Was Brexit all about immigration and who are the children migrating unaccompanied to Europe?

In the aftermath of the EU referendum in the UK, in which the British population voted to leave, we discuss the prominence of immigration in the debate with Robert Ford, Professor in Political Science at the University of Manchester, and Kenan Malik, writer, lecturer and broadcaster. We also talk to Nando Sigona, Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham, about the situation for unaccompanied migrant children arriving in Europe.

Both hostility to immigration and hostility to the EU have become expressions of a world that has gone out of one’s control.

Kenan Malik

Many have described the Brexit referendum as a referendum about immigration. Kenan Malik, who has written extensively on immigration, populism and identity, argues that while this is certainly true to a large extent, it wasn’t all about immigration. He also suggests that immigration as such, the number of immigrants coming to the UK, isn’t the root of the issue. Rather, he suggests, the more restrictions on immigration fail to resolve the underlying issues of marginalisation, the more those underlying sentiments of disaffection will grow.

The public don’t treat immigration or immigrants as a single undifferentiated mass. There’s very clear differences in how they view different parts of the issue. The problem is that policy and politics hasn’t treated it in that way.

Robert Ford

Robert Ford, co-author of Revolt on the Right: Explaining Support for the Radical Right in Britain, points out that, while it isn’t all about the number of immigrants, numbers seem to matter in making immigration a political priority for voters. He also explains that the Brexit referendum was different than the 1975 referendum in that, back then, voters who were concerned with immigration were more pro-EU, whereas now anti-immigration and anti.EU sentiments go hand in hand. Find out more about Robert’s research here.

Imagine that you are accepted as a 15-year old, you go to school and at some point the social worker that is attached to the school thinks that, no, you’re actually not behaving like a 15-year old. So suddenly your age is questioned, your own identity is questioned. You go through a process, which might take a few weeks or months in ascertaining what age you are and then you may be moved to a different set of arrangements.

Nando Sigona

Nando Sigona, Director of the Institute for Research into Superdiversity and co-authour of Sans Papiers: The Social and Economic Lives of Young Undocumented Migrant, explains that there was a large increase in unaccompanied migrant children arriving in Europe last year. From his extensive research, he also explains why there are mainly young boys travelling on their own, why some disappear from authorities in Europe and the precarious situation of these children, some who are victims of trafficking or exploitation. Read more about Nando’s work on his blog.





Europe and the refugee crisis: perspectives from BISA

This episode was recorded at the British International Studies Association‘s Annual Conference in Edinburgh. We hear short versions of three research papers presented on the refugee crisis, by Dr James Souter, the University of Leeds, Dr Kelly Staples, The University of Leicester, and Dr Simon McMahon, Coventry University. Questions raised include whether accepting refugees is part of being a good international citizens, if the EU can really be held responsible for the refugee crisis and what the role of informal reception is in managing migration in Italy.

If a state refuses to recognise its reparative obligations to refugees then its inevitably going to be other states, that are often not responsible for producing those refugees, that are going to end up protecting them. That could be a kind of inter-state injustice.

James Souter

We first hear from James Souter and his paper ‘Good international citizenship and the responsibility to protect refugees‘. James argues that for states to act like good international citizens, they should admit refugees when they can’t protect them by intervening in a conflict. This argument led to a discussion of whether or not Turkey is a good international citizen, since it is doing more than many other European countries, yet offers poor protection for those it admits.

The EU as an institution does not have the authority which it requires to enact the kind of decisions that are needed.

Kelly Staples

Next, Kelly Staples summarises her paper ‘Contingent cosmopolitanism and the refugee crisis’, in which she analyses whether the EU as an institution has the kind of authority and ability to make decisions that makes it responsible for asylum policy. Her answer is no and we should look at member states for responsibility for asylum policy in Europe.

The incessant need to control and contain people doesn’t align necessarily with migrants’ objectives and aspirations.

Simon McMahon

Simon McMahon, lastly, presented his paper ‘Europe‚Äôs migration crisis and its responses: examining the interplay between formal and informal recepti0on dynamics’, which is based on two research projects where several hundred migrants who have made the journey across the Mediterranean have been interviewed. Simon’s paper focuses on the reception of migrants in Italy and he shows how informal networks of previous migrants and civil society are deeply interwoven with the formal channels of migration reception in Italy.