IRiS seeks a Development and Communications Manager (PT, permanent) – Deadline 12 October

Nando Sigona:

Great job opportunity to join our expanding team in Birmingham!

Originally posted on The Age of Superdiversity:

IRiS is seeking a Development & Communications Manager (0.8 PT, permanent) to provide oversight of operational management of new projects and tenders, with direct responsibility for high-level operational support of IRiS. The post holder will work towards expanding operations, consolidating IRiS public and media profile and ensuring long-term sustainability for IRiS. Full Job Description is available here. Apply online here, deadline 12th October. For informal queries, please contact IRiS Deputy Director, Dr Nando Sigona:

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Diasporas Reimagined: Spaces, practices and belonging

DiasporasReDiasporas Reimagined is an edited collection designed to showcase the breadth as well as cohesion of research on diasporas linked to the Leverhulme-funded Oxford Diasporas Programme. Featuring contributions from 45 authors, this collection is free to download as a PDF, either as a complete collection or as individual essays. Hard copies will so be available.

Drawing on a range of disciplines, including social anthropology, sociology, human geography, politics, international relations, development studies and history, Diasporas Reimagined depicts a world increasingly interconnected through migration, where sediments of previous encounters coexist in places, practices and personal and collective identities.

Put together,it aims to provoke new ways of thinking, both about diasporas and about some of the foundational concepts of social science.

The editorial team which includes Alan Gamlen (Victoria University, NZ), Giulia Liberatore (University of Oxford), Hélène Neveu Kringelbach (UCL) and me (University of Birmingham) started as institutionally Oxford-based and is now scattered around.


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A (small) step in the right direction

After weeks of political wrangling, the EU eventually voted with a large majority (yes, even if the UK media are obsessed with the very few who opposed) its relocation plan for asylum seekers from Syria, Eritrea and Iraq. The agreement has quadrupled the size of the scheme from  40k to 160k. It is still not enough given the size of the crisis but a) it sets a positive precedent; b) finally, the EU shows a bit of leadership besides nicely crafted statements; c) the scheme doesn’t prevent more displaced migrants to seek asylum as it is not a cap; and d) informal resettlement will continue anyway and the two are complementary (despite increased effort to fingerprint new arrivals). In the meanwhile the UK government for not being outshone by a scheme that it has consistently tried to undermine on the basis of flawed concerns about working as a pull factor, advertises a first handful of Syrians arriving to an undisclosed location in undisclosed number on its new resettlement scheme. Strange counting game as the UK hasn’t even fulfilled its commitment to the old resettlement quota.


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‘It is just a token, refugees need hope’: interview on BBC News on the UK government’s response to the refugee crisis

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Cameron, Save the Children and the politics and economics of the refugee crisis

_85530627_aaacameronfamilypaOn Friday 4 September at 7pm I was interviewed by BBC News Channel to comment on Cameron’s refugee plan and its meagre and inadequate (someone said ‘pathetic and derisory’) offer to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees from camps around Syria over 5 years. There are currently 4 million displaced Syrians in the region, so the UK plan will affect a tiny fraction of the displaced population. Just before me while I was sitting in the BBC Oxford studio, a spokesperson for Save the Children was asked to comment on the proposal. She took a much more positive view of the refugee plan and went as far as saying, with my astonishment, that the reason for the current flow of refugees towards Europe is that not all EU member states are as generous as the UK. I could hardly believe to my ears.

Since then we witnessed Germany opening (if only temporarily) its borders to thousands of refugees and de facto suspending the Dublin agreement, Juncker promising a relocation plan for 160,000 asylum seekers and a vibrant and spontaneous refugee solidarity movement being born in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

Photo opportunity

For those who are acquainted with Cameron’s PR skills, it is no surprise that today, the day after the largest pro-refugee demo in London in years,  Cameron shows up in a refugee camp in Lebanon to reiterate his plan and validate it with a few photos of him with refugee children and women.

Samantha Cameron

Samantha Cameron’s visit to a refugee camp in Lebanon, 2013

In an earlier visit to Syrian refugees in Lebanon Cameron was accompanied by his wife, a strategy he uses when he wants to convey his more compassionate self. On the day, Samantha Cameron was wearing a meant-to-be-visible t-shirt of Save the Children. I can’t tell if such dressing choice was her idea or the suggestion came from Save the Children comms office. Perhaps this is not the point. This photo of the day captures the cosy relationship between the humanitarian organisation and the UK government and reminded me of the BBC news interview I mentioned earlier. It turns out that Save the Children is among those who are gaining financially from Cameron’s refugee strategy of warehousing refugees in camps as far away as possible from British shores.

I went to Oxford demo for refugees last week, many like me are critical of the government refugee plan and feel the urge to help refugees concretely making donations to NGOs and support organisations, perhaps we all should be more careful to who we donate to and how our donations are used.

*An earlier version of this blog wrongly implied that Samantha Cameron had visited the camp today.

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Juncker appeals to European hearts with refugee plan, but one leader is already shaking his head

Nando Sigona, University of Birmingham 

[This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article]

The refugee crisis and how to handle it has occupied the agenda of Jean-Claude Juncker’s European Commission presidency. It has been less than a year since he took office, during which time Europe has been plunged into the largest refugee crisis since World War II.

It is no surprise therefore that the crisis was given such prominence in Juncker’s first State of the Union address. Since October 2013 when more than 300 people drowned off the coast of Lampedusa, the number of people dying at the borders of the EU has been staggering.

The refugee crisis has amplified existing tensions in the EU and particularly between the European Commission and member states. Some are committed to using the current situation and what they see as a failure to protect EU borders to renegotiate their position in the EU, claim back powers from Brussels and appease growing nationalist forces at home.

Hungary is building a four metre-high fence along its border with Serbia to keep migrants and refugees from crossing its territory. Relations between nationals and the refugees who have entered the country are becoming tense.

Meanwhile, the UK is sending fencing material and sniffer dogs to Calais to keep a relatively small number of migrants from trying to cross from France to the UK via the Channel tunnel.

Juncker questioned how effective such measures are, both practically and morally, when he said:

We can build walls, we can build fences. But imagine for a second it were you, your child in your arms, the world you knew torn apart around you. There is no price you would not pay, there is no wall you would not climb, no sea you would not sail, no border you would not cross if it is war or the barbarism of the so-called Islamic State that you are fleeing.

In keeping with this tone, Juncker sought to shift the debate away from borders and security and towards asylum, solidarity and responsibility. He referred to a new EU-wide border management system and legal channel for economic migrants but the headline news was his call to significantly increase the number of places being offered on the relocation scheme for asylum seekers.

He called for quotas to be expanded from 40,000 to 160,000 and for member states to allow asylum seekers to work and earn from day one of their arrival in Europe. He also wants to make a fundamental change of the Dublin system that requires that asylum applications be dealt with by the first country of entry. Details on this are scarce at the moment but he called for greater unity in the EU’s approach.

On top of this, he argued that European governments should be able to fast-track asylum applications from people leaving certain countries that are considered more safe to live in – such as Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia and Turkey. This, he suggested, would enable them to focus their efforts on applicants who are more likely to gain asylum, such as those from Syria, Iraq and Eritrea who currently have asylum recognition rate equal to or higher than 75%.

But, as the commissioner is well aware, the member states have not been particularly helpful so far. “I really hope that this time everyone will be on board. No poems, no rhetoric” he told the European Parliament.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker
EPA/Julien Warnand

The main question for him and his team is whether this call for action will shake the torpor of member states. Juncker has presented a coherent set of proposals but individual governments have taken a pick-and-choose approach before, such as when they failed to offer as many places as Juncker hoped through the EU migration agenda in May.

Sorry, not today

As evidence of the challenges the commission has to face, it is worth noting that just as Juncker was calling on EU member states to contribute to the relocation scheme for 160,000 asylum seekers in Strasburg, David Cameron was declaring, over in London, that the UK would not be taking part in the scheme.

The British prime minister, whose relationship with Juncker is notoriously frosty, said that focusing on quotas won’t solve the problem “and it actually sends a message that it is a good idea to get on a boat and make that perilous journey”.

The UK plan,launched earlier in the week, instead involves the resettlement of 20,000 refugees over five years and will only include refugees from camps in the region around Syria, currently over 4 millions. This, according to a disingenuous Cameron counts “an enormous national exercise”.

Cameron was the first to shuffle away from the responsibilities laid at his door by Juncker, but he is unlikely to be the last.

The Conversation

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Time for action on the refugee crisis, says Juncker

Jean-Claude Juncker cc

Jean-Claude Juncker cc

Extracts from the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker’s speech as it was delivered at the European Parliament

Time for action

I really hope that this time everyone will be on board. No poems, no rhetoric, action is what is needed.

Fences are not the answer

We can build walls, we can build fences. But imagine for a second it were you, your child in your arms, the world you knew torn apart around you. There is no price you would not pay, there is no wall you would not climb, no sea you would not sail, no border you would not cross if it is war or the barbarism of the so-called Islamic State that you are fleeing.

Appeal against bigotry

Europe has made make the mistake in the past of distinguishing between Jews, Christians, Muslims. There is no religion, no belief, no philosophy when it comes to refugees.

An admission of failure

I don’t want to get despondent, but Europe is not in good shape … We have collectively committed to resettling over 22,000 people from outside of Europe over the next year, showing solidarity with our neighbours. Of course, this remains too modest in comparison to the Herculean efforts undertaken by Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, who are hosting over 4 million Syrian refugees.

Binding quotas to relocate 160,000 refugees

We are proposing a second emergency mechanism to relocate a further 120,000 from Italy, Greece and Hungary [in addition to 40,000 agreed in May]. This has to be done in a compulsory way.

Call to allow asylum seekers to work

I am strongly in favour of allowing asylum seekers to work and earn their own money whilst their applications are being processed. Labour, work, being in a job is a matter of dignity … so we should do everything to change our national legislation in order to allow refugees, migrants, to work since day one of their arrival in Europe.

Call to scrap the Dublin system

It is time we prepare a more fundamental change in the way we deal with asylum applications – and notably the Dublin system that requires that asylum applications be dealt with by the first country of entry.

Fast tracking asylum with safe countries system

The Commission is proposing a common EU list of safe countries of origin. This list will enable Member States to fast track asylum procedures for nationals of countries that are presumed safe to live in. This presumption of safety must in our view certainly apply to all countries which the European Council unanimously decided meet the basic Copenhagen criteria for EU membership – notably as regards democracy, the rule of law, and fundamental rights. It should also apply to the other potential candidate countries on the Western Balkans, in view of their progress made towards candidate status.

Opening legal channels for new arrivals

Let us not forget, we are an ageing continent in demographic decline. We will be needing talent. Over time, migration must change from a problem to be tackled to a well-managed resource. To this end,the Commission will come forward with a well-designed legal migration package in early 2016.

New European border force

We need to strengthen Frontex significantly and develop it into a fully operational European border and coast guard system. It is certainly feasible. But it will cost money.

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