Caitlin Procter. 'Here We Are the Walking Dead': Understanding the Migration Aspirations of Refugee Youth in Gaza


About the talk

After a decade of isolation imposed by Israel’s blockade, many young Gazans have had enough. Israeli military operations over the past eight years have ravaged an already debilitated infrastructure in Gaza. Most recently, the 2014 ‘Operation Protective Edge’ resulted in the death of 2000 Palestinians, the destruction of 18,000 homes, and the internal displacement of over a third of the Gazan population. In April this year, Gaza’s sole power plant shut down when it ran out of fuel reserves. This left the majority of the population without electricity for 20 hours a day, and resulted in 110 million litres of raw and poorly treated sewage flowing into the Mediterranean sea on a daily basis, due to a lack of energy to treat it. Combined with the constrictions of life under Hamas rule, the regular closure of the Rafah crossing by Egypt and the political tensions between the Hamas government and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, the UN argue that the Gaza strip could be ‘uninhabitable’ by 2020. As one young refugee put it, ‘we are not surviving, we are not even functioning – here we are the walking dead’. Amidst this political turmoil, unemployment has become a defining feature of life. While the majority of young people are highly educated, according to the World Bank 60% of 15-29 year olds in Gaza are unemployed. Policy makers and agencies are increasingly focussed on the risk of unemployed youth recruitment into Islamic-State affiliated groups, mainly due to the income that membership of such groups provides. Drawing on fieldwork conducted in Gaza in 2017, this talk explores the implications of protracted unemployment for refugee youth in Gaza. Presenting a range of responses to the unemployment crisis, it will highlight the aspirations of young refugees who seek to migrate out of Gaza, the strategies they engage in to navigate the system of closure, and the resulting shift in political narratives that are emerging among this generation. 


Caitlin Procter currently holds a Visiting Research Fellowship at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. She is a DPhil candidate in the Department of International Development at the University of Oxford, where her doctoral research is based on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork examining the impact of settler colonial state structures on young refugees in Palestine. During her fieldwork, Caitlin held a visiting fellowship at Birzeit University in the West Bank, where she founded the Palestine Junior Research Network. Alongside her PhD Caitlin read for a Diploma in International Human Rights Law at the University of Nottingham. Prior to her doctoral research, she worked as a Policy and Research Officer for the UNHCR in Geneva.  


Contact Information

Iain Blair
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