“Global displacement is a huge problem and has been for quite a while, but hasn’t really been on the radar.”
Bath Spa University’s Dr Rebecca Schaaf is delivering a lecture on The European Migration Crisis in Belfast on Thursday evening as part of Belfast International Arts Festival’s World in Motion strand.
With an academic background in poverty and development, Schaaf’s talk will look at three areas: putting the overall patterns of global migration into perspective, addressing the underlying drivers as well as calling out the lack of compassion and empathy in Europe’s response to the crisis.
“We’ve got quite consumed by what’s happening on our doorstep – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg … 86% of the world’s refugees are being hosted by developing countries.”
Countries which themselves may be struggling to provide for their existing population, are taking in and supporting millions of migrants.
“The response from the EU has been one of deterrents, trying to stop people from moving, trying to detain them if they do, almost criminalise them. It’s become a security issues with a military-type response. And that’s not dealing with the key issue which is around long-standing conflict, weak governance, poverty, inequality, lack of aspiration, lack of opportunity, climate change and environmental vulnerabilities. If you don’t deal with those things you are still going to want or need to move.”
Schaaf describes the current strategy in Europe as “short-termism” with “a long-standing failure to deal with the underlying problems and not accepting responsibility for our share in creating the problem”.
“From a development studies perspective, some of the failures of development strategies that have been put in place over the past decades arguably are creating the problems we’re seeing today.”
While the UK Department for International Development is “well aware of these underlying problems, the agenda is driven by other sections of government and you get this militaristic, security deterrent policy”.
“We seem to have lost a compassionate response to this crisis. We – Europe as a whole – seem to be turning towards anti-immigration views rather than a more empathetic response.”
Schaaf highlights the tardy response by UK Government in processing the list of unaccompanied children currently living in the Calais ‘Jungle’ Camp who are likely to have a legal claim to live with family members who are already in the UK.
“It seems painfully slow to get any kind of movement, quite bizarre really, that this sense of empathy and helping vulnerable children seems so slow to happen.”