A sneak peak into my Master’s Thesis: Human Needs, Refugees & Disability

I’ve been wanting to write a few blog posts about my thesis, but wasn’t sure how to approach it. If you’re interested in my program – Intercultural Conflict Management – read about it in my previous post. As I’m teaching a course at the Hochschule Darmstadt on Migration and Disability, the weekly prep has led me back to reading my thesis. Human Needs is this week’s topic, so as brain prep, I’ll write about it. Beware…it gets a bit theoretical 🙂

Humans need a number of essentials to survive. According to the psychologist Abraham Maslow (1943) and conflict scholar John Burton, these needs go beyond just food, water and shelter. They include both physical and nonphysical elements needed for human growth and development, “as well as all those things humans are innately driven to attain” (Marker 2003: 1) (I will not be including a real bibliography in this :). When refugees are displaced or forced to migrate they still have human needs. Realistically, they probably have more. Additionally, their home country may not have been providing them with the needs that are essential to well being. In the case of the Syrian war crisis, it became physically unsafe to live in areas of Syria. People may be at risk of food insecurity, housing, psychological support and even death.

Needs can be unmet for a variety of reasons,  including the State’s failure to address them. Unfulfilled needs for groups can ultimately lead to violence (Doucey 2011: 4). Therefore, it is imperative to consider needs of individuals in a society, especially paying close attention to refugees. Moreover, the needs of refugees are not limited to food, water and shelter, but how can the state properly integrate them and support their human needs once they have migrated? Refugees with disabilities have potentially even more unmet needs that can lead to isolation and fewer opportunities.  

While I only briefly mentioned this in my thesis, as it was about migration due to conflict, many refugees I interviewed expressed unmet needs related to healthcare in their home country. Individuals may have fled a conflict-zone even if there wasn’t a conflict. My interviewees frequently mentioned that the were constantly seeking better solutions and answers to disability related problems, 

Identifying human needs is connected to ultimately improving individual’s quality of life. The concept of quality of life is a social construct that is used as an overriding principle to evaluate ‘person-referenced outcomes’ and to improve and to enhance a person’s life. “In that regard the concept is affecting programme development, service delivery, management strategies, and evaluation activities in the areas of education, disabilities, mental health, and ageing” (Schalock, 2001: 187).

Ultimately human needs are based on the role of human perception. Culture, education and societal influences shape our minds and our perceptions. In the case of disability, need perception varies greatly from Germany to Syria. The views on providing certain services or integration programmes is vastly different. With regards to migration, the goal becomes identifying the needs and not only thinking of physical needs. One example of this can be the continued need for network system for families effected by disability. Positive and well-connected  networks not only can help a family or individual physically, but can also deter psychological trauma caused by conflict. Just as one needs water and food even if they live in a new country, Networks must be transferred or grown for these families as a step to meet their holistic needs. 

Anddddddd here’s a few minutes of me speaking about this topic. Check out my latest Anchor cast. Click on the picture below:



2 thoughts on “A sneak peak into my Master’s Thesis: Human Needs, Refugees & Disability

  1. Grace,
    Thank you for taking up the cause of redugees and especially making us all more aware of the reality that many refugees may be dealing with physical disabilities.


  2. I’d honestly not considered this angle of the overall matter of Syrian refugees in Germany, or the even larger matter- that is, the changing European demographic picture. Thanks for broadening my perspective.


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