York’s Centre for Refugee Studies hosts summer course

The Centre for Refugee Studies (CRS) at York University is hosting its 12th annual summer course in refugee studies this week at the Keele campus. The course, which began on June 5, runs until June 13. The eight-day program offers postgraduate training in refugee issues for up to 70 practitioners from inside and outside government who work on some aspect of refugee protection or assistance. The course includes panel discussions, case studies, a simulation exercise and lectures from international experts. A York University/Centre for Refugee Studies Certificate is awarded upon successful completion of the program.


Above: The exodus of refugees following the Rwandan refugee crisis

This year’s session brings together a variety of experts in refugee issues to discuss a diverse range of issues including humanitarian emergencies and assistance, the state of refugee camps, disarmament, Canadian government policies on refugees, and advocacy for refugees.

One of the course presenters is William Deng Deng, a panelist in yesterday’s presentation titled “Return, disarmament, reconciliation and reconstruction”. Deng Deng, a York alumnus, is part of a UN contingent currently working to disarm rebels in Congo. 

“William Deng Deng is a Sudanese refugee to Canada,” recounted Peter Penz, director of the Centre for Refugee Studies, before yesterday’s session. “He obtained his undergraduate degree at York in political science in 1995 and his masters degree in environmental studies in 1998, while being associated with the Centre for Refugee Studies.

Right: William Deng Deng (right) accepts a rifle from a Hutu rebel

“He went to work for the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) as an intern and then on contract to Rwanda doing environmental rehabilitation with returning refugees. He also served as environmental consultant in some other locations in Africa,” said Penz. “Deng Deng was then contracted by the UN Peacekeeping Office to disarm Hutus in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and to persuade the rebels to return to Rwanda. That’s his current work. I believe he was part of the UN contingent that recently came under heavy fire by a rebel group. I should add that Deng Deng was one of very few survivors of a massacre as a school child.”

In addition to Deng Deng, some of the other presenters at the course, and their topics, include:

Ogenga Otunnu, a professor of African history, refugee studies and contemporary global issues at DePaul University in Chicago, on “World refugee movements: the root causes and consequences of forced migration”. He has also taught African history and refugee studies at York University and has published on refugee crises, conflict resolution and genocide in Africa.

David Paul Lumsden, a medical anthropology professor at York University, on “Experiencing and embodying exile: a medical anthropology perspective”.

Alan Simmons, professor of sociology and Fellow of the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean at York, on “Refugees in globalization”.

Rupen Das, director of humanitarian assistance for World Vision Canada, on “Complex humanitarian emergencies and emergency assistance”.

Suzanne Hurley, a civil engineer with over a decade of experience working on water supply projects in Togo, Zambia, Malawi and Zaire and the 2,000th person to graduate from York’s master of environmental studies program, on “Refugee camps with special reference to eastern Congo”.

Reem Bahdi, a professor of legal process, feminist legal theory and torts at the University of Windsor Faculty of Law, on “Long-term refugees with special reference to Palestinians”.

Tom Clark, an external CRS associate, who coordinated the CRS Summer Course on Refugee Issues from 1993 to 1998, on “The global refugee regime”. Clark, currently retired, was the national coordinator, for 17 years, of the former Inter-Church Committee for Refugees, analyzing Canadian and international policies and practices, and proposing alternatives.

Martin Jones, a graduate student at Osgoode Hall Law School and editor of the Journal Refuge, on “The Convention definition of ‘refugee’ and Canada’s asylum policy”.

Obiora Okafor, a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, on “Asylum post 9/11”. Okafor specializes in public international law, refugee law, and international human rights, and is the author of Redefining Legitimate Statehood (Kluwer, 2000) about the crisis of legitimacy currently facing post-colonial and other states.

Jahanshah Assadi, UNHCR Representative in Canada, on “Refugees and the UNHCR”.

Francisco Rico Martinez of Amnesty International on “Reflections on refugee advocacy”.

Kamel Moriane, UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees, on “The UNHCR: questions & answers”. 

Peter Penz, director of the Centre for Refugee Studies, on “The ethics of forced migration”.

About The Centre for Refugee Studies at York

The Centre for Refugee Studies is engaged in research on refugee issues. The centre’s goal is to inform public discussion as well as policy development and practice innovation by international, governmental, advocacy and service organizations as well as to support teaching in refugee and migration studies. Refugee studies is conceived in broad terms, as being concerned with the displacement of populations and individuals across and within borders, for reasons of persecution, expulsion, violence, violation of fundamental human rights, and loss of essential human security and livelihood.

York’s Centre for Refugee Studies work covers not only accommodation, protection, and assistance for refugees through asylum, settlement, resettlement, repatriation, integration and reintegration, but also the prevention of displacement. The centre’s approach is necessarily interdisciplinary and respects diversity in perspectives.