refugee crisis

How to Understand “Refugee Crisis”?

Two researchers from the Raoul Wallenberg Institute recently presented at and co-organised a seminar on how to understand the so called refugee crisis and what claims of crisis produces in terms of politics and public opinion.

Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen, research director at RWI, and Thomas Spijkerboer, visiting professor at the institute, participated in the seminar called “Conceptions and Epistemologies of ‘Crisis’ in regard to Disasters, Migration and Refugees” at the Pufendorf Institute in Lund.

Stopping the Flow

Gammeltoft-Hansen said that productions of “refugee crisis” are still ongoing in the EU, despite attempts from EU policymakers that they have put in place policies to stop the flow.

He used a series of graphs to demonstrate that the refugee crisis started long before 2015. He argued that there has been a “forgotten refugee crisis” and a push to enhance deterrence by the EU, for example when Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, called for closing the borders in Macedonia.

He also said some Members States in the EU use the refugee crisis as a political tool to muster domestic votes, such as was the case during the Brexit campaign and the referendum in Hungary.

Gammeltoft-Hansen said, however, that claims of “crisis” have also resulted in more positive projects for refugees. For instance, attention to large global numbers have been used to call for stronger democratic representation among refugees and political-cultural projects, such as the Refugee Nation Project led by refugees themselves and leading to e.g. a refugee team participating in the Olympics. They used a flag inspired by the life vests refugees usually wear when crossing the Mediterranean and an anthem created by a Syrian refugee.

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