An update on: ‘Documenting the Humanitarian Migration Crisis in the Mediterranean’

by Dr Leonie Ansems de Vries, Lecturer in International Relations in the Department of War Studies.

Last month, we published the key findings of our ESRC-funded research project Documenting the Humanitarian Migration Crisis in the Mediterranean in a policy paper. As I reported in an earlier blog post, the research project maps migration trajectories and transit points across Europe in order to develop a humanitarian response to what has been (mis)named a ‘migration crisis’. On their long journeys, people seeking refuge in Europe pass through various places of transit, both informal spaces such as railways stations, parks and makeshift camps, and institutionalised spaces such as reception centres, detention centres and hotspots. One of the contributions of the research is this focus on transit points, which helps to understand migrants and subjects with agency (with their own histories, skills and dreams) rather than as objects or mere passive victims. In addition, it sheds light on the fractured character of their journeys, which are often lengthy, difficult and complex, rather than linear routes from A to B. Moreover, the focus on transit points brings to light the effects on migrants of migration management policies designed to obstruct and/or regulate movement. Our research shows that these policies not only obstruct people’s safe passage to and across Europe but also help to (re)produce the ‘crisis’.

The policy paper, published in the Centre for European Policy Studies Liberty and Security in Europe series, outlines our key research findings and policy recommendations, which revolve around two points:

  1. The conceptual question of how the question of migration in Europe is framed and managed, especially with respect to the political and humanitarian character of the ‘crisis’, the complexity of migration trajectories and the agency of migrants.
  2. The effects of migration management policies that are increasingly coercive in nature, in both institutional and informal transit points, including police violence, the denial of effective access to the asylum system and basic reception conditions, and the destruction of living spaces.

 

The full policy paper, co-authored by Leonie Ansems de Vries, Sergio Carrera and Elspeth Guild, is available here: https://www.ceps.eu/publications/documenting-migration-crisis-mediterranean-spaces-transit-migration-management-and

Summer scholarships for refugees: their stories

UNHCRlogo.svgFor the third year running, King’s College London has been working in partnership with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to offer summer school places to people who have fled persecution and conflict in their home countries. The university is waiving the usual fees of £1,590 for refugees, in exchange for UNHCR staff teaching specialised classes on refugee protection and humanitarian issues on the international human rights module.

This year six people with refugee status in the UK took up the opportunity to spend three weeks at King’s College in full time study taught at degree level. From different countries, of different backgrounds, and displaced in vastly different circumstances, the students were all united in a drive to improve their situations, their academic credentials, and to integrate in the UK.

Journalist Omar Karmi wrote an article about these refugees’ experience on the courses at King’s this summer. Read more here

Reminder: information session on 13 July for prospective refugee/asylum seeking students

by Anne-Marie Henderson, Widening Participation Officer at King’s

King’s College London is running an information session on the 13th of July for students with refugee or asylum seeking status who are considering applying to university.

This session will cover the application process, student finance eligibility and give students the chance to talk to a professional advisor from King’s College London and the Refugee Support Network on their individual situation.

It is open for students of any age and parents/ guardians and advisors are welcome to attend. We will be able to help with travel costs as well as providing lunch.

Time: 2- 5pm

Date: Wednesday 13th July

Location: The Learning Centre, The Strand, Kings College London, WC2R 2LS

For more information contact Anne-Marie Henderson in the King’s College Widening Participation Department: anne-marie.henderson@kcl.ac.uk or 020 7848 3948

To book a ticket please follow the link:  http://bit.ly/28NTAyi

Ten Summer School scholarships to refugee students

by Dr Alexander Heinz, Academic Convenor Summer Programmes

For refugees all that was home is lost. Families and friends are torn apart, the experience of a narrow escape, of torture and war, devastate physical and mental health. Formal education comes to an abrupt halt, ways to earn a living are almost impossible to find. Refugees are deprived of their most basic human rights.

Summer School students at King's

Summer School students at King’s

King’s Summer Programmes is delighted to be able to offer ten scholarships to refugee students who are now making the UK their home. Ten students will participate on this year’s popular programme which offers engaging and intensive courses in a wide range of subject areas. Last year over 90 nations were represented on the programme.

 

UNHCRlogo.svgKing’s College London Undergraduate Summer School has been collaborating with the UN Refugee Agency since 2013 in the area of refugee and human rights law. The innovative course concept combines King’s academic expertise with unique insights into the work of a UN agency. Now Academic Convenor of Summer Programmes, the collaboration originally grew out of my own involvement in 2004 in the then ground breaking Quality Initiative Project between UNHCR’s representation in the UK and the Home Office. Both organisations decided to join forces to improve the quality of first instance asylum decisions and the project continues well into this decade. Its success has now seen it develop further, having been exported globally to a large number of countries and regions.

Syrian refugees in Budapest Keleti station

Syrian refugees in Budapest Keleti station

In 2004 Afghanistan dominated much of our thinking. However, now there are worries about larger parts of the world and, crucially for us Europeans, Syria much closer to home. Although some issues have remained, focus points in courtrooms and the media are now touching frequently on issues such as unaccompanied minors and queer refugees. With the large number of asylum seekers entering mainland Europe, the British government has tried to find its own solutions.

On the Summer School, the UNHCR Refugee’s office in London gives unique insights into the way these shifts influence the work of the organisation from the point of view of practitioners, the law and, most importantly, the situation of those most affected.

At King’s we would like to do more. Together with a range of other key initiatives around the university, we are not aiming to replace what has been lost and the closeness of family and friends, but are hoping to become an alma mater this summer in the way we understand best. And hopefully a springboard too.

Reminder: Round Table for King’s staff and students tomorrow

The meeting is open to any King’s staff and students, and will take place in the Anatomy Museum on the Strand campus from 11am to midday. If you would like to attend, please contact refugeesupport@kcl.ac.uk

‘Welcome to Britain? Refugees Then and Now’

by Dr Susan Cohen, Honorary Fellow at the Parkes Institute

Remembering Eleanor Rathbone-122Parallels between the historical and current debate about Britain’s response  to immigration and refugee crises was at the heart of the conference ‘Welcome to Britain? Refugees Then and Now’, held at King’s on World Refugee Day, 20 June. The event was one of many that Lesley Urbach and I, co-founders of the Remembering Eleanor Rathbone Group, have organised by way of tribute to Rathbone, the Independent MP for the Combined English Universities, who died 70 years ago.  Each and every speaker demonstrated how, in different ways, the British government put obstacles in the way of rescue, and how so much of the discourse surrounding refugees today resonates with the 1930s and 40s. My introduction to Eleanor’s humanitarian activism described how she doggedly challenged the government to adopt a more humane response to the refugee crisis in Nazi occupied Europe, and allow more endangered souls into the country, and how she fought tooth and nail to keep the refugee issue in the public domain.

Remembering Eleanor Rathbone-75We heard from Diana Packer about the origins of the 1905 Aliens Act and how this impacted on the perception of refugees from Nazi Europe, and from Rachel Pistol who addressed how prevailing popular myths about refugees affected their chance of entry into Britain. Lesley Urbach gave a more nuanced view of officials, especially Herbert Morrison, and their negative attitude towards rescue, Peter Anderson spoke about Eleanor’s activism on behalf of thousands of refugees from Fascist Spain who were abandoned by British consular officials whilst Joanna Newman used the case study of Gibraltar Camp, Jamaica to provide an insight into contemporary arguments about how much could and should be done, played out against a backdrop of world war and genocide.

We broke for lunch having heard the personal testimony of Ahmad al-Rashid, and of his harrowing tale of escape from Syria, which was a stark reminder of the risk that people take to be safe and free.

Remembering Eleanor Rathbone-33

Post-lunch, keynote speaker Baroness Helena Kennedy cast a clear and cold eye on the present-day attitudes to refugees, saying ‘I want to force cynical politicians and journalists to sit in a room with an asylum seeker, as I have done, and then decide what the policy should be. ‘ Should it, as has been suggested in some quarters, include the mass immigration of unaccompanied children into the UK, recreating the much applauded Kindertransport of the late 1930s, or is this as Jennifer Craig-Norton argued, a misreading of the rescue, which excluded the parents and is not an unambiguously celebratory narrative. The matter of policy was addressed by two other speakers, with Cinead de Canntun scrutinising the process of determining asylum status, the other, Pierre Makhlouf, looking at the detention of migrants in the UK.

Remembering Eleanor Rathbone-37The day ended on a more upbeat note with Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, striking an optimistic chord about the upsurge in public concern towards refugees, and from Barbara Winton, whose father, Nicholas Winton, was instrumental in saving the lives of 669 Czech Jewish children in 1939. What her father had done, she said, represented ‘the power of compassion as a driver for action,’ a sentiment that Eleanor Rathbone would have undoubtedly agreed with.

www.rememberingeleanorrathbone.wordpress.com 

 

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Information Session for refugee and asylum seeking prospective students

by Anne-Marie Henderson, Widening Participation Officer at King’s

King’s College London is running an information session on the 13th of July for students with refugee or asylum seeking status who are considering applying to university.

This session will cover the application process, student finance eligibility and give students the chance to talk to a professional advisor from King’s College London and the Refugee Support Network on their individual situation.

It is open for students of any age and parents/ guardians and advisors are welcome to attend. We will be able to help with travel costs as well as providing lunch.

Time: 2- 5pm

Date: Wednesday 13th July

Location: The Learning Centre, The Strand, Kings College London, WC2R 2LS

For more information contact Anne-Marie Henderson in the King’s College Widening Participation Department: anne-marie.henderson@kcl.ac.uk or 020 7848 3948

To book a ticket please follow the link:  http://bit.ly/28NTAyi

Round Table for King’s staff and students – 4 July

On 4 July, Dr Joanna Newman, Vice-Principal (International) at King’s, will be hosting a round table meeting to share updates on the refugee strategy since the last round table earlier this year and to invite any interested King’s staff and students to share ideas about how King’s might be able to help develop the strategy to provide meaningful support to alleviate the refugees crisis, either in the UK or overseas.

The meeting is open to any King’s staff and students, and will take place in the Anatomy Museum on the Strand campus from 11am to midday. If you would like to attend, please contact refugeesupport@kcl.ac.uk

 

World Refugee Day – Reflections from Lebanon

Dr Joanna Newman, Vice-Principal (International) at King’s College London

“As the world faces the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War, we at King’s have an opportunity to act as a community of students, academics and professionals, contributing expertise, knowledge and time or donating to a series of initiatives.

There are many ways in which our community is involved already, from the Sanctuary Scholarships we are now offering students from war-torn and conflict countries to our sponsorship of CARA, which helps to place refugee academics; from the volunteering work our staff and students do (donating clothes and blankets, offering legal advice and teaching English are just a few examples), to the relevant research we carry out, the policy advice we contribute and the education we provide to ensure our students are global citizens who want to contribute solutions to world problems.

Photo taken by Yousuf Al-Moulaya

Photo taken by Yousuf Al-Moulaya

One of the ways we can contribute meaningfully as a university is in the field of education.  By building strong and reciprocal relationships, with partner universities in European countries with large refugee populations as well as in the countries in which the majority of those displaced find themselves, we can contribute expertise, knowledge, equipment and create online educational materials and other tools to help. One of these countries affected by the crisis is Lebanon, which I visited recently with Professor Michael Kerr, Director of the Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, and KCLSU President Nadine Almanasfi to explore potential partnerships and initiatives through which we can make an impact.

Photo taken by Yousuf Al-Moulaya

Photo taken by Yousuf Al-Moulaya

There are over 700,000 refugee children from Syria in Lebanon, many of whom do not have access to education. We had wonderful discussions with NGOs including UNHCR and UNICEF, the British ambassador, the American University of Beirut and inspiring local charities that are helping building schools in the country. All of these discussions showed us the enormous potential for us to build impactful and reciprocal relationships in the region.

Most inspiring of all were the young Syrian refugees we met there. In spite of the adversity they face every day, they haven’t given up on their dreams of education and of a bright future.  They were resilient and brave, living in difficult and challenging circumstances.  On World Refugee Day, I would like to share with you some of the comments they shared with us, which serve as a great motivation for me and for the King’s community to expand our efforts to make a difference to those affected.”

Beirut group

Nadine Almanasfi, Dr Joanna Newman and Professor Michael Kerr (3rd, 4th and 5th from left) meeting with refugees in Lebanon

“Education is important because it is the way to success. Also it is important to continue studying in university after high school to get more and more education and be a successful person in life, not for material aims but for moral and humanitarian aims. The society that has educated people of course will be modern and open-minded. In addition to that, the educated person will be healthy both physically and mentally. We may lose things around us: our house, money or even people, but what the person has in their brain, their knowledge, is the best thing in life. We must work hard to get more education.” – Yousuf Al-Moulaya

“In my opinion, university is very important to have a chance to complete my education and improve my situation. Also, it’s the way to make myself become more responsible. I just want to be an active member in society. I wish I could go to university to be successful and achieve my dreams.” – Maryam Alkhattib

“In the present age and our situation as refugees, education is the way to cope with the difficult conditions that surround us, to give us a real aim and be useful for mankind.”  Fatma Shmma

“University is a dream to many students and we all hope to get to university and study the subject which we loved too much. I think that education is important for students because it gives one the rational power to make better choices, to be more efficient and to advance in the future. I want to study at university and be an engineer and build my country when I come back.” – Riham Misho

“Everyone in this world hopes to be a successful person and have a positive impact in life. The students can do it with their university study, so in this period getting to university is the most important issue. We as student refugees face a lot of difficulties to access academic education, but we will always do our best to get our aim and achieve our dreams.” – Arwa Aladdin

In the year ahead, King’s will be expanding on its work to help alleviate the refugee crisis. If you would like to find out more about what we’re doing, subscribe to this blog or visit our website www.kcl.ac.uk/refugeeswelcome If you are a King’s student or staff member and would like to be kept up to date, would like to contribute to the blog or want to let us know about things you are doing to help, please do contact refugeesupport@kcl.ac.uk.

“Seeking Refuge” conference: a literary perspective

by Sinéad Murphy, AHRC-LAHP PhD Candidate,  Department of Comparative Literature

“What does it feel like when an entire national psyche and its political memory find themselves in need of refuge? And in what shapes and sizes, if any, does this horizon of asylum come?”

Such questions, posed by one of our two scintillating keynote speakers, Dr Nobert Bugeja, could easily have been taken from our very first meeting brainstorming ideas for this year’s Comparative Literature conference. Unfortunately, contemporary conditions of social, political and economic crisis across the globe call for renewed interrogation of the possibilities and obstacles to achieving refuge in all its forms.

The urgent necessity of this task rendered it an instant and obvious choice of conference theme; this urgency was then translated to thoughtful and considered discussion across the two days of our “Seeking Refuge” conference.

Seeking Refuge conference

Seeking Refuge conference

The conference featured a host of speakers whose diversity of research interests ranged from ideas of literal and metaphorical violence, utopian thought, studies of form, genre, and translation all the way through to archival practice and medical humanities. We were keen, however, to retain a decidedly literary focus throughout, providing a platform for narratives and textual analysis of refuge which differ from short-form and often reductive reportage on the topic in popular media.

This conjuncture between cultural history and literary sources was no better achieved than by our two keynote speakers. Reflecting on last year’s terror attacks on the Bardo National Museum in Tunis, Dr Nobert Bugeja (University of Malta) observed that “the bullets cannot be ousted the way Ben Ali was,” but at the same time, the bullet pockmarks can function as a “receptacle – a space for interlocution,” and for interrogation.

Seeking Refuge

Seeking Refuge

Foregrounded in Dr Bugeja’s analysis were ideas of collective memory, democratic practice, and citizen subjectivity, topics which resonate far beyond the borders of Tunisia on which his paper was focused. Similarly, Prof Lyndsey Stonebridge (University of East Anglia) examined significant issues surrounding post-war refugee humanitarianism, and the interstices between empathy and pity, through an analysis of the 1950 film Sands of Sorrow, which documents the lives of Palestinian Arab refugees. Prof Stonebridge sought to address the effective removal of Palestinian refugees from civil and human rights discourses, through the problematic portrayal of these refugees as both subjects of human rights law, and objects of humanitarian tension. Prof Stonebridge pointed out that journalist Dorothy Thompson, who introduces Sands of Sorrow, is a figure whose work and contentious political views are being revisited over half a century later – similarly, it is clear from our ongoing conversations emanating from the conference that a reconsideration of ideas and forms of refuge has never been more pressing.