Night and Day
An Investigation of the Difference in International Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis vs. the Ukrainian Refugee Crisis Through the Theoretical Lens of Constructivism
Keywords:Syria, Ukraine, social constructivism, international relations, media framing, refugee crisis
The world is currently facing the largest refugee crisis in the post-war era. Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, millions of Syrians have been forced to leave their homes and seek safety in other states. A few years after the major influx of Syrian refugees, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted a Ukrainian refugee crisis. Close to a quarter of Ukraine’s population had to seek refuge in Europe, North America, and beyond. Although these crises were similar in nature, the international response toward each of them differed greatly. Constructivism is a dominant theory in the field of Communications & Media Studies and International Relations that examines how social construction frames the way that individuals interpret the world around them. This paper examines some of the main tenets of constructivism and then utilizes constructivism to help understand the global response to the Syrian refugee crisis compared to the Ukrainian refugee crisis. Through employing a constructivist lens, this paper finds that both the social ideas around the identity of each group of refugees and the nature of each conflict played a large role in shaping the distinct response toward the Syrian refugee crisis compared to the Ukrainian refugee crisis. The paper concludes with a discussion on the limitations of constructivism and some potential further areas of research that this analysis may be applicable to. With a better understanding of inequities that exist in dealing with refugee crises, global leaders and citizens are better equip to more inclusively deal with future humanitarian crises.
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