My Forced Identity: What’s next for refugee youth in the Middle East?


Over the last few decades, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has witnessed an unprecedented level of violence and conflict, a situation escalated by the Arab Spring. The refugee and humanitarian situations of Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Yemen and Libya have had colossal social and economic consequences for the region as a whole.  The MENA region currently hosts the largest number of displaced persons across the globe, home to 16.8 million refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) (including 5.4 million Palestinian refugees); this number represents nearly 25% of a shocking 68.5 million displaced persons worldwide. 

The ongoing civil war in Syria now in its eighth year has generated the biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and over 10.9 million have been forced to leave their homes in fear of their safety. Neighboring countries have absorbed a huge influx of Syrian refugees since the start of the conflict- Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan absorbed 4.8 million refugees alone. Moreover, Lebanon currently hosts the highest number of refugees per capita worldwide; home to over one million registered refugees- one in four people is a refugee.

With many predicting that the civil war in Syria is nearing an end and hoping that regional stability will soon prevail, it will still inevitably bring with it a new wave of uncertainty. An uncertainty for refugees, their host countries and home countries. This panel will focus on opening dialogue around “What’s next for refugee youth?” Is it realistic to assume that after several years in exile that these young adults would want to return to home? If so, what would their future look like, not only for themselves but also for their families and communities? If repatriation becomes the only solution what would “return” look like? Are we looking at the very real possibility of forced return?

The panel will endeavor to highlight three main perspectives: that of policy makers, host communities, and refugee youth. Only by bringing together these three angles, can we begin to have an honest, albeit intensely difficult conversation about the realities that refugee youth are likely to face over the coming years. The hope is that we discuss ways in which we can prepare for what will come next, and ensure that refugee youth do not become a lost generation of youth, forced only to bear an identity born by war.


  1. Current context: To highlight the Syrian refugee crisis and the main obstacles currently faced from three main perspectives: that of policy makers, host communities, and refugee youth.
  2. Anticipated obstacles: To provide anticipated critical obstacles envisaged by policy makers, host communities and refugee youth over the coming years.
  3. Suggested solutions: To suggest prioritized solutions from all three perspectives and how they envisage these solutions moving forward in the current context.




Co-chair: Mohamed Abu Asaker        Co-chair: Dahlia Maarouf

Audience participation
During this panel, we will request for audience participation. There are currently countless obstacles faced by both refugee youth and their host countries across the MENA region, and we understand that no two host communities are the same. However due to the breadth of this topic we would like harness the skills, knowledge and expertise of all involved to think of realistic and sustainable solutions for refugee youth over the coming years.

The topic for this panel is a vast and complex one, and as such, we would suggest that members of the audience who would like to contribute stay focused on the following themes;

  • Solutions moving forward: How can we better prepare refugee youth to rebuild their lives, homes and communities?
  • Refugee youth: With only 1% of refugees worldwide having access to higher education and the reality that there already exists a ‘lost generation’ of youth whose needs are not being addressed. Should the for example the Syrian war end in the near future, and these youth return, whether voluntarily or unwillingly, who will rebuild Syria?
  • Lesson learnt from the past: Can we learn from previous examples of mass forced migration in the region such as the Palestinian case?