By Sophie Rieckmann
Link to powerpoint:
During August of 2017, I spent 5 days at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva, during which I was allowed to experience the work of a number of agencies and organisations. I was also permitted to gain access to resources and ask questions to UN representatives about their work. Naturally, the three most mentioned topics were Brexit, The USA’s Presidential Election, and the current Refugee Crisis. Bearing in mind that I was discussing these topics with people who work in the maelstrom, I found ti fascinating to discover what their role was in these events, and exactly what this all means for International Diplomacy and the survival of the UN.
The agency which resonated most heavily with me was the UNHCR (High Commission for Refugees). Particularly in Western Europe, there has been a large amount of broadcasting of negative sentiments, many of which are based on unfounded judgements of the media and politicians (hence the rise of the Political Right across many countries). The aim of this talk is to bring to light to others what I learned at the UNHCR, whilst still recognising that no one has the big picture. I have attempted to theorise the current situation using Game Theory, attempting to use a fairly straight-forward framework without (I hope) trivialising the subject matter. Naturally, this is a highly debated topic and the content of this talk is not meant to be politically provocative or antagonistic.
DISCLAIMER: In this post I have adapted my talk notes and inserted them into this post, along with the powerpoint. This was a talk which I presented in September 2017, regarding the current Refugee Crisis, focuses on Western Europe’s response to it (I did not include neighbouring countries in the Middle East, nor African countries such as Uganda, or Turkey. I am aware that these countries have done a huge amount to alleviate the numbers of people attempting to enter Europe, so my focus has not been on them). I have also attempted to pin the theory used to a specific country related to the crisis, in this case, Syria ( again, I Ama aware that refugees come from other countries across the globe). Naturally, some of the notes are lacking in the same amount of detail as was given in the original talk, but the basics and the figures are still there, and when read in conjunction with the powerpoint should make sense.
* (Image 1) is a Banksy work which appeared in the Calais Migrant Camp- it depicts Steve Jobs, Creator of Apple. Jobs’ father was a migrant from Syria to the USA, and without his migration, the US would receive $7bn less in tax each year
* You wouldn’t expect (Image 2: Sergei Ponomarev Photography) to be the playing field or (diagram 1) to be the stakes
* Ban Ki-Moon called for an “exponential increase in global solidarity”- UN Sec Gen
* Migration expert Tim Finch argues that the number of refugees accepted by the U.K. should be 50 000 factoring in U.K. Population (Def: A refugee is someone who has crossed an international border for fear of persecution or lack of safety, and who has been legally processed by another country)
* A finite game is a game like baseball- known players with fixed rules
* An infinite game is where there are known and unknown players, the rules are changeable and the objective is to perpetuate the game
* Another infinite game is the Syrian Civil War. So how come our responses to refugees are finite?
* How many forcibly displaced people there are in the world? Give the figure + population size of U.K. is 65.64 million
* The Schengen Area had 26 member states and was designed to allow free movement within Europe. (slide 9, British headlines regarding Migrants and refugees. All refugees are migrants, but not all migrants are refugees)
* Dublin regulation: decided which nation is responsible for processing a refugee’s asylum claim
* Main rule: the first country of entry is, in general, supposed to deal with the claim
* The EU is currently trying to amend this in order to take the pressure off of Greece and Italy
* In 2015, Greece received 850 000 people and Italy 200 000. These are two European countries which are struggling to economically uphold their native population, let alone those arriving.
* Many refugees and migrants are also aware of the ID system- iris and fingerprint recognition. If they skip the recognition checks, then they don’t have to stay in the first country in which they arrive
* Many Italian and Greek officials were complicit in this as they had little desire to register everyone since they immediately became Italian or Greek responsibility
* Britain is one of the keenest supporters of the Dublin Regulation, having deported more than 12 000 asylum seekers since 2003 i.e we support it in one direction as we are an island in the North of Europe and have a natural border
* Britain’s pledge is 25,067, but several migration specialists have said that this should be raised to at least 50 000 considering The UK population size and size of the economy
* The UNHCR however is working on an out-dated system from the 1950s or post- WW2
* Their solutions are also finite- no one in camps will receive a proper education or access to work in order to make themselves economically stable
* It is up to us to ensure that we don’t sit by and witness the creation of a ‘lost generation’
* UNHCR offer aid in voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement
* To date it is reckoned that the UN have lost over 3 000 staff in service
The URL on the final slide will direct you to a video of Beyoncé’s ‘I Was Here’ performance at the UN.
Link to The High Commission for Refugees page: http://www.unhcr.org