Vision - 2019 Lent Term

Page 1



DEAR READERS, New reader or old, welcome to the Lent 2018 edition of Vision! We hope that through this magazine we are able to provide a platform where students can discuss their experiences and voice their opinions on topics which concern global patterns, international policies, and the changes that we can make as individuals. For this term’s magazine, we have chosen to look at ‘Migration and Movement’. Today, the world is the smallest it has ever been. We are closer together than ever before, technologically able to travel almost anywhere in the world. And yet, despite this contraction of physical space, there remains a distance that has not yet been overcome. Holiday travel is made easily with sufficient funds, but movement is another matter altogether. Movement across countries, across borders, across seas…movement towards freedom, safety, a better life. This edition of Vision aims to examine the realities of movement and migration and to challenge our conceptions on country, nationality, and origin. Our writers have produced articles which explore these issues with nuance, providing their opinions, experiences, and knowledge to create a range of thought-provoking articles on such a contentious issue. The breadth of topics and quality work has been impressive, and we are grateful for their contributions. From discussions on asylum and migration policies; to a study into refugee mental health; to personal stories of assimilation; to a critique on NGOs; to explorations of internal displacement; to an appeal to our collective humanity; there is something new to consider on every page. Thank you to everyone involved in the creation of this edition. Such an insightful publication could not have been put together without the efforts of our incredible artistic director, the meticulousness and hard-work of all our sub-editors, the support and advice of the whole CUiD team. Finally, we thank you for reading this edition of Vision. We hope that you enjoy these articles as much as we did, and that they can leave you thinking on what it means to move and to belong. As always, we welcome all feedback and suggestions. Happy reading! Beatrice and Shraddha, Vision Co-Editors 2018/19
















DRUG WARS & DISPLACEMENT IN MEXICO ANKUR DESAI goes behind the headlines to uncover the violent history behind the central American drug war and its impact on refugees On the 15th February, Donald Trump de-

seen an increase in immigrants from El Salvador,

clared a national emergency on the US’ southern






border, in an attempt to secure funding for his pro-

‘Northern Triangle’ of central America – being ap-

posed border wall. The declaration was the latest

prehended at the border. This trend has been

event in Trump’s battle over immigration control,

largely caused by one key factor: drugs.

which started nearly three and half years ago in

An estimated 90% of US cocaine is trans-

his presidential bid announcement. In that speech

ported through the region; the triangle’s turbulent

he targeted Mexico, putting the topic of illegal

and violent history has facilitated this. Civil war

Mexican immigrants back into the US headlines.

and conflict in the region have led to poverty, un-

Since then, the conversation has rolled on, reach-

employment and fractured government- the perfect

ing a crescendo every few months, before being

mix required for organised crime to flourish. Mat-

side-lined by another Trump scandal.

ters were made worse when in the late 1990s the

In reality however, immigration from Mexico

US government began deporting individuals with

has been on the decline in recent years; the num-

criminal records back to the region (this included

ber of Mexicans apprehended at the southern bor-

legal residents). Many of these individuals were

der declined by almost eighty percent in the ten

not prosecuted when they returned, as they lacked

years following 2007. Instead, since 2014 we have

a criminal record, and so were able to form gangs Two members of the central American migrant caravan, which received much press in the second half of 2018. Many were fleeing drugrelated violence in their home countries.


(The border be-

tween San Diego, USA (right) and Tijuana, Mexico (left))

and to utilise the skills they learnt whilst in Ameri-

often fight for territorial control. With poverty ram-

ca. Corruption and a weak rule of law has allowed

pant, many choose to join the gangs as a way to

the problem to persist over time; officials are will-


ing to turn a blind eye for a fee.

Others are choosing to flee the region altogether,

The issue of drug trafficking gained new im-

in a bid to escape the violence. Medecins Sans

portance following a crackdown on drugs in Mexi-

Frontières surveyed migrants and found that 40%

co. In late 2006, President Felipe Calderón,

cited “direct attacks or threats to themselves or

launched an attempt to break up drug cartels; this

their families, extortion or gang-forced recruitment

was later supported by funding from the US gov-

as the main reason for fleeing their countries”.

ernment. The crackdown intensified violence in

Many refugees have experience with violence;

Mexico, and led to the disruption of existing traf-

56% of those from El Salvador stated that they had

ficking routes along the Mexican coast. As such,

a relative who had been killed during the violence.

routes had to be diverted to go straight through

The journey to the US border isn’t easy, and the

Mexico, and the Northern Triangle became key in

mental health problems are endemic among refu-

facilitating this. The area was geographically opti-


mal for drug trafficking; the perfect gateway be-

Trump’s border wall represents a growing

tween the US’ high demand and supply from north-

frustration from many US citizens about immigra-

ern South America.

tion; often the debate circulates around the issues

The region is now one of the most violent

of jobs, wages and crime. However what is often

places in the world; in 2016 Honduras and El Sal-

ignored is that part of the reason for this migration

vador both were ranked among the top five most

is a real humanitarian crisis: victims of a drug war

violent countries. Both nations experience a higher

fleeing not just for a better life, but as a means to

rate of violent deaths than even Afghanistan, Iraq,

survive. Solving this problem is an extremely com-

Libya and Somalia, all of which are active war

plex issue and will take far more than what is cur-

zones. The lucrative nature of the region’s drug

rently being proposed. Being aware of this crisis,

networks mean gang warfare is rife: the two big-

however, is a start.

gest gangs, Mara Salvatrucha and the Barrio 18, 5


Every day, hundreds of Hondurans flee the

across the border between the two neighbouring

corruption, poverty, violence and exclusion of their

countries, no questions asked. Packed into the

country in the hope of a better life in the United

coach every morning are men, women and crying

States. For some, this dream becomes a reality.

children, bulging suitcases and plastic bags filled

For countless others, the journey ends in the very

with sweet bread and Coca Cola bottles. Xavier

same sadness they were hoping to escape, when

was one of these passengers, willing to endure the

they are detained by Mexican border control and

uncomfortable 15 hour journey on the winding and

returned by their busloads to the industrial capital

unpaved roads into the mountainous highlands of

of their homeland, San Pedro Sula. This was the

Guatemala. Several times, the bus stopped at mili-

case for Xavier González, a 22 year old university

tary checkpoints, where the men were pulled off

graduate pushed out of his job as a teacher by the

the bus to have their identification checked, and

corrupt local government, and left with no income

pay their fee to the Guatemalan soldiers who have

or means to support his young family. Desperate

turned the illegal migration of Hondurans into a

and uncertain of the future, he chose to leave his

profitable business. In the busy, sprawling capital

pregnant wife and daughter behind in search of a

of Guatemala, he changed buses, the furthest from

new beginning in the States.

his tiny village home he had ever been. From

There’s a bus that leaves from San Pedro Sula in the early hours of the morning for Guatemala City, infamous for carrying the mojados 6

there, it’s an equally long and arduous journey to the border with Mexico. Migrants continue by foot across the uneven landscape despite physical exhaustion and constant fear of being detained by

gun-wielding border police, or robbed and left for

hours in the state police station. Without notice,

dead by roaming gangs.

they were bundled onto a bus that returned them

After hours of walking in the blistering heat, Xavier began the next stage of his hazardous journey, joined by a young Guatemalan he’d befriended at the border. The pair chose a place along a set of train tracks where the trains moved slowly,

to their respective countries over a period of six days. Xavier was dumped in San Pedro Sula, dehydrated, penniless and devastated at the prospect of going back home to the life of hardship he’d wanted to save his children from.

and scrambled onto the boxcars, aware that one

I lived with Xavier and his family whilst I

slip could see them fall under the heavy wheels.

worked as an English teacher in the village where

Clinging to the side of the moving train, belongings

he lived in the rural department of Lempira. The

strapped to their backs, they climbed the ladders

day I completed my placement and returned to the

to the roof of the shaking boxcar where they could

UK was the day he left to travel up to San Pedro

finally rest, using their rucksacks as pillows.

Sula; as my plane touched down at Heathrow, he

The freight train, known as ‘La Bestia’, took them from the department of Chiapas to Veracruz, a large city on the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, they met other Central Americans also trying to reach North Mexico and eventually cross the U.S. border. Twice, gangs boarded the trains and forced them to each pay a toll of $100 dollars,

had just reached Guatemala City. His situation in Honduras has not changed: he still has a family, can only find employment as a campesino peasant due to his political orientation, and plans to try to cross the US border again next month. Xavier’s

story is one of millions just like it, a story of the human nature to be hopeful for a better future.

threatening anyone who refused with machetes and guns, shouting that they’d throw people off the roof. The Mexican National Human Rights Commission estimates that criminal gangs earn around $50 million every year from kidnapping

migrants and holding them ransom to their relatives. The figures are unclear, but it’s thought that almost 6/10 women and girls making the journey are raped and sexually assaulted, and those who are abducted are vulnerable to trafficking. Veracruz, almost 3,000 kilometres from the US border, is the closest Xavier

came to his dream of one day finding the job and economic stability necessary to support his family from the States. Whilst they slept on makeshift cardboard beds between the train tracks, federal police agents arrested the group of some 30 immigrants and detained them for over 24 7


Migration is as old as history itself, and peo-

similar experiences as I did and they started their

ple have always moved in search of opportunities

own initiatives to help migrants assimilate into so-

or to escape difficult situations. However, with the


rising awareness of national identities, an increas-

Language is perhaps the biggest barrier be-

ing stigma has developed against migration and

tween existing residents and new migrants. With-

movement. Anti-migrant rhetoric has been put forth

out tools to communicate with the other party, sus-

by many politicians: they will steal our jobs, they

picion and doubt arises, breeding mistrust in the

will bring in crime. This rhetoric is quickly assimilat-

other camp. Fortunately, technology is slowly erod-

ed into the stereotypes against immigrants, which

ing this barrier away. There are now tens if not

my family experienced first-hand. Challenging some of the political problems that arise from these stereotypes is a very important contemporary issue to solve, and I will explore some major

challenges and potential solutions in the following paragraphs. When I was young, my parents felt that prospects for my brother and I were bleak because of the relative lack of economic opportunities in my hometown and decided to take the leap-of-faith, with almost nothing in their possession, to migrate to a place where they knew nobody. The first years were tough, largely because none of us could speak English and my parents’ educational certificates were not recognised by new employers. Personally, I felt marginalised because most of the prestigious opportunities were restricted to citizens and it felt as if no amount of hard work could overcome the fact that I wasn’t native. However, as I grew up, I began to meet people who have had 8

hundreds of apps made to help language acquisi-

theft of job opportunities, people should embrace

tion, making language acquisition less of a luxury

new migrants as a resource of new skills and

than it was before. When I first moved, I still re-

knowledge to re-educate themselves to make

member the thick dictionaries that occupied nearly

them more employable.

a third of my luggage space. Nowadays, I can eas-

The final hurdle of migration is the lack of

ily bring out an app that performs real time transla-

assimilation of migrants into the local culture. With

tion for me. Culturally speaking, there is also an

the rise of nationalism and to a certain extent pro-

increasing acceptance towards the variety of lan-

tectionism, it seems as if we are more different

guages. It is really encouraging when members of

from each other than we really are. Despite speak-

the community work together to provide foreign

ing in different tongues, enjoying different cuisines,

migrant workers English classes for free to help

and playing different games, at the end of the day,

them better integrate into society.

we share many more similarities than we share

Second, there is a common fear that mi-

differences. Social media and new media have

grants will take away jobs. While it is true that

been crucial in this endeavour to shift mindsets,

some migrants may migrate to a new place for bet-

with blog sites and Facebook pages like Humans

ter job opportunities, it is unfair to say that jobs are

of New York which wrote extensive articles on the

stolen by migrants. Instead, an influx of educated

plurality of the human experience. There have

migrants is crucial to support growth of firms in this

been so many stories on how migrants contribute

current knowledge economy. Without this influx, it

towards the local community through their jobs or

will be difficult to attract MNCs to stay in these

through their charity commitments.

countries long term, further reducing job opportuni-

Therefore, it is important for residents to

ties. Therefore, instead of promoting the fear of

acknowledge the contributions of migrants and for migrants to value adding to community life in the new community through various ways. I do believe that we have a good chance to solve political problems linked to migrations. Countries should value immigrants, especially in this knowledge economy, and it has been shown and tested that societies that are the most open and diverse are the ones that are most prosperous. In conclusion, technology, social media and education have made this world more tolerant and welcoming to people who choose a call new lands their home.




Bryan Caplan does not shy away from con-

hardened in between the wars, and are indeed

troversial opinions. The George Mason University

hardening even more as anti-migrant forces grow

Economist has made headlines for disrupting con-

in strength across Europe and the Americas.

ventional wisdom on topics as diverse as democracy, childrearing and the value of education, drawing equal parts ire and admiration. Yet it is perhaps in his tireless advocacy for open borders that Caplan has borne witness to the most controversy – something that is perhaps fitting given just how radically it could change our world.

So what got Caplan interested in open borders? His answer is perhaps fitting for an economist: “Early when I was in college, I was listening to some professor talk about international free

trade and then just saying ‘by the way, this also applies to free trade in labour’”. He started to read research by then-Harvard economist Michael

Put simply, open borders is the idea that

Clemens, and realised that migration restrictions

governments – except in extreme cases, such as

weren’t just a policy change like any other, but that

with criminals and terrorists – should not dictate

“these regulations are having a larger effect upon

who enters a country, and who leaves it. And it

the global economy than anything else; they’re

has historical precedents: the United Kingdom had

impoverishing people and depriving more people

no border controls before 1905 when the govern-

of their freedom than anything else on the books”.

ment passed the first Aliens Act, intended mainly

On the subject of scale, he’s not wrong – a 2017

to keep out Russian Jews fleeing persecution.

Gallup poll estimated that 710 million people want

Even then, Commonwealth citizens could move

to leave their countries but are currently unable to;

around freely, including the ‘Windrush Generation’

if the process of migration was as simple as a

coming from the Caribbean until the mid-60s. In

criminal background check, then it’s not difficult to

the United States, too, there were virtually no con-

imagine these numbers rising even further.

trols on immigration before 1921. Global attitudes 10

It’s naturally difficult to estimate the impact of

erful, though controversial in some quarters. But I

such an unprecedented shift to the global econo-

can’t help thinking that as the political upheavals

my, but Clemens puts it in the region of an in-

of the last few years have shown, a scholarly,

crease in global GDP of 50-150% - or as much as

GDP-centric understanding of human existence

112 trillion dollars. Naturally, many of these bene-

can be lacking. Caplan doesn’t disagree: he ar-

fits would accrue to the migrants themselves, but

gues that discrimination by place of birth is one of

Clemens also highlights the benefits to host coun-

the primary contributing factors to global inequali-

tries, in the form of higher wages and greater inno-

ty, while the various apparatuses of global migra-

vation – a Harvard Business Review study of last

tion control represent one of the biggest barriers to

year found migrants were responsible for 30% of

human freedom today. “Telling someone that they

all US patents. Curiously perhaps, it also esti-

aren’t allowed to leave a place like, say, Haiti

mates significant gains to migrant-sending coun-

seems like a terrible thing to do to someone – how

tries: though fears of ‘brain drain’ dominate popu-

would you feel if somebody did that to you? Yet in

lar understandings of migration and development,

practice that’s what we do to virtually everyone in

the UN estimates that remittances – funds sent


back my emigrants – will be one of the most important factors in achieving the sustainable development goals, especially since they contribute

more than three times as much to the economies of the global south as all forms of international aid put together. These arguments naturally have their detractors, but if they’re true then it’s clear that immigration reform could be one of the most powerful tools for international development out there. The economic arguments are certainly pow-

He cites the philosopher Michael Huemer, who argues that since we have an ethical presumption in favour of freedom of movement within

our own countries, we would need significant arguments to oppose extending that to migration between countries. But Caplan believes he has yet to find anything compelling enough to justify a global regime of immigration control whose direct impact on people's lives and freedoms we've all seen: the drowned bodies in the Mediterranean, the children


kept in cages on the American border, the LGBT

mum number of people possible in their own terms

refugees deported back to their home countries by

and without judgement. "To me it's about being as

a Home Office who doesn't consider them 'gay

friendly and non-threatening as possible." He re-

enough'. While these are among the more egre-

calls a former ICE border guard who after reading

gious examples, it seems fundamentally impossi-

his more humorous writings on the subject con-

ble to run a system that restricts freedom of move-

tacted him to say that after reading his work, he

ment without resorting to some kind of heavy-

quit his job and now works to expose the brutality

handed coercion.

of the organisation. Caplan also believes in mak-

It's clear Caplan has done his research. But

ing the case to students: "they're the future and

how do actual open-borders advocates push their

their minds are still open; they're idealistic, they're

view in the political sphere in the age of Trump?

curious, and quite frankly they're going to have a

Last October, a diverse group of leftists, libertari-

lot of influence in the world".

ans and religious groups came together in Wash-

It's clear the movement has a long way to

ington DC to work this out, in a Conference at

go; but then again, a movement of people advo-

which Caplan was the keynote speaker. The fact

cating for entirely free immigration was unimagina-

that the movement is defined by its political diver-

ble a generation ago. Yet three generations before

sity seems to prevent an inherent difficulty, but

that, the idea of our world – governed by borders,

Caplan believes coalition-building should be about

passports and visas – would have been just as

using a variety of viewpoints to convince the maxi-






The mental health of refugees in the UK is a

stress of asylum comes at a formative time in

serious problem. As of 2017, there were around

childhood development, and disrupts academic

120,000 refugees in the UK, mainly from Iran, Pa-

achievement and social integration. The UNHCR

kistan and Iraq. A refugee is five times more likely

estimates that 80% of all refugee women have ex-

to have mental health problems than the general

perienced sexual abuse. Men are likely to have

population and over 60% can expect to feel strong

suffered physical violence in combat or as victims

mental distress. The most common conditions are

of genocide. Adult refugees must adjust to new

PTSD, anxiety and depression. The many stress-

socioeconomic roles—men must re-qualify or seek

ors refugees experience include prolonged and

low-paying jobs, while women must become co-

uncertain application processes, low income, and

providers but face poor literacy as a barrier to ad-

unfamiliarity with language and culture. They face

vancement. Help-seeking behaviour is affected by

poor living conditions in deprived and unsafe are-

attitudes to mental health. Traditional cultures may

as, and are often required to move, uprooting bud-

value stoicism, particularly in males, while stigma

ding social networks. Most research in the past

and shame hang over refugees’ trauma, especially

has focused on children and women, with little fo-

when it comes to sexual violation. Less than 3% of

cus on men and the elderly, but existing evidence

refugees are above 60, but this demographic suf-

points to severe problems existing across all these

fers acutely from low income and isolation. The

subgroups. Each provides different opportunities

elderly are slow to integrate or learn English, and

and challenges for mental health intervention, and

have difficulty accessing welfare. Unemployment

we have reviewed past policies to produce specific

rates are high. Accommodation policies split refu-

and tailored recommendations for support.

gees up to avoid ghettoization, but this makes it

Refugees of various genders and ages face

difficult for elderly refugees to experience commu-

different challenges, and children suffer a particu-

nity, made worse by poor mobility and technologi-

larly onerous asylum process. Those arriving

cal literacy. Mental health issues present different-

alone make up 8% of all applications and they

ly in the elderly, as conditions like dementia inter-

must go through multiple interviews as well as an

fere with other psychiatric processes.

“age-assessment” to prove their age and engage

More broadly, we looked at asylum policies

legal representation. If unsuccessful, they can be

and explored ways to make the system more re-

repatriated when they turn 18. The uncertainty and

sponsive to the needs of those they serve. We


wellbeing though allowing the refugees to have a

consequences, and thus one of the most important

role in UK society, which in turn increases the feel-

improvements which could be made to the asylum

ing of self-worth. On a gender specific note, fe-

process is improving the access that refugees

male refugees are the subgroup most likely to

have to information regarding claims. One of the

have been subjected to sexual trauma, whilst male

ways in which such communication would be

refugees are most affected by homelessness and/

made more effective is by using media such as

or dangerous living situations; as such we recom-

digital storytelling. Upon being granted asylum,

mend targeted interventions and support pro-

continual moving between cities can cause the de-

grammes. Finally, with isolation and loneliness be-

struction of any support networks that asylum

ing the major problem identified in elderly refu-

seekers have as well as introducing more anxiety

gees, the implementation of free or subsidised

and uncertainty through moving to an unfamiliar

public transport services and organised home vis-

area. We thus suggest a review into the housing

its could have considerable benefits on mental


health. It is imperative that people pay attention to

Research suggests that strengthening and

our findings and recommendations to help protect

providing a social support network is imperative to

this vulnerable group, first in the UK and then

provide significant benefits to mental health and

hopefully on a global scale.

buffer against the development of PTSD. Many of

In an ideal world, a comprehensive array of

the refugees we spoke to talked of how local com-

programs should be available. We identified five

munity groups were a lifeline and yet funding for

such key initiatives which we believe would make

such groups is being cut. The daunting challenge

the most difference if they were implemented.

remains the use of limited skills and resources to

These were broadly related to reducing the stress

promote equity of access. Ensuring that a welcom-

of the initial assessment and minimising the extent

ing and warm community is provided for those who

of daily stressors after migration. It is well docu-

are most vulnerable is essential, and we should all

mented that a lack of control over circumstances is

be working towards it.

linked to a range of psychological and physical


THE PLIGHT OF ‘LEFTBEHIND’ CHILDREN BELINDA NG In February every year, China experiences

and farmland for the city life has been a key con-

the largest internal human migration on the planet

tributor to China’s rapid economic growth in the

as millions of migrant workers in coastal cities trav-

past few decades. Moreover, these migrant work-

el inland towards more rural areas to celebrate

ers are repatriating their remittances towards the

Chinese New Year with their families. For the 60

rural homes they left, leading to improved living

million ‘left-behind’ children growing up in China’s

conditions for their families.

rural regions, the holiday is a rare chance for them

For the past seven years, I have volunteered

to see their parents , who sacrificed parenthood in

annually in these impoverished and rural regions

the village for jobs in the cities. The steady stream

of Guangxi, China. This has given me the invalua-

of migrants who have deserted their rural homes

ble opportunity to better understand the experiences of these ‘left-behind’ children as they grow up without their parents, as well as the wider changes the villages underwent as they were transformed by migrant remittances. From a developmental perspective, these impoverished regions have developed enormously in recent years in terms of the infrastructure, living conditions, and the local economy. Since my first trip in 2011, I witnessed a lot of changes compared to my most recent trip in the December of 2018. In 2011, a journey to a remote mountainous primary school took over seven hours and involved a three hour hike through treacherous terrain. When I visited the same school last year, paved roads had been built, shortening the journey time to the school to just under three hours.

Rapid developmental changes have also improved access to education. During my first visit in 2011, it was a sobering experience to learn that for primary six students who were going to graduate soon, the notion of secondary school remained incredibly uncertain because their families could not afford school fees and the costly commute to 16

schools in urban areas. When I visited last year, I

Lin as she helped her grandmother cook, helped

learnt that the Chinese government had recently

her brother with his homework, and tended to the

unveiled new scholarship schemes for children

vegetables in the farm, all the while noticing how

from low-income backgrounds to attend secondary

wise beyond her years she seemed. Indeed, her

school in the city. After talking to teachers, I found

bond with her grandparents is very strong, but Mei

out that nearly the entire graduating cohort of pri-

Lin said she misses them a lot, as she is often left

mary school students would be leaving the area for

alone during the day whilst they are out in the

secondary education, only returning during holi-

fields working on the farm.

days to help on the farms.

“Sometimes, when I have time, my favourite

Yet, only a handful of the children I interact-

thing to do is to play with my friends,” she says.

ed with in my seven years of visits had their par-

Without her parents here, Mei Lin has had to take

ents with them living at home. Most often, these

on more responsibilities as a caretaker for her sib-

children are raised by one or both of their elderly

ling, and she supports and takes care of her elder-

grandparents. Such is the case for eleven-year-old

ly grandparents. She describes how she is often

Mei Lin, a bright young girl whose home I had the

so tired after a whole day of chores that she strug-

opportunity to visit for a full day on my most recent

gles to finish her school work in time, let alone

trip. When asked whether she missed her parents,

have time to play with her friends.

who were working in the city, she shrugged and

A childhood sacrificed , as a result of her

said “no” without hesitation. Indeed, her parents

parents’ sacrifice for a better future for her. The

had left for the city when she was just four years

newfound wealth of the villages comes at the cost

old, so she could barely recall what life was like

of a double sacrifice.

when they were still present.

Mei Lin do not lack of electricity or access to a tel-

‘Left-behind’ children like

Common to the narrative of ‘left-behind’ chil-

evision. Yet, these ‘left-behind’ children remain

dren, Mei Lin lives with her two elderly grandpar-

deprived of parental love and must shoulder extra

ents and a six-year-old brother. Her grandmother

responsibilities. The real cost of this phenomenon

suffers from chronic back pain, and her grandfa-

remains hidden, and only time will tell how it will

ther, although not formally diagnosed, displays

affect the generation of children growing up with-

early signs of dementia

out parents.

according to Mei Lin’s

grandmother. I observed and interacted with Mei



In a centre in Northern Greece, an old wom-

ulation. She had no language skills, and the many

an was working at a second-hand clothes distribu-

years of working in chaotic camps and desperate

tion facility. Homeless men and refugees came to

situations had hardened her to the relational as-

the desk and gave their shirt sizes. A volunteer

pects of serving refu-

would go to the storeroom and bring a selection of

gees. During my four

the shirts available to this older woman on the


desk who would then thrust one at the customer


and tell him (in a language that he could not un-


derstand) to try it on top of his clothes. He protest-

NGOs, I witnessed many

ed that he would prefer to try on a button-down

such situations of NGO

shirt rather than the neon sports shirt she had im-

workers showing a lack

posed on him. He tried it on, but if it was too big or

of patience, humility, un-

he didn’t like it - tough luck. Arab mothers who

derstanding and relation-

came looking for clothing would be handed tank

al care.

working and





tops or skirts above ankle length - articles of cloth-

The German and

ing considered culturally inappropriate. The older

Greek words for hospital-

lady eventually put up signs in Arabic, Urdu, Greek

ity are gastfreundschaft

and English, reading, “This is not boutique - we


can only give what we have, and you must take

translate as friendship for

what is given you”.

the guest; however, state



All too easily NGO relations with refugees

hospitality for refugees

can become undignifying. Workers and volunteers

often does not look like

can be ill informed on cultural norms and nuances,

friendship and creates an

become exhausted with the seemingly endless


needs set before them, stuck in certain ways of

the NGO worker. The

doing things and can lose the flexibility and crea-

philosopher Derrida re-

tivity needed to serve refugees with dignity. The

fers to hospitality and

local woman above was well-meaning, indeed she

hostility as two sides of

had given up her job to help the new refugee pop-

the same coin: both are




practices of sovereignty and control over the

and thin young Afghan man held open the door

stranger - a one way offer. This one-way exchange

and invited us in. Offering us tea and biscuits, he

inherently creates an asymmetric relationship, put-

soon began to cheer up as he shared Persian mu-

ting the receiver in a position of moral indebted-

sic videos on his laptop. He admitted that he had

ness and placing the giver in a hierarchically supe-

been feeling low, not leaving his room often and

rior position of agency. Where NGOs determine

that we were the first guests he had received in

the laws of giving, refugees’ human rights risk be-

several weeks. When we invited him out into town

ing interpreted and portrayed as gifts which inflict a

to grab a kebab, he borrowed a bike and joined,

debt of gratitude and compliance. Even the most

even trying to pay for us all.

caring and perceptive volunteer can be part of this system of undignifying power relations.

This experience transformed my thinking about my time working with refugees. When al-

I experienced a reversal of power in my first

lowed to act as hosts, refugees gain the agency

week in Germany when an Afghan refugee invited

usually denied to them in institutional aid and state

me and another volunteer to cycle with him to visit

hospitality contexts which imply subjection and

his friend in a neighbouring village. We arrived at a

passivity. The act of receiving a gift, allowed me as

repurposed mental asylum and walked through to

a volunteer to experience a sense of reciprocity

a big heavy door labelled B156. A rather dejected

and normality.


*To the credit of the refugee centre above, a meeting was called a few weeks after I left Greece to address how the needs of refugees were being met through the clothes distribution facility. This led to new staff training and the addition of a room with sewing machines for refugees to adjust Greek clothing to meet their cultural and sizing needs.

While working in Greece and Germany, I wit-

classes and on family outings and taught me to

nessed some NGOs practice this reversal of hospi-

cook Iraqi bread, insisting I call them aunt and un-

tality. This personal approach broke down power

cle. In this unique situation, a refugee family had

relations which can be oppressive for refugees. As

taken me under their wing and assisted me with

workers built relationships and friendships with ref-

the ins and outs of living in Germany, exercising

ugees as equals, refugees invited them into their

their Middle Eastern hospitality. When Skyping my

homes, receiving them as guests and offering re-

parents, the couple assured them that I was being

ciprocated gifts. This small exchange is in fact a

well looked after.

bold political act. Reliance and dependence on

Although power relations cannot be fully re-

others has often been degrading, but workers can

versed as NGOs are still providing services for ref-

transgress hierarchies by coming alongside those

ugees, the building of personal relationships and

who have lost rights in an undignifying process.

creation of opportunities for reciprocity can create

As a young woman on my own in Germany, I

a more dignifying environment. Developing rela-

had a unique position of vulnerability working with

tionships and friendships can open doors of assis-

a refugee NGO. One Iraqi family took me under

tance which are more natural and equal, as well as

their wing, shocked that the family of a woman so

helping NGOs obtain a better understanding of the

young would have let her travel so far alone. They

more personal needs on the ground.

invited me for lunch every day, took me to German 20

MIGRATION AND MOVEMENT: THE DIFFERENT EXPERIENCES THAT CAN OCCUR WITHIN ONE FAMILY TADEUSZ CIECIERSKI-HOLMES I found myself walking through the Tengeru Agricultural College, slowly escorted by a quiet, firm-looking security guard. We did not have much to say, mostly due to our mutual lack of knowledge in the other’s language. We pass a group of children, shouting a mixture of ‘Mzungu!’ (a term for Westerners) and ‘Shikamoo’ (a respectful greeting for elders, directed towards the security guard, I am sure). My visit to Tengeru was motivated by my family history of migration and movement, with English grandparents that moved to Germany, and with Polish grandparents that were displaced by war.

many, with two young children (including my mother) in tow. My grandmother, Mary Holmes, recalls hating the move initially. The linguistic and cultural

Both of these examples of migration and movement resulted from the most significant event in recent world history – the Second World War.

A STORY OF MIGRATION West Germany, in the aftermath of the Second World War, found itself lacking in male workers due to the demographic devastation from the fighting. Industrial demand for man-power saw waves of immigration to West Germany, coming from Italy, Turkey, and East Germany. However West Germany experienced a significant brain

drain in academia, due to persecution of Jewish academics before the war and greater opportunities in academia in the US after the war. In 1966, Ken Holmes, my grandfather, was scouted by the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg to fill a skills gap in studying the structure of muscle. In 1968, Mary and Ken made the move to Ger-

barriers were large. She could not speak any German. German mothers tended to stay at home and did not work. They had to look after the children and do homework with them in the afternoon. Alt-

hough the Germans thought this was a good idea, Mary did not like this at all, as she wanted to continue working. However, despite the initial issues of adapting to a new society, Mary and Ken continue to live in Heidelberg, having successful careers as the Head Librarian at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and as the Director of the Department of Biophysics at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research respectively. They have recently become German citizens.

FORCED TO FIGHT The Second World War had a much more direct effect on my Polish grandparents. My grandfather, Victor (Wiktor), lived in Polish territory that was annexed by Germany in 1939. As his mother 21

was born in Berlin he was seen as half German,


and he became one of the many Poles conscripted into a Polish battalion in the German army. Victor

My grandmother’s journey saw great hard-

was stationed on the Atlantic wall in France, be-

ships too, taking eight long years before arriving to

fore being moved to the Italian front before D-Day.

the relative safety of the UK. It was early April

Here he was injured by grenade shrapnel during

1940. Her father had been arrested and impris-

the fighting there. After this, he was once again

oned for being a Polish police officer. Helena, my

moved to the Western front until he was captured

grandmother, Margaret, my great aunt, and their

by the Allies in 1944.

mother, heard a knock on the door. The NKVD

The Poles, along with other conscripted groups from annexed nations (such as the Czechs), had extra difficulty in surviving the war. They had German officers behind them ready to shoot any deserters. He managed to surrender to

policeman told them to pack as much as they

could carry and to get out of the house. They were put onto cattle trucks to be taken into Siberia. They were six and three years old at the time. Their journey ended in the steppes of Siberia.

the Americans in a cellar during street fighting,

In 1942 the British had negotiated with the

which he thought to be a miracle, as the Ameri-

Russians for Polish prisoners to form a Polish ar-

cans were known for shooting first and asking

my in the Middle-East. Their father was one of

questions later. Around 70,000 Poles were cap-

these prisoners. In exchange for transferring the

tured by the Allies and the majority, including my

Polish Army to fight with the British, Polish refu-

grandfather, enlisted into the Polish Army under

gees were granted transit to camps in territories in

British command. My grandfather did not see any

the Middle-East, India, and East Africa. Helena

more fighting and eventually moved to London,

and Margaret, journeyed through Persia and India

where he ended up working for McVities, the bis-

before arriving in Tengeru, the home to 5000

cuit manufacturers, for over 30 years.

Polish refugees, where they remained till 1948,

(Polish Children and Mothers at the Tengeru Camp, 1943)


until they joined their father in England. Only 100,000 Poles out of the 1 million that

lege. This is where those less fortunate still remain.

were taken into Siberia managed to get out of

Russia. Of those who made the journey, many died due to tropical disease, malnutrition, or exhaustion. Margaret, who is still alive and told me this story, believes their survival was a miracle.

AS I WALK THROUGH THE COLLEGE The stories of my grandparents illustrate how I, and many others, are a product of migration and movement, even within just two generations. Speaking to the security guard, I did not have to say much other than ‘Mimi ni Polisi’, which in combination with my pale complexion made it obvious what I was searching for. All that still remains of the Tengeru refugee camp is the cemetery tucked away in a corner of the Tengeru Agricultural Col23



‘We are as flowers of one garden, waves of one sea, leaves of one branch’… These were analogies I heard growing up as a child in a Baha’i family, and why I’m not able to go back to my birthplace, where Baha’is are subjected to systematic persecution, young Baha’is denied higher education, and academics imprisoned. These very same

ideas got my grandfather imprisoned and tortured. He suffered for his beliefs, for viewing the world as one human family, whatever the race, culture, or religion. Now having travelled the world and living in Cambridge, I appreciate all the more the farreaching implications of this principle of the oneness of humanity and how it relates to the phenomenon of mass migration. Perhaps these movements of populations that we are increasingly witnessing, the consequence of multitudes living with war, famine, or oppression, are a ‘wake-up call’ for humanity. No longer can we ignore intolerable conditions in distant countries or justify systems and attitudes that perpetuate such conditions. As we come face to face with a despairing humanity, we come to the realisation that our lives are inter-


planet, interconnected and interdependent. If humanity is seen in this way, as a single entity, then policies that focus on national or regional self-interest rather than global prosperity no longer suffice. Solutions cannot be considered in isolation from this global reality. New structures are required, a new global perspective and ‘worldembracing vision’. This is not just a vague hope, a theoretical or philosophical ideal, but a reality that has profound implications for how we view the problems facing humanity and how we attempt to address them. We need to reconceptualise our notion of what it is to be human. To what extent do we look at our culture, race, religion, background or per-

sonality and put exterior differences at the heart of what we see as our ‘self’? If our identity is connected to our differences, there will always be an ‘us’ and the ‘other’ and consequently alienation, prejudice and fear will perpetuate. Yet if we identify with that which we have in common, our conception of identity expands to include all the human family. We move beyond notions of mere tolerance, to seeing each and all as part of the rich tapestry of human society, each profoundly en-

The wellbeing of people who are geograph-

dowed with capacity, and with the potential to

ically distant affects us all, whether it is through the

make a unique and meaningful contribution. Just

spread of infectious diseases such as ebola, the

as the diversity of colours and hues in a garden

impact of climate change, or the ripple effect of

intensifies its beauty, so the diversity of the human

economic inequality. The peace, stability and pros-

race is a source of richness and beauty.

perity of different regions are linked. We are as a 24

If we see each other as members of one

A useful analogy that has been given is that

family, it will be impossible for us to rest at ease

of the human body, in which the cells and organs

while our kindred are in discomfort, impossible not

cooperate and collaborate perfectly for the func-

to ‘welcome them to our fold’, not to treat them as

tioning of the whole and there is no competition or

equals and more. The scale and momentum of the

selective advantage. Rather, the complex function-

movement of populations pose significant chal-

ing of cells and organs are coordinated such that

lenges to individual countries. Yet if we can view

all work towards a common goal. If one part is ail-

the entire world as members of our own human

ing or diseased, the whole suffers.

family, then our attitudes surrounding the migration issue, and our response to this crisis, would radically change. Further we would exert every effort

to address the root causes of crisis situations which make people flee their homeland.

The underlying problems facing the different

peoples of the world are undeniably deep-rooted

and complex. Prejudice and fanaticism, power struggles, a growing disparity between rich and

Humanity has moved through the progres-

poor are at the heart of a lot of conflicts. Lasting

sive stages of unification of the tribe, the city-state,

solutions can only be sought when we passionate-

and the nation-state. Unification of the planet is the

ly advocate for and seek to put into practice the

next stage in the evolution of human society. Our

simple principle of the oneness of humanity. As

collective transition to this stage is necessarily dif-

Baha’u’llah wrote almost 150 years ago, ‘the Earth

ficult, analogous to the turbulent stage of adoles-

is but one country and mankind its citizens’ ... ‘the

cence passing from childhood to adulthood. Yet

wellbeing of mankind, its peace and security are

this transition to maturity, this organic evolution to

unattainable, unless and until its unity is firmly es-

a cooperative and collaborative world society, is


inevitable. 25


appeals to international law and human rights

and asylum policies in many Western states are

have far proved relatively ineffective in exacting

failing. The demand for effective policymaking in


this sphere has never been more acute, with levels of human displacement currently at a historic high. Yet asylum processes as they currently stand produce outcomes that are expensive, both fiscally and in human terms. The repercussions of two inadequate asylum policies common to numerous Western states – indefinite detention and prohibi-

tions from working – demonstrate that policy change in this area can simultaneously exact better social and economic outcomes. Despite being subject to (justifiably) acerbic

Asylum procedures in Australia constitute perhaps the apex of economic irresponsibility. The prevailing policy of the past decade is that asylum seekers arriving in Australian waters by boat are detained indefinitely in offshore facilities operated by private contractors. In April 2014, Australia’s National Commission of Audit reported that it cost

AUD 400,000 a year to hold a single asylum seeker in offshore detention, compared with AUD 40,000 for them to live in the community while their claim is processed. Aside from spending billions

international criticism, some Western states main-

each year on detention and processing, other un-

tain indefinite detention policies for asylum seek-

expected costs have been incurred. For instance,

ers. Under such policies, those seeking asylum

in 2017, the Australian government settled a law-

may be detained without charge for a period not

suit by agreeing to pay AUD 70 million in compen-

subject to statutory time limits. Conditions in de-

sation to refugees and asylum seekers for the in-

tention are often deplorable conditions. This prac-

humane and dangerous conditions of detention

tice, common in the United Kingdom, the United

facilities on Manus Island. Indefinite detention is

States and Australia, has been labelled a violation

exceedingly expensive compared to policy alterna-

of international law by the UN Special Rapporteur

tives, and the systemic human rights abuses asso-

on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading

ciated with the practice (rightly) attract internation-

Treatment or Punishment.

al condemnation. The policy all but criticises itself.

That such policies are inhumane and illegal

Another costly asylum policy, and one yet

is, nowadays, widely known; what is less widely

more widespread than indefinite detention, is the

discussed is that indefinite detention is exorbitantly

policy of denying working rights to asylum seekers.

expensive for these governments to operate. It is

The extremity of the approach taken varies by

understandable that advocates would focus on the

state. Across most of the EU, asylum seekers

human cost of such policies, this being the most

must be allowed to work if they have waited over

glaring objection to the practice. Yet their econom-

nine months for a decision on their initial asylum

ic irrationality may be powerfully persuasive to the

claim. In the UK, those with a pending claim can

governments supporting the measures, given that

work after 12 months, but only if their occupation is


in shortage. The most restrictive policies are those

tion’s 2018 report presents a model in which half

found in Australia and Ireland, where most asylum

of the individuals who have been waiting more

seekers are prohibited from working until asylum is

than six months for a decision on their claim are

granted. All of these policies are socially damag-

able to work full time on the national average

ing, to a greater or lesser extent. They bring with

wage. According to their estimates, the UK Gov-

them the repercussions of prolonged economic

ernment would receive an extra £31.6 million per

exclusion and mandated inactivity: poverty, poor

year in tax and national insurance revenue, with a

physical and mental health, family breakdown, and

further £10.8 million per year being saved if those

a challenging transition into society and the work-

individuals are moved off subsistence support

force if granted asylum.

(while retaining support for accommodation). Fur-

Aside from these negative social impacts, prohibiting asylum seekers from working is also a questionable economic decision. Prohibiting asylum seekers from working actively bars them from contributing to local economies, forcing many to rely on social services. The UK is among those states with much to gain - in economic and social terms - from a less restrictive policy. The Lift the

thermore, research has yet to find any evidence that granting the right to work would attract more people to seek protection in the UK, undermining arguments that a change in policy would create an unacceptable ‘pull factor’. It seems that there is much to be gained and little to be lost from policy change in this area. Western states must reimagine asylum poli-

Ban coalition argue that removing working prohibi-

cy in order to produce better humanitarian and

tions would result in additional income tax and na-

economic outcomes. The repercussions of policies

tional insurance contributions, and it would also

like indefinite detention and prohibitions from work-

cut reliance on subsistence support. The coali-

ing show that policy change can scarcely be more politically unpalatable than the bleak reality of current approaches. It is time for governments to openly and honestly question why they favour a deeply unsatisfactory status quo; it is time for them to aspire to achieve more.




This article is based on a panel organised by Clare Politics on January 29th, 2019, with the subject ‘Refugees of war: What can you do?’ The speakers were Harriet Lamb CBE and Peter Martin: Harriet Lamb CBE is the CEO of International Alert, a peacebuilding charity that works in 25 countries and territories. She has worked extensively in international development and is involved in the government’s community sponsorship scheme to support the resettlement of refugees. Peter Martin is a PhD student at Clare College, a former president of Clare Politics, and the founder of Cambridge refugee or-

ganisation CUCRAG, (now called Re:Action).

We have all seen the headlines, the pictures: the father on the beach holding his child’s body, the rubble where houses once stood, the thousands of people, the boats tiny in the sea. Violent conflict continues to drive people from their homes and into perilous journeys, and it may feel that we are helpless in the face of such suffering. Howev-

ue patrolling. However, this changed in 2018 with the accession of Italy’s far-right government under Matteo Salvini, who accuse such missions of being ‘pirates’ and ‘people smugglers’;

er, organisations and individuals are working to alleviate the conflict and danger that refugees of war face; and you can support their visions for a peaceful and safe world. The impact of this conflict can be traced across the Mediterranean Sea, where refugees from the Middle East and North Africa are forced into desperate escape attempts. According to official records, 140 people leaving from Libya have drowned this month alone, although these figures are far short of the true number. And attitudes towards these journeys are hardening: Before June 2018, rescue operations in the Mediterranean involved co-ordinating with relevant national authorities in the Mediterranean, who would organise the resettlement of refugees, allowing NGO searchand-rescue boats, such as Peter’s own, to contin-

boats and aircraft risk being impounded and prevented from travel. There is now not a single boat in the search and rescue zone. Yet in spite of such difficulties, Harriet remains proactive in her approach. ‘Nobody’s born violent, nobody wants to be violent; people are pushed into that because of the causes which they’re faced with, and so if we want to tackle conflict, we want to work proactively, to build peace.’ Peter has not given up


in spite of the opposition he faced, and his mission

Hunt, to tell him to invest in peacebuilding in Brit-

has changed to meet the new politics of migration. Having worked on four refugee missions in the Mediterranean Sea, he is setting up a new type of search and rescue NGO boat, a legal monitoring ship called Haladia (Homer’s word for the Mediterranean, ‘the shining sea’) for refugees crossing the Mediterranean. The project aims to: bring back a presence to the Southern Mediterranean; bring more court cases against ships who ignore distress calls from refugee boats by using CCTV and GoPro cameras on ribs; to broadcast to all relevant authorities the presence of refugee boats in distress, and, should nobody come, to step in and offer support. What can you do? Harriet offers simple, practical steps: write to foreign secretary Jeremy

ain’s post-EU future. Speak to your local MP, and attend constituency surgeries. You can also volunteer with refugee sponsorship schemes, as Harriet does, such as Safe Haven Cambridge. Peter needs the support of Cambridge students in his new NGO. He is launching a boat by the summer, and with 15 % funding in place, aims to reach 40 or 50 % before going public with the project. There is a huge amount of work to be tackled: from establishing connections across the Mediterranean, to expanding the NGO team, registering and organising the group, and fundraising. “Why do you go on?” Harriet Lamb asked her new friend, Fadhi, a refugee from Syria. “Because the alternative is to despair.”

(Photo taken from


CIUTAT REFUGI AND THE RISE OF THE ‘SANCTUARY CITY’: A NEW WAY OF DOING MIGRATION POLICY IN EUROPE AND BEYOND? JACK LONG-MARTINEZ Issues of migration have long been at the forefront of European politics, but seldom has this been as evident as in the years following the onset

The policy implications of this have included the limitation of legal migration channels, the popularisation of detention and deportation as governmen-

of continental migration ‘crisis’ in 2015. Certainly, policy responses to contemporary immigration challenges have been diverse. Nevertheless, despite frequent rhetorical commitments to humanitarian principles, European political actors have increasingly tended towards the implementation of policies of restriction and exclusion. This phenomenon appears closely connected with the predominance of nation-states in the international political sphere. Despite the existence

tal tools and the complication of paths to permanent residency and citizenship – all of which heighten the vulnerability of incoming refugees and migrants. This marked trend has inspired numerous pro-immigration political actors to seek out alternative spheres of government within which more inclusive immigration policy may be practiced. In this vein, city-level political entities have come to enjoy increasing attention as potential sites for the gen-

of alternative levels of governance (both local and

eration of policy aimed at the hospitable treatment

transnational), nation-states retain ultimate sovereignty over migration policy formulation – as emphasised, for instance, in Article 15 of the UN’s

of migrant populations. Significantly, recent years have seen the emergence and proliferation of ‘urban sanctuary’

2018 Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regu-

initiatives across Europe and North America.

lar Migration. Undoubtedly, specific governments have been notable for their generation of inclusive policy, with Germany, for example, accepting over

These city-level schemes – although varied in form and content across cases – nonetheless are united in their explicit defiance of exclusionary state-

one million refugees since 2015 under the Chancellorship of Angela Merkel. Overwhelmingly, however, national policy-makers – indisputably influenced by the growing global prominence of populist radical right-wing politics – have increasingly engaged in the securitisation of migration. In other words, nation-state governments have become disposed to framing migration as a security threat.

level immigration politics and by their engagement in inter-city networks transcending the boundaries of the nation-state. The growing prominence of these initiatives has prompted commentators to stress the city’s unique capacity to counteract increasingly exclusionary practices by state actors and, in so doing, transform the sphere of migration politics at both domestic and global levels.


This marked trend has inspired numerous

goals have been tackled through four policy foci:

pro-immigration political actors to seek out alternative spheres of government within which more in-

firstly, the implementation of thorough reception strategies carefully balancing refugee and host

clusive immigration policy may be practiced. In this vein, city-level political entities have come to enjoy

population requirements; secondly, the provision of care for refugees already in Barcelona by bol-

increasing attention as potential sites for the generation of policy aimed at the hospitable treatment of migrant populations. Significantly, recent years have seen the emergence and proliferation of ‘urban sanctuary’ initiatives across Europe and North America. These city-level schemes – although varied in form and content across cases – nonetheless are united in their explicit defiance of exclusionary statelevel immigration politics and by their engagement

stering pre-existing frameworks of migrant reception and care; thirdly, the stimulation of citizen participation through partnerships with NGOs, cultural marketing content generation and the provision of highly accessible information services; and, finally, engagement in ‘action abroad,’ primarily through networks of ‘coordination and mutual support between European cities. This programme has, observers suggest, been highly successful. Both as an extension of

in inter-city networks transcending the boundaries

pre-existing Catalan intercultural policy and as an

of the nation-state. The growing prominence of these initiatives has prompted commentators to stress the city’s unique capacity to counteract in-

initiative in its own right, Ciutat Refugi has seemingly been marked by its contribution to both the integration of refugees and asylum seekers into

creasingly exclusionary practices by state actors

Catalan society and, crucially, the relative non-

and, in so doing, transform the sphere of migration politics at both domestic and global levels. Among the most prominent contemporary

emergence of any politically-salient countervailing anti-immigration movement. These factors have prompted certain figures to present the initiative as

examples of ‘urban sanctuary’ policy is Barcelona’s Ciutat Refugi (Refuge City) programme. This scheme was initiated in September 2015 with the intention of equipping Barcelona with infrastructure for ‘receiving and assisting refugees, providing the necessary services and guaranteeing their rights, and… [lobbying] states to respect the most elementary standards of humanitarian law.’ These

a key example of innovative local-level policy production, with this, in turn, inspiring its adoption as an organisational model by relatively more nascent ‘sanctuary’ schemes in Europe and elsewhere. Such assessments are not entirely unproblematic. Notably, the relative lack of critical academic examination to which Ciutat Refugi has been submitted and the programme’s possession 31

of a peculiar geographical and historical context – specifically, within the ‘stateless nation’ of Catalu-

erment of nodes of city-level government engaged in transnational collaborative networks – best facil-

ña, whose policy has often been defined in opposition to that of the Spanish state – are potential

itate the production of policy that marries pragmatism with an acute concern for the requirements of

complicating factors. Consequently, proclamations

vulnerable immigrant populations? And by exten-

regarding either the initiative’s unmitigated success or its easy transmutability as an urban policy

sion, would it be desirable for this organisational framework to supplant the nation-state in matters

model must be approached with some caution. That being said, the example of Ciutat

of migration policy? Certainly, the rise to political primacy of a city-dominated system vis-à-vis state-

Refugi demonstrates the potential power of the ‘urban sanctuary’ in the context of immigration policy and, therefore, allows us to pose important questions regarding the direction of migration politics in Europe and indeed beyond. Principally, does the ‘Barcelona model’ – namely, the empow-

led politics seems a relatively distant prospect. Nevertheless, it is also apparent that, should nation-states increasingly recede into mentalities of isolationism and exclusionism, the role of local institutions as defenders of humanitarian political principles may only grow in significance.



Venezuela is in a state of crisis. Hyperinfla-

died in 2013, Maduro, his hand-picked successor,

tion is rampant, reaching 1,698,488% in December

has struggled to keep this socialist regime alive.

2018. The country’s murder rate of 81.4 per

To do so, Maduro has turned to two ideological

100,000 inhabitants is the world’s highest. Along-

principles to shore up his legitimacy: democracy

side widespread shortages of medicine and food,

and sovereignty. When unity is most needed, this

maternal mortality rose 65% in 2016, according to

ideological battleground has fomented domestic

the Venezuelan Ministry of Health. Consequently,

and international division.

over three million Venezuelans have fled the country. Embattled President Nicolás Maduro’s best – if not only – means to retain power in the face of

mounting domestic and international dissatisfaction is to defend his right to rule as a democratically-elected president of a sovereign state. In making this argument, he abstracts a humanitarian crisis into an ideological one. This has led the global West – which should prioritize helping the millions of Venezuelans in need – to become more focused on settling its age-old score against socialism and fighting to protect its waning influence on the world stage. To bring the focus back to the people, we must recognize the Venezuelan crisis for what it is: the worst migration crisis in Latin American history. Venezuelan politics dramatically transformed in 1999 when Hugo Chávez, a wildly popular socialist leader, won the presidency. Since Chavez

On democracy, Maduro defends his right to rule by citing his successful re-election in May 2018. However, these elections were marred by imprisonments and forced exiles of opposition candidates. Consequently, Juan Guaidó, an opposition leader and the head of the National Assembly, declared himself interim president on January 23rd. Maduro, in turn, has ignored Guaidó’s National Assembly in favor of a newly-created “National Constituent Assembly,” made up almost exclusively of Maduro-loyalists. With two men claiming the throne, media

coverage has focused on picking sides. Domestically, media pay immense attention to the historically-pro-Maduro military. Guaidó claims to have held covert meetings with high-ranking military officials. In an interview with Time magazine, he said, “No one is willing to sacrifice themselves for Maduro or take up arms to fight for him.” Internationally, 33

several of Venezuela’s South American neigh-

orchestrating a fake news campaign against his

bours and most of the global West – including Brit-


ain – have recognized Guaidó as interim president. Russia and China are among the countries that continue to support Maduro, criticising the West for infringing on Venezuela’s sovereignty and, according to Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, “attempts to legitimize usurped power.”

The facts of lived reality in Venezuela are so bad that theoretical arguments offer Maduro the most hope. Judging by the last few paragraphs, it is easy to get sucked into an ideological rabbit-hole by asking where the limits to democracy might lie, when international intervention is acceptable, and so on. Nevertheless, the international community

On sovereignty, the Maduro camp has used social

cannot lose sight of what this all means for the

media to argue that Guaidó’s international support-

Venezuelan people.

ers have no right to intervene in Venezuelan affairs. “If the United States attempts to intervene, they will have a Vietnam worse than you could ever imagine,” Maduro warned the American public over Facebook on January 30th. As Venezuela sits upon the world’s largest proven oil reserves, he also drew comparisons to America’s controversial interventions in Iraq and Libya, two other oilproducing states. Finally, he accused America of


Sovereignty, for instance, has meant that foreign aid has been unable to enter Venezuela across the Colombian border. On February 5th, the military used a cargo container and tanker truck to blockade a critical bridge connecting Cúcuta, Colombia and Urena, Venezuela. Meanwhile, citizens re-

maining in Venezuela are likely to go to the grocery store and find nothing on the shelves, or to visit a clinic and find no medicine available.

Perhaps equally unsettling – and much more visi-

Googling “Venezuela,” the top results reference

ble – is the mass exodus of Venezuelans into

Trump, Guaidó, and petro-states; one must dig to

neighboring countries. Colombia, which shares a

learn about people and their forced migrations.

2,250-kilometer border with Venezuela, is bur-

Humans are suffering while those with the re-

dened with the economically and socially difficult

sources to help are mired in ideological debate. Is

challenge of accommodating a third of Venezue-

Maduro right, then, to argue that Venezuela is be-

la’s three million refugees. In Cúcuta, some Vene-

coming “another Vietnam?” The fight to address

zuelans sell handfuls of now-worthless bolívars on

Venezuela’s underlying political issues is para-

the streets as novelties. Many pawned jewelry and

mount. But in doing so, we cannot lose sight of the

other possessions for a bus ticket across the bor-

individuals suffering the fallout of that political situ-

der, while many who could not afford such a luxury

ation on the ground; we must reframe this political

trekked on foot. Migrant camps have cropped up

crisis as a migration crisis.

on football pitches and urban outskirts, and these have been frequently susceptible to disease, flooding, and food shortages.