Refugee Crisis – Forum

This forum focusses on the readings in “Refugees and the Crisis of Europe” (link: https://culanth.org/fieldsights/911-refugees-and-the-crisis-of-europe) Below are some questions from the introduction that I want us to address in this forum discussion. You do not have to respond to all the questions but address at least one of them (depending also on which readings you choose from the list). Please post your response as a reply to this thread.

“How, we ask, ought we interpret the media focus on Syrianrefugees, and how might this focus reinscribe a (racialized) distinction between “deserving” or “real” refugees and so-called economic migrants? How do we locate the migration crisis between a Liberal Europe committed to moral humanism and a Fortress Europe committed to expelling undesirables? How do the strategies of, on the one hand, custody and control (of foreign bodies and borders) and, on the other, rescue and care (of victims of human trafficking, asylum seekers, and refugees) reflect and refract the nature of power and sovereignty in Europe today?”

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15 thoughts on “Refugee Crisis – Forum

  1. The media portrayal of Syrian refugees is actually focused on the failures of the European countries in saving people in need. The media focuses on the hardship refugees face when crossing borders or refugees that die in the process of fleeing their countries. It sensationalizes the issue of refugees and brings public attention or concern to the issue. Even though these images horrify people, it can cause people to encourage their lawmakers to work on the refugee crisis. Although, as the author points out, the media does not always give the whole story behind some of these refugees. This article’s introduction makes it seem that they want to be different than the sensationalized media. They want to tell the factual stories of refugees, laws, etc.I think that articles like this are an important resource for helping people understand the fundamental problems and potential solutions for this refugee migration.

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  2. One of the two articles I read spoke of innocence and how that is what people within the European Union expect the refugees to be. How we place our own ideals of innocence upon the refugees as well. In this way even the smugglers have noticed that they are more likely to be rescued should trouble occur if every person on the top level is of lighter colored skin. The article touched on how innocence has been used to distinguish between refugees and illegal economic migrants. I think this says a lot about how Europe is a liberal Europe but also a fortress Europe as though it claims to want to save refugees it will willingly turn away hundreds if not thousands of people simply because they are not seen as being weak and “deserving” of being saved. This can also be seen in the way the European Union uses any means necessary to filter out the “undesirables” even before they have reached the European shores. In my second article it spoke on how the European Union was paying Turkey to help the refugees that were fleeing before they could reach the Greek Islands even though Turkey is an Authoritarian government. The mere fact of Hot Spots existing reinforces the image of a fortress Europe as the camps were set up as a final wall against any people who were able to make it as far as the European border. The European Union can be seen as both liberal, for wishing to only help those who truly need the help, but they are also a fortress due to their filtration of the refugees and the way they force their own ideals of innocence onto the refugees.

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  3. Looking at the article by Heath Cabot that is titled “Crisis, Hot Spots, and Paper Pushers: A Reflection on Asylum in Greece’, it seems that even since the EU first became a thing, that it wanted to control some aspects of a state’s sovereignty. By way of the “Dublin System”, the EU made it required that anyone seeking refugee status had to apply in that first EU nation they set foot in, which in affect limited some of the sovereignty in the border regions. It is also mentioned that in the border countries, the bureaucratic system is failing as there are too many refugees for it to get, even in spite of the EU’s need to be humanistic. I think that what this article is getting at is that even as the EU tries it’s best to help, it’s current bureaucracy is causing harm to the border countries, as well as to those waiting at the border countries.

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  4. When we are asking the question “How do we locate the migration crisis between a Liberal Europe committed to moral humanism and a Fortress Europe committed to expelling undesirables?” I think the article about the German case has good insight on answering this question. You read about how the audience reacts to the two videos made about the future from viewpoints of “noncitizens” in Berlin. One film was against pitying these noncitizens and another film was for pitying. The film for pitying, by a white German male, was read as ironic and as a metacommentary against pity. This reaction outlines the Liberal Europe as recognizing pity can’t be used for good. The article then moves on to when a Palestinian woman told her story to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel replied with hopeless comments that made the Palestinian cry. This is the Fortress Europe showing its face. I remembered when the Syrian refugee crisis was just beginning. The German Chancellor told the press that the refugees are welcomed to come to Germany while countries that were along the way to Germany were trying to close their boarders. That made me think—why was Germany, one of the furthest away from Syria, so welcoming while all these other countries were turning down refugees? Then it hit me, the refugees that can afford, that have money, to make the route to Germany would make it. The refugees that have nothing because all their belongings were destroyed, wouldn’t make the trip. Which I think is messed up. The upper-class, or better financially, refugees that don’t need the most help are getting assistance while the ones that need the most help aren’t getting anything. I want to see the financial statuses of the refugees that made it to German to see if my haunch is correct.

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  5. When asking, “How, we ask, ought we interpret the media focus on Syrian refugees, and how might this focus re-inscribe a (racialized) distinction between ‘deserving’ or ‘real’ refugees and so-called economic migrants?” We can look at the article “What’s Wrong with Innocence” by Miriam Ticktin. It talks about the case of little Aylan, a young Syrian boy, hoping to become a refugee. After his family left the coast of Turkey, the boat capsized. His body washed up on the shore of Turkey. The media has a field day with this, because he was dressed like “us”. This made many countries sympathetic and some of them made changes for the refugee process (even if it was only speeding up applications.) Other instances like the attacks on France, caused France to shut down all boarders, and all refugees were immediately seen as bad and dangerous. The media effects our perceptions on everything. If they wouldn’t have shown Aylan as a poor innocent boy, refugees may not have been looked at differently by countries. The attacks on France were bad, but there was an overreaction when the treatment of refugees changed. They are still human, and countries find the worst in refugees because they believe they aren’t “worthy” to live there. Many refugees are just trying to escape their current living conditions.

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  6. Europe’s desire to be a fortress on one hand and humanist on the other seems irreconcilable. When European countries try to do both, as they must, they appear like hypocrites. The example of Italy granting honorary citizenship to migrants who died on the journey there, while calling the people who made it there illegal, is a perfect example of this. It may have something to do with saving face in the media, or the idea that you can’t speak ill of the dead, but granting the dead citizenship was nothing more than a symbolic message of their own hypocrisy and lack of humanity. When it comes to control of and care for migrants, these countries are stuck taking steps forward and then immediately backward, in a vicious cycle that goes nowhere. Blatantly obvious examples of how nation-states use their power to control migration are in their initiatives to prevent trafficking and smuggling, and the reception centers where immigrants are classified as true refugees or fake economic migrants. But even their attempts at humanist activity only serve to give themselves more power, and immigrants less. So at the same time as nations do nothing to hide their wish to police migration, they try to rescue immigrants in the name of Mare Nostrum. But who does ‘”our sea” pertain to now? In the past it meant the sea was Italy’s for colonization. The Italian Navy still sees it that way obviously from the way they penalize migrants for crossing it. But when they grant them honorary citizenship to those who have died in it they are also implying that immigrants have a right to it as well, that the “our” is inclusive of everyone, whether they be Italian nationals or immigrants. But this is not how they act behind their borders, with Italian soil just for those born European, with little room for anyone else. Although the dictatorships of Europe are a thing of the past, dictatorial tactics are still being used with migrants. Some of their shelters are actually more like concentration camps, prisons where migrants are policed and trapped because they have no agency to move elsewhere.
    Who has power in Europe, is as in the past, the government and agents of government control. Migrants clearly don’t, with their whose sovereignty stripped of them the moment they step off their boats, their prize for survival only exile. European countries no longer colonize outside their border, instead because of the way migration has blurred borders they must colonize within them. The European countries who invaded places they were not wanted are getting a taste of their own medicine, and this reverse colonization is its own fault, with the majority of migrants being from countries they colonized in the past. What’s more, it was okay when they did it, because they saw themselves as saviors instead of criminals. The difference between the European colonizers then and the migrant colonizers today, is that European colonizers were not criminals just because they crossed a border, but because their actions display them as such. Migrant colonizers are made criminals just by their movement, with their status as good people an unimportant detail. In this scenario it seems that power will always be vested in the privileged, whether they are colonizing or being colonized. When nationalities become a minority in their own country due to migration, they fear their power will be stripped from them, but this is not the way it works. Being numerous does not make you inherently powerful, minority rule is evidence of this. Voice is better at determining power, and in Europe today voices are only given to the privileged. And even when we do hear the voice of the voiceless, the privileged in power can be counted on to turn it down, shut it off, or modify it as they see fit.

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  7. The article “Hotspots: What They Mean” explores what gap between the humanistic ideals of Europe and the reality of Europe as a fortress to many, with many barriers, both physical and political in nature. The idea of hot spots, migration centers along EU border countries for large inflows of migrants, is an idea to alleviate migrant stress on those border countries and to distribute migrants equally throughout the the EU. At these spots, migrants are determined to be ‘true refugees’ or ‘economic’ migrants,although the article points out that the distinction can be largely arbitrary. Another major problem is that some EU member countries rejected the migrant quota provided by the EU, undermining the entire process. The process aims to quickly decide who can be admitted to stay and who will not; the issue lies within the fact that the EU, trying to expedite the flow/rejection of migrants, ends up largely ignoring details relevant to the status of these migrants. Thus, instead of important economic, health, and individual factors being used to admit/reject people, racial discrimination becomes bound to the process. Because the hot spots are run by the EU and not by their host country, human rights issues regarding these hot spots are often overlooked by the European public. In my opinion, delegating some migrant entry to (willing) host countries or cities would alleviate a lot of the red tape that refugees face coming to Europe. In return, the European Union could provide some oversight to these areas and possibly economic relief when needed. By allowing host countries greater control over the refugees they do take in, they could better track and integrate the refugees and gain a better understanding of their needs.

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  8. When looking at “What’s Wrong with Innocence” by Miriam Ticktin, one can answer, “How, we ask, ought we interpret the media focus on Syrian refugees, and how might this focus reinscribe a (radicalized) distinction between “deserving” or “real” refugees and so-called economic migrants?” The reason this was important to the medias focus on Syrian refugees was, because they could use the death of a little boy to play with the emotions of people, most people will show compassion towards the death of a child. The media used the wording “he looks like one of us” to also help show that even these refugees are people just like “you” or “me” Now that the media has a everlasting picture in peoples head they can push the narrative of opening boarders or softening the criteria of entering another country. The question I would have is this insuring the safety of the refugees when they do come over to another country, with or without permission? Do these countries have in place a system that will allow the refugees to succeed? It is important to take people out of the horrible environment they are in, but we need to be able to take in a large in flux of people and still give them a chance to prosper in life.

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  9. On Frequent Flyers and Boat People: Notes on Europe, Crisis, and Human Mobility:

    This post opened up with a heartbreaking visual of refugees/immigrants being detained in the exact same place that tourists were getting off of their cruise ship. The author stated that the tourists didn’t even seem to notice what was taking place, almost as if to say this was normal behavior. Another thing that caught my attention about this writing was the amount of deaths listed. Over 200 Syrians drowned, another 800 people died within a period of two days, and at at least 11 people (mostly children) lost their lives in accidents around the Aegean Sea. The most heartbreaking thing about these statistics is the fact that “The most obscene paradox is that they lost their lives trying to reach a place where, in all probability, they would have been entitled to asylum” (Vacchiano).

    How do the strategies of, on the one hand, custody and control (of foreign bodies and borders) and, on the other, rescue and care (of victims of human trafficking, asylum seekers, and refugees) reflect and refract the nature of power and sovereignty in Europe today?”

    Pertaining to custody and control policies, one of the other articles I read (that was posted on this website) discussed the Dublin System and what it meant for refugees. One of the conditions of this system was the fact that it demanded refugees/asylum seekers request refugee status in the country that they first entered EU territory (upon leaving their own). I believe this reflects the nature of power because it sort of limits the refugees options on where they can go. Wherever they end up is where they have to stay if they are declared asylum. Another part of this includes the fact that any rejected refugees are deported to Turkey, where they must stay. I kind of wonder what effect that has on Turkey and why that specific place was chosen to hold the people who weren’t accepted.

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  10. In looking at Partridge’s article, it is clear that the focus is on the apparent disillusionment that many countries, including Germany, have about their intake of refugees. While the people of these countries believe that they are inclusive on a moral standpoint, the problem becomes that of pitying some refugees over others, causing a barrier to be made between political and humanitarian asylum, with the humanitarian being slightly better in the eyes of the public. However, the German people seem to have an issue realizing that pity is the main driver for this movement. It causes some people to be put in the fast-pass line at customs while others are more likely to be turned down for a visa. Partridge even includes a participant of the study as having originally applied for political asylum, but was only admitted after changing his status to humanitarian. When we see this kind of special treatment happening in many countries during the Syrian exodus, it isn’t encouraging. Rather, I feel as though this is possibly the worst instance of helping someone in need. If someone is chosen over another simply because they are more pitiable, it isn’t an honor for them. They are grateful for aid and admittance, but because the main factor for this help is pity it is impossible to be happy with their situation.

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  11. In the article “Camp in the City” is exemplary of pitting custody and control against rescue and care. In the article, Muehlebach speaks to the views about Aylan as well as “the nameless North African” and how they play off of each other in creating the image of the refugee that had begun to form. Muehlebach describes how after the attacks and sexual harassment reports in Cologne “Aylan ceased to exist simply as a child in need” and instead became the image of what refugees would do in other countries. She also describes how Berlin had “returned to a scene of war” and was only taking in refugees because “grandpa fought for Adolf”. This shows the obvious tensions that lie between the ideas of care and control. Does one have to forfeit control in order to show care, or is it not possible for the two to ‘live’ together harmoniously? Does control lack the emotion needed for care to actually work? “Camp in the City” addresses these questions in a way by describing the cities various reactions and views of refugees and how they changed over time. The city began as a place of rescue, and turned into a place of “trauma” for those living there.

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  12. One of the articles I read was “The Caribbean Roots of European Maritime Interdiction”. In this article it brought up a point that I did not know of the influences on how Europe is handling the borders. In the article they discussed how the United States created sea borders instead of land borders to keep out the Haitian refugees. This made a new system of borders helping to stop refugees in the water instead of more controversially on land. Europe has started to use this system since there is so many human trafficking that takes place through boats in the region. In the articles I read they also discussed how refugees were handling in these situations. One example was a boat that wrecked in passage to Europe. Workers collected the bodies of the people who perished and also the survivors. The ones who perished were given honorary citizenship and buried. While the survivors were taken into custody and jailed. There is clearly a kind of double standard for how refugees are handled. In this case the ones who perished would obviously not be a ‘drain’ on the country or a ‘threat’ to the citizens of the country. On the other hand the citizens still feel ‘threatened’ by the survivors for coming into their country and allowed the authorities to take them. The introduction discusses some of the images of these refugee bodies washing up on the shores of the Mediterranean. Even through these incidents of so many refugees drowning and being killed on boats while trying to flee a war torn country there has been little change on how Europeans feel towards these people coming into their countries.

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  13. The process of distinguishing between “true refugees” and “economic migrants” takes place in the hot spot areas of the EU. Classifying migrants in this way is yielding unnecessary social issues. This is because when a hot spot country enacts their classification on a set of individuals, the result greatly impacts their future. If marked as a “true refugee”, individuals are accommodated by way of an asylum distribution plan. However, if considered an “economic migrant”, they are immediately locked in a process that results in either resettlement or deportation. The anthropological interest in hot spots lies with the amount of controversy generated by their instated policies. By delegating hot spots to deal with the “dirty work” of the EU, waves of rejection have generated discontent with the fast-paced, flawed process that inevitably decides the fate of thousands.

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  14. I decided to read the Catastrophes article by Cristiana Giordano. It was very interesting to read her take on immigration as a catastrophe. She kind of points out how media sensationalizes the problems of how they are moving through seas, on railroads, cutting through wired fences. Because of this sensationalism people are not seeing some other ways of life and the violence that comes with it. I found it interesting that some countries ignore the illegal hiring of immigrants and underpaying them for jobs that potentially end up killing them. It also says a lot about the power dynamic in some areas where the mafia is using these migrants as a cheap labor force. She talks about how organized crime are killing migrants and what can these people do to protect themselves from organized crime? The mafia provides recognition and protection that the state cannot provide. I think this really shows the power structure in Southern Italy.

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  15. The article “Crisis, Hot Spots, and Paper Pushers” described what it is like to be a border country in the European Union. In 2003, The Dublin System was implemented. The Dublin System was the European Union’s way of trying to handle a large number of refugees by forcing them to apply for refugee status in the country where they first touched European Union territory. Doing this has greatly increased the already large amount of refugees in the border countries, stretching resources thin. Rather than allowing refugees to migrate to other countries in the European Union, this system has created a problem of over-crowding in the border countries. In implementing this system, the European Union has shown that it’s main priority is controlling the refugees and the countries that take them in, rather than taking into account the refugees’ needs. There is an imbalance of power within the E.U. because the border countries are given the short stick and asked to deal with the large amounts of refugees, while the rest of the Union does not have to worry about the crisis too much.

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