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.
Canada is the country everyone looks to for inspiration when it comes to immigration. Why? Daniel Hiebert is Professor of Geography at the University of British Columbia and has written a report for the Migration Policy Institute called “What’s So Special about Canada? Understanding the Resilience of Immigration and Multiculturalism”. Daniel Hiebert has led large research projects on immigration and cultural diversity in Canada and he has, amongst many other things, participated in a variety of advisory positions in the Canadian government. He is currently a member of the Citizenship and Immigration Deputy Minister’s Advisory Council.
In this episode, he talks about this report and why we may describe Canada as a success case. You can find his website, including publications, here.
In a recent special issue of the open access journal Comparative Migration Studies, Will Kymlicka, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy at Queen’s University wrote an essay on “Solidarity in diverse societies: beyond neoliberal multiculturalism and welfare chauvinism“. He discussed the so called “progressive’s dilemma” and argued that progressives should embrace a multicultural nationalism to overcome it. Several scholars discussed Kymlicka’s thesis in shorter responses, including the special issue editor Rainer Bauböck, Professor of Social and Political Theory at the European University Institute. Buaböck takes issue with Kymlicka’s thesis, being sceptical that liberalism nationalism is the way forward for progressives. In this podcast they discuss what they think is at stake in the “progressive’s dilemma” and whether nationalism is the answer.
If it’s to serve a progressive function, nationhood needs to be configured in a multicultural direction.
Kymlicka’s main thesis is that we need nationalism to foster a sense of social solidarity, but that it needs to be combined with multiculturalism to avoid becoming exclusionary or stir prejudice. Kymlicka is the leading scholar on multiculturalism and has written several seminal books on the topic, see for example here and here. He has also researched the progressive’s dilemma empirically.
What we need in order to get democratic support for these three goals is basically build up democratic support for social solidarity at the national level, for diversity at the local level and for keeping borders relatively open at the supranational level.
Bauböck is sceptical that promoting the nation can help reconcile social solidarity with support for opennesses and diversity, what he calls “the progressive’s trilemma”. Instead, he argues that we must look for political community across, below and above the nation state. Bauböck has written extensively on democratic citizenship and migration, for example here and here. He has recently edited a volume on immigrant integration.
In this episode, we speak to Dr Marcia Vera Espinoza, Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Sheffield, and Esteban Sanchez Botero, Master student from Colombia at the University of Sheffield, about refugees and migration in Latin America. The discussion begins with the question of how a US wall at the Mexican border may affect immigrants in the US from Latin America, as well as immigration within Latin America. But what about Latin American countries themselves, how welcoming are they to refugees and migrants, and who is welcomed?
Many of these countries came out of dictatorships so they wanted to show that they were good partners of the international community [by accepting refugees]. They also wanted to give back and return in terms of gratitude what other countries did for their own citizens.
Maria Vera Espinoza
Vera Espinoza currently work on the research project Prospects for International Migration Governance, and has previously researched the experiences of resettlement and integration of Palestinian and Colombian refugees in Chile and Brazil, which she discusses here (Spanish). You can find more of what she has written here and here.
The rest of the Latin American countries [apart from Mexico], they don’t see it as a physical wall. They see it as a political clash between the US and the rest of the populations that live south of the wall.
Esteban Sanchez Botero
Sanchez Botero studies the MA programme Intercultural Communications and International Development. He has previously worked with the charities Gaia Amazonas Foundation and in Un Techo Para Mi País.
In a new book edited with Lea Ypi, Migration in Political Theory, Sarah Fine argues that political theorists should pay more attention to the role of ethnic and racial discrimination in immigration policy. She calls on those scholars who argue for a right of states to exclude immigrants to explain how their theories manages to diagnose what is wrong with such discrimination. One of those scholars is Christopher Heath Wellman, who argues that states have a right to exclude immigrants on the basis of freedom of association. In this episode, they discuss what it wrong with ethnic and racial discrimination in immigration policy and what problems it poses for theories on the ethics of immigration. Fine introduces her critique by suggesting that theories of immigration restrictions cannot, despite what they appear from the scholarly work in this field, so easily be separated from the history of discrimination in immigration policies.
What we have is an easy way of being able to suggest that we can separate out that kind of history of racism and so forth, from justification for immigration restriction. I actually think that we should really press on this.
Sarah Fine, Lecturer in Philosophy at King’s College London, researches the ethics of immigration and her work suggests that there may be few, or no, reasons for why states are permitted to exclude would-be immigrants. Find out more about her research here and here.
What would be extremely problematic for accounts like mine would be if someone came up with a very clear and compelling explanation which was unavailable to my account: If someone could say “this is why discrimination in this context is wrong, and you can’t accommodate it”.
Christopher Heath Wellman
In this episode, we speak to Professor Keith Banting, Queen’s Research Chair in Public Policy and Professor in the Department of Political Studies and the School of Policy Studies at Queens University, and Dr Andreas Bergh, Associate Professor in Economics at Lund University as well as the Research Institute of Industrial Economics in Stockholm, about whether there is a conflict between migration and the welfare state. We also talk to Dr Lucy Hovil, Senior Researcher at the International Refugee Rights Initiative, about her new book Refugees, Conflict and the Search for Belonging.
It’s very important not to develop a master narrative of trust and diversity based on one country. These things vary with context.
In the podcast, Banting tells us about research he has undertaken on the relationship on trust, diversity and multiculturalism. Together with Professor Will Kymlicka, he has edited the volume Multiculturalism and the Welfare State, as well as the forthcoming The Strains of Commitment. To read more of Banting’s work on migration and welfare, see for example here, here, here and here.
The welfare state is not the problem. The problem and the pressure will be out on the Swedish labour market model. That is my tentative conclusion.
Berg and Banting also discussed how the migration/welfare nexus differed in Canada and Sweden. Bergh has conducted extensive research on the welfare state, and in particular the Swedish welfare state, and has become interested in how it may be affected by immigration. For more of Bergh’s research, see for example here and here and at his blog.
The myth that refugees are economically better off in camps is obviously wrong on the basis [of examples from the book].
Amongst several aspects of belonging and displacement that Hovil discusses in her book, she gave some examples of refugees who have opted out of the settlement structure. For example, in Uganda a group of self-settled refugees received any humanitarian assistance, but negotiated access to small a piece of land, which they farmed and were able to send their children to school. This was in contrast to refugees in camps who had become dependent on the humanitarian machinery. Read more by Hovil here and here.