‘Destination Europe: Reflections on the Refugee Crisis’

Harsh anti-trafficking measures being deployed at Europe’s borders only serve to push migrants further into the hands of traffickers and could invoke disaffection and radicalisation, according to a Trinity academic who spoke at a public discussion entitled 'Destination Europe: Reflections on the Refugee Crisis', in Trinity College Dublin on Thursday, November 19, 2015.

The event, organised by Trinity Long Room Hub as part of its ‘Behind the Headlines’ discussion series, explored how the language of exclusion and inclusion is shaping European responses to the refugee crisis. At the event, Dr Gillian Wylie, Assistant Professor in International Peace Studies, focused on how European governments have appropriated the language of human trafficking to justify harsh security-style responses to migrants.

Dr Gillian Wylie commented: “The Hungarian government justifies its razor-wire border fence as 'an anti-human trafficking measure'. More broadly European governments plan responses to 'Europe's migration crisis', which include measures such as 'breaking trafficking rings' and 'destroying traffickers' and smugglers' boats'. Using the language of human trafficking justifies the securitisation of migration by EU states. The awful paradox is that the 'anti-trafficking' measures deployed by Hungary and others, only heighten migrants' insecurity and increase the likelihood of people seeking the services of traffickers and smugglers.”

“I realise that to argue against the securitisation of migration is a harder point to make following the terror attacks in Paris. The speculation that of one of the attackers may have travelled the migration route refuels the readiness to see migrants as a security threat. Several governments are backing away from taking in Syrian refugees as a consequence. This is a faulty analysis and a mistaken policy.”

“Firstly, many Syrian refugees are running from that very same terror which devastated Paris. The fixation on the one attacker who may have travelled the migration route obscures the importance of looking at the radicalisation of EU citizens and the importance of focusing on issues of failed integration and troubling foreign policies which lead to engagement in terrorism by some Europeans. In the end, assuming people to be a threat and subjecting them to exclusion on that basis could be a source for disaffection and radicalisation.”

Also speaking at the event was Dr Patricia Brazil, Assistant Professor, School of Law, Trinity who focused on international, European and Irish refugee law and speak about who can and cannot access refugee protection and the scope of that protection. She also focused on the lack of legal provision setting out how a refugee can practicality gain access to a refugee process.

Dr Brazil said: "The 1951 Refugee Convention is the cornerstone of refugee law, and guarantees that no one can be returned to a country where they face persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group. One of the major flaws in the Convention, however, is its failure to address the crucial issue of access to refugee protection. This flaw is also repeated in EU law. Equally, EU law does not provide for the basic practicality of how a refugee can gain access to the refugee process.”

“Refugees fleeing for their lives cannot apply in advance for permission to enter the EU and claim asylum. Carrier sanctions mean that airlines and shipping companies will not allow refugees to travel without proof of permission to enter the EU, but there is no way a refugee can obtain such a permission. This is why many thousands of people risk their lives to make dangerous crossings over land and sea – and as tragedy after tragedy unfolds, the need to provide safe and legal means for refugees to travel to Europe becomes ever more urgent."

Drawing on recent curriculum and classroom research, Associate Professor Daniel Faas, Department of Sociology, explored some of the educational challenges arising from cultural, ethnic and religious diversity across European societies and, more specifically, how the Irish education system has dealt with the arrival of new migrants and refugees.

Professor Faas commented: “Migrant students are more likely to benefit from schools with an inclusive approach, as they are more likely to avail of equality of educational opportunities. Nevertheless, in order to provide truly inclusive education, further changes must be introduced in both pre-service teacher education and availability of in-service training in intercultural education for all teachers.”

“Support provided for newly-arrived migrant children in Ireland differs from that of other countries. While Ireland offers linguistic and educational support, similar to other countries, migrant students in Ireland are expected to feed into already existing support structures for disadvantages students in general. Current support in Irish secondary schools is not sufficient and there is a need for ongoing improvement of linguistic skills and continuous teaching support.”

Hassina Kiboua, Irish Refugee Council, addressed some of the policy and practical issues that all asylum seekers and refugees are currently facing in Ireland such as interpreting issues, family reunification, housing, and welfare.

The Trinity Long Room Hub ‘Behind the Headlines’ discussion series offers background analyses of current issues from experts from the fields of arts and humanities research. It aims to provide a forum that deepens understanding, combats simplification and polarisation, creating a space for informed and respectful public discourse.

Media Coverage:

RTE Drivetime, Thursday, November 19, 2015 (scroll to 01.44.54)

Media Contact:

Fiona Tyrrell, Former Press Officer for the Faculty of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences | publicaffairs@tcd.ie | +353 1 896 4168