we organised two major international conferences, the first took place in Brussels and the second was in London:  

Supporting Syrian refugees: Europe’s response to regional pressures, voluntary returns, and new global shocks. May 6 | Sofitel Brussels Europe

Syria’s neighbouring countries are acutely exposed to the knock-on effects of current global insecurity and energy and food price shocks. Prior to the Ukraine crisis, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey were already experiencing a range of economic, social and integration challenges in managing Syrian refugee populations. These conditions will be exacerbated by the conflict. European policymakers need to have a clear understanding of shifting dynamics to chart more effective policy-responses. Addressing the needs of refugees in the region is also central to building the basis for a sustainable peace in Syria and forms an interconnected part of the on-going crisis.

Held ahead of the discussions at the Sixth EU-UN Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria, this roundtable sought to assess shifting regional dynamics and a credible and values-based European response to the region’s ongoing refugee crisis.

A readout from the event can be read here. LSE ECFR Readout Brussels Expert Roundtable 2 (1)

Syrian Refugees in Global Context: Protection, Insecurity and Governance. 21 June | RSA London

After over a decade of war, crisis and authoritarianism, Syria continues to have one of the world’s largest refugee populations. With little prospect in sight for a return to stable conditions inside the country, its refugee populations face a range of on-going hardships and challenges.

A majority of Syria’s refugee population remain in the Middle East, notably Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan – all countries facing accelerating socioeconomic problems of their own. Furthermore, a series of intensifying global shocks are now unfolding, including the Ukraine-Russia War and the starkly different response to its refugee crisis in European states.

Against this background this one-day conference considered the lessons, legacies and current trajectories facing Syrian refugees, and the links (in terms of geopolitical alignments, civil society activity and migration governance) to the Russian war on Ukraine.

A readout from the conference can be read here. LSE Readout Responsible Deal Conference 21st Jun






 Professor Erik Berglof is the founder and Co-PI of the Responsible Deal project. He is currently Chief Economist at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and was previously a Professor of Practice and Director of the Institute of Global Affairs at the London School of Economics. 

Dr Rim Turkmani has acted as the Co-PI of the Responsible Deal project since January 2022. She is a Senior Fellow with LSE IDEAS, the Director of the LSE Syria Conflict Research Programme and the PI ‘Legitimacy and Citizenship in the Arab World.’

Professor Dominik Hangartner is a Professor of Public Policy at ETH Zurich and an Associate Professor in the Department of Government at LSE. He is also a Co-Director of the Immigration Policy Lab. Dr Hangartner’s research combines field work and statistics to evaluate and design migration and integration policies and political institutions.

Piroska Nagy Mohácsi is a Visiting Professor in practice at the Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa (FLIA) at LSE and an Academic Partner of Macroeconomic Advisory Group (MAG), New York. She is an international macroeconomist expert and has previously held senior roles at the IMF and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Dr Luke Cooper is a Senior Fellow at LSE IDEAS and has acted as a researcher and coordinator for the Responsible Deal project since January 2022. He has written widely on issues of nationalism and authoritarianism and his book, Authoritarian Contagion; the Global Threat to Democracy (BUP 2021) was published last year.

Dr Ali Ali is a Professor at the School of Global Studies, University of Sussex. He is also Co-Investigator of the ‘Protracted Displacement Economies GCRF’ project. He has previously held posts at the Institute of Global Affairs (LSE) and the Refugee Studies Centre (University of Oxford).

Prof. Eleonore Kofman is Professor of Gender, Migration and Citizenship at Middlesex University. She is co-Director of the Migration and Displacement stream of the UKRI GCRF Hub – Gender, Justice and Security (2019-2024), led by the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security and co-Investigator of the project Gendered Dynamics of Labour Migrations. For Responsible Deal she worked on return and onward refugee migration in Europe.


The Responsible Deal Project led joint research projects with several international and local institutions including:

Koç University

‘Integration and Well-Being of Syrian Youth in Turkey’ is an ongoing research project aimed at assessing the needs of Syrian refugee youth in Turkey across five cities and provision of concrete policy recommendations for their integration. Outputs of the project include a gender-based analysis of refugee youth needs in terms of education, labour market and health;  a mapping of the institutions that youth use to access opportunities; and concrete recommendations for harnessing the human capital represented by youth in Turkey and for responsibility sharing in Europe. The Principal Investigators of this project are Rebecca Bryant and Ahmet İçduygu.

American University of Beirut

The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy (IFI) and International Affairs is a project partner of The Responsible Deal Project. The work of IFI aims to inform policy making processes and influence public debate on refugee research and policy. It is led by Jospeh Bahout (Director) and Yara Mourad (Deputy Director).