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The Refugee Crisis and the Battle for Europe’s Soul

The refugee crisis has polarised the citizens of Europe. Inhumane policies are employed or threatened as people attempt to cross the borders of Europe. In these times, it becomes important to challenge double standards so that the univeral human rights to remain universal, argues Frances Webber from The Institue of Race Relations.

"Refugees Welcome means Equal Rights for all". Photo by Rasande Tyskar under CC BY-NC 2.0.

The refugee crisis has polarised the citizens of Europe, between compassion and hostility, solidarity and fear. But at the level of government, only Angela Merkel bucked the European trend of closing the door – and she has had to fight her own party.

The event can be viewed online.

Fortress Europe

In the rush to reinforce Fortress Europe, across the continent standards of justice and of decency are being eroded, and the concept of universal human rights is under unprecedented threat. Children drown in sea voyages made necessary by rigid visa requirements and punitive carrier sanctions, stand for days in rain, cold and mud at borders and ‘hotspots’, live in shanty towns with no sanitation, dependent on volunteers for food and shelter.

Challenging double standards

Closed borders and criminalisation of unauthorised entry deny rights to access to asylum; procedures are curtailed, with fewer safeguards against wrongful decisions. Inhuman policies such as confiscation of valuables to pay for detention, are employed or threatened. Vulnerable people are detained, and deported to danger and death. The role of lawyers is vital in challenging abuses and double standards, but so is that of civil society in demanding structures of accountability. 

Frances Webber is vice-chair of the Institute of Race Relations' council of management and a former barrister who specialised in immigration, refugee and human rights law.

After the lecture, there will be time for questions and discussion. The event is chaired by Professor Cecilia Bailliet.

The event is free and open for everyone.

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Published Jan. 27, 2016 5:17 PM - Last modified Feb. 16, 2016 1:05 PM