By Ben Brotherwood
The Department of International Politics kicked off their events for the academic year with a roundtable chaired by Dr Sergey Radchenko. The topic of discussion was the Refugee Crisis, a serious and ongoing situation effecting both the Middle East and Europe heavily. The four speakers for the event were: Dr Ayla Gӧl, Dr Alistair Shepherd, Professor Richard Beardsworth and Dr Kamilla Stullerova.
I will begin by describing Professor Beardsworth’s contribution to the roundtable. He chose a different approach to his fellow speakers by presenting a Cosmopolitan viewpoint on the crisis. He did a very good job at putting the situation into perspective by pointing out that Europe has faced far worse refugee situations during the Balkans conflict. He also stated that the current crisis is serving as a catalyst for intensifying the political debate in Europe regarding the policy of free movement. He views the crisis as a chance for Europe to set comprehensive laws regarding its external borders and handling refugee’s in non-ideal situations.
Dr Shepherd meanwhile focused heavily on the relation between the European nations. He paints the Realist view upon the situation, using Greece and Germany as examples of relation break downs, with both nations making accusations about the others’ conduct. He claims the result of this is the undermining of asylum rights as countries become concerned with perceived control of their borders.
Dr Stullerova on the other hand spoke from a much wider perspective, examining the moral aspects of the situation. The most relevant part of her argument, I found, was her analysis on the increasingly blurred lines between the defining characteristics of an asylum seeker and a migrant in the public’s eyes. Dr Stullerova also discussed the right of hospitality, claiming nations are operating with a ‘sense of guilt and never again sentiment’ due to the failure of many neighbouring states of Germany to provide adequate hospitality to the Jewish people.
Regrettably I missed Dr Gӧl’s viewpoint on the situation on the day. Instead I will describe some of the questions asked by the Audience.
One audience member asked what the speakers felt about the UK aiming to remove people from the refugee camps near the borders of Syria. Dr Shepherd responded, stating that fundamentally it was a sound strategy, however with the ongoing political disunity in Europe, it could be perceived as being a rude gesture towards the EU. The UK should be helping both in Europe and in the refugee camps. Dr Stullerova also commented by saying she approved of the policy as it removed the need for people to make the dangerous journey into the EU.
An especially interesting question tied in with Dr Stullerova’s look at the moral aspects of the crisis; stating that the moral duty to take in refugees is a symptom of the wider situation, and asking whether there is also a wider moral duty to act militarily. Professor Beardsworth responded by using the aftermath of the Libya conflict as an example of how military intervention would be the wrong move to make. It would only serve to be a short-term solution.
The final question of the night discussed if it was compassionate to not accept refugees into countries where much of the population is hostile. Using Germany as an example, both Dr Shepherd and Professor Beardsworth described a lack of strong political leadership to enforce moral duties and that there is a need for a successful civilisation to cultivate compassion for it to survive.
Overall the event was very well attended and gave the audience a solid range of views on the situation. However, I think many people left with the feeling that the crisis is going to be worsening in the up and coming months or even years, with an almost certain increase in its complexity.