What do we really know about refugees?

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.



What’s so special about Canada?

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.

Should progressive politics be nationalist?

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.

Will Kymlicka

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.

Rainer Bauböck

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.


Who is welcome in Latin America?

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.

What’s wrong with ethnic and racial discrimination in immigration policy?

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

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

Christopher Heath Wellman is Professor of Philosophy at Washington University and has written extensively on the question of immigration and self-determination, for example here and here.

Does migration threaten the welfare state and how do refugees in Africa challenge citizenship?

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.

Keith Banting

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.

Andreas Bergh

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].

Lucy Hovil

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.


What is the politics of fear and what can fiction tell us about migration stories?

After a summer break, we’re back talking to Professor Ruth Wodak, The University of Lancaster and the University of Vienna, about her new book on populism, as well as to fiction writers Olumide Popoola and Annie Holmes, who have written a fictional book on the situation in Calais.

These parties try to represent themselves as the saviours of “the people”.

Ruth Wodak

In her new book, The Political of Fear: What Populist Discourses Mean, Ruth Wodak,  Emerita Distinguished Professor at the Department of Linguistics and English Language, explains how populist discourses function and how they have moved to the centre-stage of politics. She discusses how populist discourses uses notions of nationalism and identity to present scenarios of danger and fear. She also talks about the upcoming Austrian presidential election, where the populist candidate is up against the green candidate. The election, Wodak argues, will probably be determined by the conservative voters.

Refrigerated trucks are the best bet. If the smuggler is skilful, if he can open the padlock to let them in then close it again so that no one can tell it’s been tampered with, then the police are less likely to check a freezer than any other kind of truck.

Extract from Breach

Olumide Popoola and Annie Holmes both travelled to the border town of Calais in order to write a fiction book portraying the situation from the many different perspectives of the people living there. The book breach covers eight short stories told from the perspective of migrants, volunteers and local residents. We first hear authors Popoola and Holmes read an extract each from the book, before talking about what it was like researching and writing the book.

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’s 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.

Brexit or Bremain? Immigration and identity before and after the referendum

In this EU-special we talk to Andy Mycock, Reader in Politics at the University of Huddersfield, about the role of identity and immigration in the referendum and to Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory, on what might happen to EU migration if the UK leaves the EU.

What we’re seeing is as much a debate about what it is to be British in the 21st century as it is about what it is to be European.

Andy Mycock

Is Scotland more pro-immigration and more pro-EU? Andy Mycock argues that this is the case to some extent, but that the question is more complex. He also views the issues of immigration and identity that are so prominent in the referendum debate as part of a longer trend of increasing identity politics in the UK. Andy has recently contributed to a new edited book on euroscepticism in the UK and has written widely on issues of identity and citizenship in the UK.

The debate about an Australian style points based system is a bit of a red herring. It is often cited as something that is designed to reduce migration to the UK, but points based systems like the one in Australia generally let people in without a job offer and has traditionally been designed to increase immigration.

Madeleine Sumption

Does the UK already have a points-based immigration system? Would EU-migrants have to leave if the UK brexited? Madeleine Sumption  [15:50] concludes that it is very hard to predict what immigration might look like if the UK decides to leave the EU, as this depends on what policies are opted for and what relationship with he EU the UK will have. Asylum may be the least affected area and current EU migrants don’t need to worry too much about having to leave. The Migration Observatory has investigated several key aspects of the issue, find out more on their website.