Faculty panel discusses European migration crisis
Eddie Damstra | Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Three faculty members examined the current migration crisis in Europe in a panel discussion titled titled “Migration to Europe: Situating the Current Crisis,” held Monday afternoon in Andrews Auditorium of Gedddes Hall. Karen Richman, director of undergraduate academic programs for the Institute for Latino Studies, moderated the event.
Alia Fardi, a Master of Laws candidate in international human rights law, began the discussion by establishing the basics underlying the subject matter of the discussion. Fardi quoted the fourteenth article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document promoted by the United Nations that establishes a set of inalienable rights for all people.
“Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” she said.
The term “refugee,” Fardi said, is a person who faces persecution because of his or her race, religion, nationality, political preference or membership to a particular social group.
“They have to be outside of their home country because if they are inside their home country, they are internally displaced,” she said.
Refugees are different from economic migrants, Fardi said, because economic migrants are those pursuing better living standards, not fleeing persecution.
“Refugees can not return home because of fear of persecution, while migrants could,” she said.
Maurizio Albahari, assistant professor of anthropology, noted the statistics of the current migration crisis. He said 819,218 refugees arrived in Europe in 2015 and another 3,460 refugees died or went missing at sea.
Albahari said these statistics reveal the severity of the current migration crisis and motivate him to work towards a solution.
“My priority, my concern is preventing further loss of life at sea. I’m not convinced it’s a universal objective,” he said.
He said he proposes working to allow those seeking refuge to enter countries as legal immigrants.
“Let’s start doing what can be done, immediately,” Albahari said.
He said he specifically suggests prioritizing family reunification, he said.
“Survivors say, ‘I’m going to meet my brother, my cousin, my wife, my children in Germany, in Sweden, in Australia,’” he said.
Refugees could also get visas to study for high school or college as a means to achieve legal immigration, he said.
Fr. Daniel G. Groody, associate professor of theology, said there is a connection between the refugee crisis and the call of Christians. He said the recent story of a carpenter on the island of Lampedusa demonstrates this connection.
According to Groody, the carpenter, Franco, helped save 358 migrants when their ship crashed.
“Franco found driftwood along the coastline, and he felt like he wanted to give expression to what was going on there,” he said.
Groody said Franco began making procession crosses out of the driftwood he found and made 400 crosses in three days.
Eventually, news broke that Pope Francis was coming to the island, and Franco was in charge of preparing the liturgy, he said. Franco carved a chalice out of the driftwood, made a lectern out of boat rudders and a ship wheel, and formed an altar out of a small refugee boat.
“It is from this place that the Pope declared the Gospel,” Groody said. “To steer the church in a new direction, to steer it back to its foundations, back to deep waters, back to the place of human vulnerability, back to the margins and from there to announce the good news.”