Ahmad al-Rashid came to the UK from Syria in 2015. The journey took 55 days and was partly documented in the BBC documentary Exodus: Our Journey. Since arriving in the UK, Ahmad al-Rashid has campaigned for refugees and refugee integration. He is working with the course Aim Higher: Access to Higher Education for Refugees and Asylum Seekers. He was awarded a SOAS Sanctuary Scholarship and has just finished a Master’s degree in Violence, Conflict and Development at SOAS, University of London. He has written about his journey, about refugee rights and the Arab Spring for example here and here. In this episode, he talks about getting to the UK, refugee integration, reforming the refugee system and how you support refugees before and after conflict.
Our world order is organised around sovereign states and each human being is meant to belong to at least one state where they are a citizen. Yet according to the UNHCR around 10 million people in the world are stateless – they do not have citizenship in any state. In a world completely occupied by territorially defined, sovereign states, what happens to those who do not belong anywhere? The topic has regained some urgency on the international political agenda as thousands of Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority persecuted in Myanmar, have fled to Bangladesh in recent months. It is also the topic of a new book published by Routledge, Understanding Statelessness, edited by Tendayi Bloom, Phillip Cole and Katherine Tonkiss (use the code FLR40 for a discount).
Two of the editors, Tendayi Bloom, Lecturer in Politics and International Studies at the Open University, and Katherine Tonkiss, Lecturer in Sociology and Policy at Aston University, join this episode. Find out more about Katherine Tonkiss’ work on migration and citizenship here and here. Find out about Tendayi Bloom’s forthcoming book on noncitizens here and a blog post on statelessness and the Global Compact for Migration here. They have also written a series of blog posts in relation to the book here.
Restrictions on immigration, as well as certain integration policies, are sometimes justified on the basis that too much, or a certain kind of, immigration risks erode social cohesion in democratic welfare states. Political philosophers who analyse the ethics of immigration have therefore become interested also in the empirical validity of these claims. This was the topic of a recent conference at the Centre for Advanced Migration Studies, University of Copenhagen. Two political philosophers who presented their work at the conference joins this episode to discuss social cohesion and immigration. Nils Holtug, Professor at the Department of Media, Cognition and Communication at the University of Copenhagen, runs a major research project on shared values on social cohesion and you can read some of his work on this topic here, here and here. Patti Tamara Lenard, Associate Professor Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, has written extensively on trust, immigration and culture, especially in her book Trust, Democracy and Multicultural Challenges.
Has the debate on immigration been damaged by people too easily resorting to calling out racism? Or is it precisely racism that is at the heart of hostility towards immigration and contemporary white nationalism? Eric Kaufmann, Professor of Politics at Birkbeck University of London, has argued in a recent report for Policy Exchange that there is a distinction between racism and what he calls ‘racial self-interest’. The argument has proved controversial. One critique, Dr Garvan Walshe, CEO of Brexit Analytics, advisory board member of Migration Matters and columnist for Conservative Home, joins this podcast episode to discuss what racism is and what its role in the immigration debate is. You can find Walshe’s critique here.
Apologies for the sound quality of this episode. We’re working to fix it!
In 1987 Joseph Carens, Professor and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, University of Toronto, pioneered political philosophy on immigration by making the case for open borders. In his most recent book, The Ethics of Immigration, he restated his case for keeping borders open. Yet some people find that this is simply too idealistic and that even political philosophers must think about what can actually be done in the real world. Carens himself discusses this, for example here and in his recent book. He joins the podcast to talk about whether, when it comes to immigration, we should be idealists or realists, or both.
One of the ways that refugees have tried to make it to Europe is through the so called ‘Balkan route‘. Yet as EU and European leaders have tried to shut this way by increasing border controls, many refugees and other migrants have become trapped along the Balkan route. A research team, IR and Aesthetics, from Aston University have just returned from Serbia, Macedonia and Greece, where they spoke to the people who are stuck and those who are trying to help. In this podcast episode, we hear from two of the researchers, Dr Gemma Bird and Dr Patrycja Rozbicka, who discuss how refugees use technology to stay informed about border changes, the use of graffiti to make political statements and the prospects for those trapped on their journey.
Political theorists have long debated the question of open borders. Do states have a right to exclude migrants from their territory? Is there a human right to immigrate? The focus has been on the external borders of states. Yet, in the forthcoming book Immigration and Freedom, Professor Chandran Kukathas, Chair in Political Theory and Head of the Department of Government at the London School of Economics, argues that political theorists must also consider internal border controls, such as restrictions on employers, landlords and universities. According to Kukathas, these internal controls do not just restrict the freedom of migrants, but of current citizens and residents too.
Italy is one of the key destinations for migrants coming to Europe, with many coming by boat from Libya. Now Italy is threatening to close its ports to stem the inflow of migrants and refugees. Italy wants more support from the rest of the EU and EU ministers met earlier this month to discuss. But what would it actually mean for Italy to close its ports? Are these threats a result of a country becoming overwhelmed, or is it mainly a change of politics? And what is the role of NGOs operating search and rescue to save people’s lives at sea?
We’re joined in this episode by Dr Simon McMahon, who is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University, and who has been part of a large project research migration to Europe over the Mediterranean, MEDMIG. Two previous episodes discuss the findings of that project: episodes 6 and 2. Simon McMahon’s research has looked at the situation in Italy and he has written a blog on ‘Italy’s bluff to close its ports‘. You can read more about his research here.
In 2015, a large number of refugees came to Europe in what has come to be referred to as a European refugee ‘crisis’. Now, some of the focus has shifted towards questions of integration of those who came. But who were they? One of the countries hosting many of the refugees from 2015 is Austria, and a team of researchers spent some time in 2015 interviewing over 500 of those who came, asking them for example about their educational background, attitudes and values.
Judith Kohlenberger, researcher at the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital, Vienna University of Economics and Business, joins us to tell us about what they found. Find out more about the project here and read the published article about the findings here.
We are told that we are currently witnessing the biggest refugee crisis sine World War Two and that the average stay in refugee camps is 17 years. But is this true? Refugee historian Benjamin Thomas White, Lecturer in History at the University of Glasgow, joins the podcast to take issue with these claims. He argues that statistics are incomplete, that our understanding of refugees’ experiences are often mistaken and that exaggerating the extent of the problem is unhelpful.
Benjamin Thomas White is a Middle East historian by background, who now teaches the history of refugees in the world since the late nineteenth century. He also does research on the global history of the refugee camp. Find more on his blog, Twitter and here about his work on refugees in Syria.