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June 19 – Refugees and Resistance Around the World


In this final week, we look at two things, mostly blended together.  One, we consider refugees from various parts of the world headed to various parts of the world.  Two, we consider various sites opposed to refugees and the changes they bring to host cities and countries.

Meanwhile, you are continuing with your final paper for next week.

We start with a review of American approaches to immigration over time.  This article begins by criticizing Benjamin Franklin for wanting some limits on immigration from Germany.

Next is an historical look at Polish refugees fleeing World War II for the safety of Iran.  The similarities to what we see today, but in the other direction, are striking. A PRI story relates similar Europe-to-Middle East refugee flow with an account of life for Europeans in refugee camps in Palestine and Egypt.

We proceed with two short stories, from al-Jazeera and Quartz,  about changing attitudes from one of the world’s most welcoming countries – Sweden. It has taken in refugees from crises around the world for decades, but the surge of Syrian refugees last year has led some Swedes to want to be more cautious. The BBC offers a similar report from Germany.

We introduce one more sea-faring migrant wave, the Rohingya from Myanmar.  The Council of Foreign Relations is a top-quality research/think-tank organization in New York, and produces the highly-influential Foreign Affairs magazine.

Rohingya flee from Myanmar to Malaysia, Indonesia, and elsewhere. CFR.org.

Sentiments from nervous locals are paired with dissuasive efforts from immigration organizations.  The International Organization for Migration – a policy and service advocate – has partnered with Italy to try to persuade people not to come to Europe via lengthy, dangerous boar trips to Italy.  Aware Migrants has migrants themselves tell stories that are usually embarrassing or taboo – that Europe’s roads are not paved with gold but blocked with barbed wire.  Beyond being caught by border control agencies or drowning in the Mediterranean, migrants face child sex trafficking and other dangers.

Finally, we take a couple of snapshots from around the world.  Recent reports offer a glimpse at South Sudanese fleeing to Uganda, Australia‘s strict limits, and longstanding reluctance of Americans to welcome refugees.   An updated view of anti-immigration sentiment in the U.S. can be seen at Breitbart and FAIR.

If you are interested in longer, personal versions of refugees, you might consider any of these:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel – from Somalia refugee to Kenya, to asylum and elected office in the Netherlands, to exile in the U.S.

Qubad Talabani, in Q. Lawrence, Invisible Nation – deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, raised in the safety of London far from Saddam Hussein, returned home to quasi-independent Kurdistan, literally chased into the mountains by a rival Kurdish clan, and later restored to diplomatic and political prominence.

Saima Wahab, In My Father’s Country, Soviet invasion chases a child refugee from Afghanistan into Pakistan and the United States; she returns to Afghanistan when her new country invades her Pashtun “home.” Cheat sheet: Saima’s interview on Jon Stewart‘s The Daily Show.  I’ve met her a couple of times and she’s amazing – watch the interview.

You should read all the material and watch the videos.  Since you are working furiously on your paper, though, answer the essay prompts in approx 300 words – but replying to your classmates is optional.

Essay Prompts

Wide open this week – you choose the topic, length, and message of your thoughts on this week’s material, by Thursday night.  You may choose instead to submit your essay response as a video, posted to our fb page (3 minute max).

Reminder: You should read all the material and watch the videos. Since you are working furiously on your paper, though, answer the essay prompts in approx 300 words – but replying to your classmates is optional.

Facebook news posts and replies to your classmates’ fb news posts are completely optional this week.

11 Replies to “396-june19-refugees-resistance”

  1. This week, you are asked to reflect in at least 300 words. Since you are busy with your papers, replies to your classmates here, and all facebook work, is optional.

  2. The United States has always had several laws and or restrictions on immigration and accepting non-US citizens into America. There were restrictions on the Chinese in the late 1800’s, literacy tests that excluded undesirable people, quotas introduced to limit southern Europeans, Jewish refugee from Natzi persecution were not offered asylum easily, and essentially any individual that did not look white were rarely accepted as a US citizen. Karthick Ramakrishnan, a professor of public policy and political science at the University of California, Riverside states that two different factors will affect American views on immigration, status of the economy and when politicians bring up the issues of immigration. Hence, our current views on immigration policy and procedures currently being conducted by the US today, specifically with Muslims and our southern Mexican neighbors. America was built from immigrants, from the very beginning until even now, so it is always difficult to understand today’s harsh travel ban.
    It was very interesting to read about the refugee camp in Syria, Egypt, and Palestine during WWI, when many European immigrants fled from their countries to the Middle Eastern region. Just 70 years later, the same is happening, but refugees are traveling the other way around to from the Middle East to Europe. The Quartz article on the changing attitudes of some of the most known welcoming countries was interesting. The views of the far right from Sweden, was interesting and important to read, to see many perspectives on issues like immigration. The EU passing regulations to send Syrian’s back to Turkey was a game changer for the notoriously welcoming Sweden. Advancing technology to include a vast array of media outlets, could also contribute to the changing attitudes towards refugees.
    The Rohingya people of Myanmar are also being subject to discrimination, violence, and conflict has broken out in the past 5 years between the Rohingya people who are Muslim and the Myanmar government, who practice Buddhism. The Myanmar government has set restrictions on marriage, employment, education, religious choice, and freedom to discriminate against the Rohingya people. 65,000 people migrated to Bangladesh in 2016 from Myanmar conflict. We see people from Nigeria, Gambia, Mali, Ethiopia, Sudan and Ghana also migrating to Italy. All of regions dealing with this heavy influx of varying cultures, religions, and ethnicities continues to cause controversy within the accepting countries throughout the world. The US has a history of not welcoming refugees, but in 1999 a poll from CBS/NY Times shows that more people than not, suggested that accepting refugees from Kosovo was the right thing to do. I wonder why this conflict, and the refugees from it was different than other time periods? Possibly our economic status at the time, lead US citizens to believe we had room for refugees? Interesting articles this week!

  3. I found the Quartz article on changing attitudes in Sweden really interesting because the current attitudes of Sweden’s is very similar to arguments made in the U.S. One of the main arguments quoted in the article is that Sweden citizens fear they will no longer have a “Sweden” and that their culture and way of life will change too dramatically due to the sharp increase in refugees. The quartz article shows a graph of asylum applications received in Sweden, which has continiously been below 10,000/per month since 2010, but in 2016 in shot up to almost 40,000/per month. This is an incredible amount of applications. Due to this number, it makes sense why Swedens are worried for their country and way of life.

    I think that it makes sense for Swedish citizens to be worried and afraid of losing out on the Sweden they know, but not to purposefully destroy refugee homes and camps. This is a similar attitude to many Americans, who feel that the U.S. will no longer have the same feel, culture, and life as it used to. But one big difference I noticed is that none of the Sweden citizens from either the Quartz article or al-Jazeera article feared that the refugees coming in were terrorists. This is something that President Trump has quoted and people who are against refugees in the U.S. Most of the issues Sweden’s focus on are the economy, way of life, diversity and integration, which makes sense. Many of the Swedish citizens are open to increasing diversity and integration, but have acceptable fears about their own life and economy.

    Due to these issues, I think that this is when neighboring countries need to become more aware of the burden Sweden has taken on. Just because in the past Sweden has always taken in refugees does not mean there is no consequence to it. Neighboring nordic countries could either aid Sweden with resources or change the flow of refugees into their country also.

    Lastly, it was great to be able to cover refugees from around the world today. This is something that I have tried to cover in news stories, that refugees are not just centered in the Middle East. There is a huge refugee crisis occurring in Africa. But this brings up the issue of how the world will be able to handle refugees if it is across the world?

    1. I agree that Sweden (and Scandinavia more broadly) has accepted a large number of refugees and that refugees should be better distributed among countries to best provide for their needs. However, I am very hesitant to buy into the “losing the Sweden we know and love.” Having spent almost five months in Scandinavia, their immigration attitudes are really one of the few things I can complain about.

      Scandinavia has had very little immigration over the years, with it only really beginning in the 1960s, and as such, allowed them to develop a unique culture. However, due to the homogeneous people that this culture formed around, their is little room for concepts of multiculturalism. Their culture and identity unintentionally become synonymous with being a white native who can trace their lineage to the Vikings and share all of the same values with the people around them. As people who look different and have different belief systems enter the space, the rigidity of their identities caused a huge backlash as they, for the first time, really had to interact with people who were different from themselves.

      While there is much to be learned from the Scandinavian way of life, I think it in many ways is not a mindset that can be transported and deployed in a diverse and complex modern society because it was never created for such an environment. Diversity is something that they have no experience with and you can see them struggle to comprehend and address every day. Lots of Scandinavian legislation, particularly concerning immigrants, is paraded to be for gender equality and other progressive motives, when really it is often targeted and discriminatory and based in stereotypes and assumptions. For instance, minorities are often considered more violent and are targeted in anti-violence campaigns, yet native Danes are more likely to abuse migrant women. Refugees in asylum centers are forced to take gender equality classes, while the center staff who are responsible for referring women to shelters and other violence resources never once receive training. Gender equality in Scandinavia is often taken as a given and used as a weapon against brown men and women, which makes me very uncomfortable when they talk about losing their Swedish identity.

  4. I appreciated the first article tracing the history of anti-immigration sentiment in America– it was a bit surprising to see the Founding Fathers express such bigoted views, especially Alexander Hamilton, what with all the progressive notions that have been attributed to him through Lin-Manuel Miranda. It was also really cool to see how during WWII refugees went from Eastern Europe to Syria. It’s crazy to imagine how greatly the roles have reversed in a relatively short amount of time. This is prevalent in the article about Germany, too– after a long period of guilt about WWII and the Holocaust, it is a bit bewildering that many Germans now speak out against the welcoming of refugees.

    What bothered me most was the efforts that Italy and Australia have taken to discourage refugees, especially those coming by sea. While the way traffickers exploit and threaten migrants is atrocious and I agree that those considering a similar journey should have all that information, I felt that their efforts to help were misguided. Similar to what we read about last week, illegal traffickers would not be the huge problem they are now if nations would pursue legal entry alternatives. By pursuing the course they are now on, Italy and Australia inadvertently (or intentionally?) punish refugees by either depriving them of a means of escape or, in the case of Australia, sending them back where they came from. Refugees suffer enough, both in their home lands and on the boats of smugglers; it does not seem fair that they should suffer more at the hands of foreign governments. Moreover, I was not persuaded by Italy’s careful attempts to differentiate between legitimate refugees and those simply seeking better opportunity. The article notes that many of the refugees who now arrive by boat come from Nigeria, Gambia, Mali, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Ghana. Are these countries not violet or repressed enough for those leaving to qualify as refugees seeking asylum? I don’t exactly buy that.

  5. I found the first article, “American Approach to Immigration Over Time” to be particularly interesting. In fact, it influenced my final paper, which I would like to be be about America’s approach to the first wave of immigration in the early-late 1800s. The idea that I find most interesting throughout the U.S.’s history of immigration, is that so many cultures are unwelcomed at first, but then over time they assimilate and become accepted, only to witness a new wave of immigrants which are once again, unwelcomed by society.

    The very beginning of the article also focused on a very interesting topic, which was the founding fathers’ thoughts on immigration. Benjamin Franklin feared Germans in particular, essentially believing that they corrupted the English population of Pennsylvania, which today we see a heavy German influence in. Even Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant himself, sided with John Adams’ Alien and Sedition Acts. It is perplexing because these founding fathers whole heartedly believed the new nation should be economically diversified by the European immigrants that sought out citizenship in the United States, yet, they feared that the Anglo-Saxon grassroots of America would be tarnished by cultural diversity. It’s easy to blame them for their seemingly unaccepting outlook on immigration, however, it is also important to realize that in a new democracy such as the United States, the fear of corruption domestically existed, let alone internationally.

    We can compare this problem to today, seeing that although we may have a stable democracy in place, generally speaking, as a nation we struggle with welcoming immigrants in, specifically refugees, due to our fear of an international threat. Sadly, we see that it prevents us from helping so many people, just as what has happened throughout our early history even in WWII, when according to the article, the U.S. refused to help a boat of Jewish refugees.

    Overall, I think we can clearly see that history repeats itself in regards to immigration. We see the same controversies over immigration, that have plagued us for the few centuries we have existed.

  6. I found the Quarts article on the history of American immigrant bias by Annalisa Merelli to be extremely eye opening. I had previously known about the terrible things the United States has done to various ethnic groups such as Japanese internment camps, and the U.S turning back Jewish refugees from Europe during WWII, but I did not expect such an anti-immigration view from individuals such as Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton. It was surprising to me because I have always felt the United States was founded on the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and immigrants have come to the United States because they want to live by those principles.

    Although you see a backlash on immigration to the United States, I do not think it is to the extent that is found in other European countries such as Hungary. This is why I found the articles on the Swedish and German refugee backlash to be extremely interesting because as a country of immigrants I think the citizens of the United States and European countries think very differently. What I mean by this is that although the founding fathers may have not liked this, America is built on immigration and we accept that. We are a nation of immigrants and it is always possible for immigrants to acculturate to our culture. Europeans are more homogenous comparatively to the United States and have cultures and traditions that dates back many more centuries than ours, which I feel is the reason why we see the extreme backlash in many European countries. Many of these European countries are also more economically distressed than the United States (i.e France with an enormous unemployment rate, and in particular the young professional unemployment rate), which is another reason why there is so much backlash in these European nations and why we have seen the right of far-right movements in Europe such as French’s National Front and Sweden’s Nordic Resistance Movement.

  7. I found the relationship between the articles “Sweden’s Backlash” and “A History of American Anti-Immigrant Bias” very interesting. I did not realize how many refugees Sweden had accepted over time, especially for a country of its size. Personally, I think of Sweden as a more homogenous group of people than seems to be the case. I did not know how many different cultures could be found there and be accepted by the citizens. The statistic that 16% of the people in the nation were born in another country was quite surprising to me. Though I was not surprised to learn that one of the main reasons Sweden may slow its immigration is based on how the country is struggling to acclimate so many immigrants. People quoted about the issue were not discussing phobias or being racist; instead, they seemed to be talking in a more factual manner.

    This seems to historically be a very different attitude than in the United States. As the Quartz Media article points out, the U.S. has had trouble with immigrants since the 1750s, which is ironic since it is essentially a nation built on immigration. Many people who are quoted about immigration in the U.S. tend to converse with an Islamophobic bias that is based in fear and anxiety. This greatly differs from the typical Swedish person who did not seem to fear immigrants until the very recent increases in violence and extremism, which were brought about from a nation reaching its limit in the total population. Unfortunately, I do not believe more American citizens will be more accepting of immigrants from the Middle East in the near future. I think 9/11 is a date that everyone currently twenty and over will never forget and that it will cloud people’s perceptions of Middle Easterners until new generations who either were too young to remember or not born yet grow older.

  8. The video that was most interesting to me, was that of the Polish refugees into Persia. Something to note is how the video positions the refugees, in visualy similar way to that of the videos we have been watching all semester. This is to note that it shows large groups of them walking, seemingly aimlessly, towards what they believe will be some kind of solace. There is a mirroring of the middle eastern refugees now and others around the world seeking to walk into nations like we saw last week with the Austria video. This foremost indicates a way that the way that refugees are reported on has not changed drastically, but they choose similar camera angles and tone with their verbiage.
    There is a focus on the fact that there are small children present, and they pick out one particular family to focus on and set as an example. They normalize the refugees by noting that there have been mothers who have even given birth while on this walking path to their journey. The place where it is quite different is when the Polish individuals reach Persia, they are seemingly just walking in and it does not have this overarching feeling of hardship to cross that border as part of the rhetoric of the video or reporting; but rather they run and are happy to greet their kinfolk and other patriots that have already made the journey and now reside in Persia. The same feeling of happiness when reaching the refugee location is the same in this older video and videos now. Another prominent similarity is the communities in the tents that the refugees in this older video vs the newer video can be seen. The overall tone though is slightly more positive than many of the videos we have seen on modern times, and suggests more security and life satisfaction for the families in Iran.

  9. Historically, the United States, and the American public have been very hesitant when it comes to accepting refugees. From the Irish, Italians and Poles to the Syrians of the more recent years, the United States has generally been resistant to resettling refugees within the US. While there are thought provoking arguments to be made for and against the resettlement of refugees examining the issue from social, political and economic aspects, typically, political rhetoric surrounding this particular issue tends to be overly simplified. I am sure we have all heard the skittles analogy: “If you had a bowl of skittles and knew that 10 were poisoned, would you let your kids eat from that bowl?”. The problem with that is that it sounds rational enough, but fails to really present and argument at all. It simply appeals to one’s emotions. Making an argument to counter such a statement typically begins with something along the lines of “America is the world’s melting pot and turning our backs on humans in need of help goes against everything we stand for”. This go-to counter agreement makes the same mistake of the argument that it is attempting to counter; it merely appeals to one’s emotions and dismisses anything else as an irrational fear or ill-advised public opinion. The fact of the matter remains however, that rational or not, a large portion of the American public remains resistant to accepting refugees. Whether it is from an irrational or ill-advised standpoint or one that argues that refugees may eventually turn into economic migrants that will not carry their own weight in the economy or lack the necessary skills to assimilate, as long as the disconnect remains between politicians and the general public regarding the refugee crisis, it will always be easier for anti-refugee (or anti-immigration) politicians to rally support than it will be for those favoring migration and open borders.

  10. I was really drawn to the trafficking video. Having worked at a anti-trafficking nonprofit in the past, it is something I feel really passionate about and I think is an undercover topic when dealing with refugees, particularly when discussing children and unaccompanied minors. We’ve talked about the unprecedented number of unaccompanied minors in various Facebook articles, but I think the consideration of the implications of that have been slow to follow. A big one is the vulnerable situation that a number of these unaccompanied minors often find themselves in. Traffickers exploit the fact that unaccompanied minor’s are sent from the Middle East to Europe with little financial resources or social networks, leaving them vulnerable to end up in street prostitution or drug sales.

    Because of this, I am very unsympathetic to articles like the one about Sweden and people being worried about losing their culture. Not only do I think that is a superficial argument, but if your culture of all thing is the price to pay for keeping children safe, it is one I am willing to pay. As I said in a reply about the Swedish article, I think there are inherent flaws in the Swedish mindset around their culture that need to be worked out and are not excuses for the anti-immigrants rhetoric and sentiment found in Scandinavia. And immigrants have a lot to give to societies, but even if they didn’t, I still think anti-trafficking and exploitation efforts would be enough to convince me to work with this population to make them more integrated despite the costs.

    I think the lack of sympathy has more to do with the media coverage in these places than anything else. Study done in Denmark, immigrants are only used as about 10% of sources ( migrant women are even less ) and so misinformation is rampant. I think if there was more of an opportunity for Swedes to get to know immigrants then maybe it could be better.

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