A portrait of the social inclusion and exclusion of Syrian refugee men in Montreal: policy and practice implications

Forced Migration, Territorialization, Community and Social Belonging

by Adnan Al Mhamied, Jill Hanley, Oula Hajjar

As is well known, the severe conflict in Syria has, since 2011, resulted in the displacement of many of its citizens, resulting in one of the largest refugee movements in history. According to the UNHCR since 2011 more than 5.6 million Syrian have fled their home country seeking refuge all around the world, 6.6 millions are internally displaced, and are living in very hard conditions (UNHCR, 2020).   international agencies estimated that among every four Syrians three are living in poverty (UNDP, 2016), This large refugee population, concentrated in the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, requires international support (UNHCR, 2018). Resettlement of Syrian refugees from their initial country of refuge to other safe countries has been a small yet highly visible part of the international response, with Canada garnering international attention for its efforts.

Under the operational initiative known as “Welcome Refugees”, Canada’s federal government marshalled both state and NGO efforts to resettle an unprecedented number of refugees in a relatively short time. Although the final number of Syrians who came to Canada under “Welcome Refugees” 56,260 Syrian refugees (IRCC, 2019) is negligible compared to the total number of displaced Syrians, there was a strong symbolic impact. Quebec, Canada’s majority-francophone province, was the destination for a disproportionately high number of the Syrians resettled in Canada. There was a massive response by both government authorities (ex. health and social services, immigration officials) and community-based settlement organizations. Arriving Syrians were either “privately sponsored” (by individuals, community organizations or religious institutions) or “government assisted”, with different implications in terms of who would take the primary responsibility for their welcoming and initial support and settlement.

Several studies have focused specifically on Syrian women (Guruge et al., 2018; Ahmed et al,. 2017; Winner et al., 2018), yet it is of note that, to our knowledge, there has not yet been any research that addresses the issues of Syrian men in Canada. Researchers studying Syrian newcomers have followed the general tendency (Shafer and Bellamy, 2017) to focus on mothers and families. Understanding the experiences of refugee men requires studying their position within their context, their roles in their communities, how they are defined, and the challenges they face in their host communities (Brannen et al, 2014).

My aim to address this gap in our understanding of the experiences of Syrian men. Drawing on both quantitative and qualitative data from a 4-year longitudinal study on the settlement experiences of Syrian refugees, my presentation explores the extent to which resettled Syrian refugee men experience both social inclusion and social exclusion in Montreal. I identify the avenues in which they are included and excluded from different livelihood aspects, namely I examine their inclusion and exclusion from social and economic life.


Adnan Al Mhamied

Adnan Al Mhamied is a PhD candidate at the McGill’s School of Social Work. His doctoral research focuses on Syrian refugee fathers in the context of forced migration and their resettlement in Canada. Currently Adnan is a collaborator on a national study on Syrian refugees entitled “Refugee Integration & Long Term Health Outcomes.” This four-year longitudinal study focuses on Syrian refugees’ integration in three provinces in Canada. He is a research associate with the McGill Refugee Research Group and Global Child McGill, and he is affiliated with the SHERPA Center in Montreal.