Millions of people from Africa and the Middle East are fleeing war, violence and persecution in their country of origin. According to a report of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on the number of refugees in 2014, every day approximately 42.500 people left their homes to find security and protection elsewhere; 11,6 of the in total 59,5 million refugees came from Syria. The number of refugees has never been this high before and it is expected that these numbers will continue to increase.
Refugees come by foot, boat or train to Europe under terrible conditions. Our opinions on whether or not to protect and to take care of these refugees and to grant them asylum differ strongly. Our sense of justice and morality conflicts with the possible infringement of our own safety and identity. It is difficult to foresee the consequences and the impact of all the decisions we have to make. Both nationally and internationally, politicians and policy makers discuss how to handle this situation. In response to the large numbers of refugees, countries of the European Union already reintroduced strict border controls, closed their borders or even raised walls and fences.
This refugee crisis is often called ‘the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II’. The many news channels and websites, talk shows and photos and videos on social media show us what’s going on every day. Harrowing images, like the three-year-old boy Aylan whose body washed up on a Turkish beach, touch us deeply. As we are faced with refugees entering the Netherlands by hundreds and living next door to us we can’t close our eyes anymore to this migration issue, if ever we could.
Prof.dr. Henk van Houtum is head of the Nijmegen Centre for Border Research and Associate Professor Political Geography and Geopolitics at Radboud University Nijmegen. In addition he is Research Professor Geopolitics of Borders at the University of Bergamo. In this talk he will outline the wider geopolitical context, the moral failure of the external border policy, the political turmoil in the hosting of refugees and discusses the way forward. Henk van Houtum is a columnist and publicist for various media outlets. He has written extensively on the issue of external borders and migration. This summer he wrote a widely discussed opinion article in the Dutch newspaper the Volkskrant with a 10-point plan to introduce a new border policy.
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