top of page
Image by Ra Dragon

STREAM 2a, FINLAND 2023

World Convention in Finland 2023

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Injustice in a World of Uncertainty

Stream 2a: War, Refugees and Migration: What Happens Next?

(A hybrid stream of in-person, online and pre-recorded presentations) 

#1: People on the Move: Representing Refugees in Art Documentaries

Author(s): Neda Mohamadi, Art Curator in Southampton, England/Iran

Abstract: This presentation evaluates the role of arts in representing the truth in the movement of people. It focuses on art documentaries in response to the second enormous wave of migration that happened in 2014 and 2015 because of the crisis in North Africa and the South-West of Asia, especially Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. There is no doubt that migration and looking for a new living place are neither a new matter nor can it be bounded to a specific region. This study explores how displacements and the movement of people in different contexts are represented in art documentaries. The main aim of this talk is to re-assess the role of art and consider whether its representations can raise greater awareness of the political and social changes needed to support migrants.

 

The provided examples and explanations revolve around the social and political concept of migration in relation to the art domain. It examines how and why certain features have been presented in art documentaries about state seeking and analysed the authenticity of representation and different approaches to dealing with reality and the truth of events.

 

Starting from the grounded theories each case study leads to investigations for broader theories of relevance. The considered cases in this work are, Human Flow by Ai Weiwei, Another News Story by Orban Wallace, Shadow Lives by Jon Lowenstein and are considered through the way in which they share common aspects in their representation of the lives of undocumented migrants. In addition to the existing material, two interviews were conducted with two of the previously mentioned artists, about their opinions, attitudes and approaches to state-seeking subject in their documentaries.

#2:  Migrant music as a practice of citizenship for non-Western migrants in regional areas: addressing cultural and social inequalities in regional Australia

 

Author(s): Dr Alexandra Blok, Griffith University, Australia

Abstract: Even though migrant cultural presence can be seen as gradually establishing in urban areas, infrastructures and spaces of multicultural presence in regional areas are yet to be created and recognised. 'Migrant music' (or music of migrant settlers of non-Western origin) exists on the outskirts of regional music scenes in Australia. Small and scattered regional migrant communities, a lack of emphasis on migrant cultural expressions in the Australian migration and arts policies make them nearly invisible in the regional art landscape. Particularly the issue of cultural belonging is pertinent for migrants of refugee backgrounds in their attempt to recreate a new ‘home’ in the receiving country. Equally, music is utilised by migrant youth and their expressions of hybrid cultural identities in regional settings, characterised by the lack of developed infrastructures and the predominant history of ‘white’ Anglo-Celtic settlement.  Migrants of various cultural backgrounds, regardless of their age, education or gender utilise music as a practice of citizenship, in which they claim and perform their rights to belong.

 

The presentation is based on three-year research undertaken in New South Wales and Queensland, Australia. Four regional towns – Wagga Wagga and Coffs Harbour in NSW and Toowoomba and Cairns in QLD were places of examination of migrant music practices in the regional context. Research project predominantly canvassed music experiences of migrants from refugee backgrounds (forced migrants from African countries of Congo, Zimbabwe, Liberia, and South Sudan; Middle Eastern countries of Iraq and Syria; South-East Asian countries of Myanmar and Bhutan).

 

Migrant music practices unequivocally reflect the issues of cultural and social exclusion through migrant music's perceptions and presence within regional music scenes. Created music networks or migrants' efforts to penetrate various existing music 'ecosystems' demonstrate how regional migrants utilise music to negotiate their cultural capital and social positions within multiple groups. Grass-roots music practices become spaces of migrant status’ ‘bargain' in a new home country, through which migrants contribute new meanings of regional place and identity. Ultimately, the presentation argues that migrant music participates in creating regional change through expanding regional multicultural spaces and rethinking them as related to other global cultural geographies and identities. However, arts, migration and regional development policies should be mobilised to facilitate this change and foster regional migration.

#3: The Forgotten Refugees: Intersectional Insights for Australia’s Refugee Program

Author(s): Dr Ana Rengel-Goncalves, Dr Sam Blanch and Dr Aloka Wanigasuriya, University of Newcastle, Australia

 

Abstract: As Western states respond to refugees emerging out of current conflicts, disability is often forgotten as a vector of vulnerability. Australia is listed amongst the top countries for refugee resettlement. In Australia, refugee status is determined, processed and accepted through Australian domestic law and may involve a determination by the United Nations Refugee Agency. Under the umbrella of its humanitarian and refugee program, Australia expressly recognises different categories of vulnerability vis-a-vis persecution. Within these, special focus has been attributed to gender, religion and a few others.  In this context of broad ministerial discretion and a deliberately secretive policy apparatus, the recognition of vulnerabilities emerging as a result of the different dimensions of personhood remain virtually unexplored. In particular, disability and its interaction with the other categories of identity is under-explored in policy and in scholarship. This constrains our understanding of persecution, and limits decision-makers’ ability to prioritise the most vulnerable. In this article, we critique analyses of harm that do not consider other dimensions of personhood, such as disability. We further argue disability must be understood intersectionally, as vulnerabilities emerging out of disability converge with other more legible forms of persecution. This research applies a deductive intersectional approach to Australian refugee policy. This research will contribute to the academic literature by critiquing Australia’s narrow approach to the categorisation and assessment of harm and vulnerability. It has the potential to contribute to other refugee intake jurisdictions that seek to adopt inclusive approaches to vulnerability and harm.

#4: Invisible People, Visible Barriers: Healthcare Access for and among Ethnic Bengalis in Pakistan

 

Author(s): Prof. Muhammad Hamid Zaman, Tahera Hasan and Janki Bhatt, Boston Universiy & Imkan Welfare Association, USA/Pakistan

Abstract: Despite being in a state of statelessness for fifty years, research on ethnic Bengali population in Pakistan remains scarce. A strong state narrative on national security, and reluctance to critically analyse the 1971 war and creation of Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) has made the discussion of social and economic challenges facing the ethnic Bengali community a taboo subject. As a result, there is limited understanding of health challenges facing the community. The global COVID-19 pandemic, and its manifestation in Pakistan in terms of access and equity to testing and treatment, underscores the need to understand healthcare access among the ethnic Bengali population. This is the most recent instance of a national policy where there is restricted healthcare access among those who are not considered citizens. However, it is also important to understand barriers to healthcare faced by the ethnic Bengalis in a broader historical context of the evolution of a national ID and registration system, in particular the ID cards issued by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). This article focuses on the residents of Machar Colony – an informal coastal settlement in Karachi, and a home to nearly three quarters of a million ethnic Bengalis, many of whom have lived in the community for decades. Private hospitals remain prohibitively expensive, and the absence of a NADRA issued computerised national ID card (CNIC) results in exclusion from public hospitals. There is also a palpable sense of anxiety among the community due to police persecution and xenophobia seen at hospitals. We study the argument by the state that those who are denied citizenship, are in fact people who are unable to substantiate their claim of citizenship.

In terms of healthcare, we find that the changing landscape has resulted in the ethnic Bengali population relying on informal (and unauthorised) medical practises, utilising personal contacts and organic social networks to access life-saving care, and depending on personal loans from other members of the community to pay for treatment. With international agencies (particularly large international aid organisations) largely absent from the colony, and from the discourse on statelessness in general, both awareness and support for the stateless community remains negligible. Our study also finds that despite multiple domestic and international media outlets highlighting the need for an equitable vaccination campaign in the last year, the state’s narrative, willingness, and approach has not changed. Vaccination was finally made available in February 2021, yet with few centres that would cater to the Bengali population, it remained out of reach for most. Finally, we note that a broader issue of access to healthcare remains entangled with ethnic Bengalis being viewed as outsiders, non-native or worse, as allies of the foe that resulted in the dismemberment of the country in 1971.

#5: Challenges of Ukraine’s Communities in the Conditions of War: Analysis of Practices at the Local Level

 

Author(s): Tetiana Lukeria, Research and Policy Analyst ISA & Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, Ukraine

Abstract: The decentralisation reform, which began to be implemented in Ukraine in 2014 with the adoption of the Concept of Local Self-Government Reform at the legislative level, is one of the forms of democratic governance. After local elections in 2020, as of today, there are 1,469 communities in Ukraine, formed by merging villages, towns, and cities. Indeed, the legally established goal of decentralisation is the optimisation of regional development through quick response to citizens' requests, solving local problems. This is due to the fact that all necessary services are at the basic level - in the community.

With the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion to Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Ukrainian communities faced new challenges. The research, which was conducted during September-October 2022 among heads of Ukrainian communities, experts (17 people were interviewed) by the semi-structured in-depth interview method, made it possible to outline the following aspects:

1) The management structure of the regions has changed. Military administrations were established in the regions as temporary bodies during the martial law period, which coordinate martial law measures on the ground, budget distribution processes, provision of humanitarian aid, restoration of necessary infrastructure, and provision of basic services in territories affected by hostilities.

2) The horizontal management line has strengthened. Inter-municipal cooperation between communities became more active, and community associations became more institutionally capable. Communities jointly solve problems of local importance: infrastructure restoration, provision of services to internally displaced persons, provision of materials for the restoration of affected areas, etc.

3) International cooperation has strengthened. This concerns the direct cooperation of Ukrainian cities and towns with sister cities. Communication takes place directly between cities without the involvement of central authorities.

4) Creation and staffing of resistance forces in communities. This concerns the formation of territorial defence, volunteer battalions. These communities were formed to protect cities, towns, and villages, and in the first days of the invasion of the Russian federation, together with the forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, they prevented the enemy from advancing further through the territory of Ukraine.

5) Prompt creation of volunteer headquarters. Volunteers provide all necessary assistance to both civilians and military personnel. They were active in providing territorial defence with everything necessary: ​​food, medical supplies, body armour, etc. In addition, volunteers are involved in the delivery of humanitarian aid with their vehicles to war zones.

6) Provision of necessary services to internally displaced persons. According to official data of the Ministry of Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine, about 7 million people are internally displaced persons. Only in October 2022, about 18,000 Ukrainians were evacuated from dangerous regions, temporarily occupied and de-occupied territories. Evacuation rates are especially high on the eve of winter. Mandatory evacuation continues in some regions, in particular the Donetsk region. In total, about 1.1 million civilians were evacuated from this territory. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 4 million Ukrainians are in European countries for temporary protection.

The presence of such a large number of people who were forced to leave their homes depends on the lack of normal conditions for life. According to the Kyiv School of Economics, as a result of infrastructure destruction due to the full-scale invasion of the russian federation, Ukraine has already lost more than 127 billion dollars (this is the total amount of direct documented losses to residential and non-residential real estate, other infrastructure of Ukraine as of September 2022). The largest share in the total amount of losses belongs to the housing stock - 39.7%. As of September 2022, since the beginning of Russia’s war against Ukraine, at least 616 administrative buildings, 978 medical facilities, including 24 private health care facilities, 1,270 schools, 786 kindergartens, 775 cultural facilities, 80 religious buildings, 149 tourism facilities, and 153 sports facilities, 2,910 retail outlets, 19 airports and civil airfields, 110 railway stations, 315 bridges and overpasses of state, local or communal importance, 10 thermal power plants are damaged, destroyed or captured.

In this regard, processes of displacement of people affect both host communities and communities from which people leave. For the host communities, the challenge is primarily related to the fact that it is necessary to provide services not only to the residents of the communities, but also to internally displaced persons, which requires additional resources (financial, human, infrastructural) and coordination.

Challenges related to the war necessitated a rethinking of regional policy. Measures to change regional policy are carried out both at the national and local levels. The issue of functional typology of territories has been settled at the legislative level. With the amendments to the Law of Ukraine ‘On the Basics of State Regional Policy’, 4 types of territories have been allocated, according to which the restoration of de-occupied territories will take place: areas of recovery, areas with special conditions for development, areas of sustainable development, poles of economic growth. The law separately stipulates the importance of the logical integrity of the entire ‘strategic triad’ - local strategies must be developed taking into account the priorities and goals of the state and relevant regional strategies.

Measures are also being taken at the national level to help internally displaced persons. In particular, the legislation on cash payments for internally displaced persons has been amended several times, balancing their needs and the state budget. The introduction of a one-time payment in the amount of 6,500 hryvnias as part of the ‘e-Support’ program for employees took place a week after the start of a full-scale war.

At the local level, the necessary measures are also carried out, which relate to the following aspects: provision of housing, humanitarian, psychological assistance, employment. In particular, with the support of international partners, modular towns are being created for temporary living. According to surveys of community representatives, in some communities internally displaced persons are involved in the development of the community, employed in state institutions, at enterprises in order for internally displaced persons to feel subjectivity and inclusion in the life of the community. In addition, psychological services work on the ground. In particular, in the first weeks of the full-scale invasion of Russia into Ukraine, due to the fact that a larger number of people from the eastern and central regions moved to the west – psychologists provided psychological first aid, volunteers provided humanitarian aid.

The outlined challenges and problems were solved promptly by all actors - both state authorities and local authorities, residents. It was thanks to the synergy of efforts that it was possible to repulse the enemy in the first days of a full-scale invasion. Today, the issues of return of temporarily occupied territories, restoration of Ukrainian statehood in de-occupied territories, return of Ukrainians who were forcibly left abroad, and ensuring the viability of communities remain relevant for Ukrainian society. The economic component, the influx of investors and external resources, the employment of the population, the availability of the necessary infrastructure, and the functioning of business also depend on this.

#6: The Missing Piece: Bringing Trust to the Forefront of Refugees’ Stories

 

Author(s): Felicia Clement, School of International Affairs, University of Waterloo-Balsillie, Canada

Abstract: In 2015, the world saw a mass exodus of people fleeing intrastate conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa. This mass displacement placed significant pressure on many advanced economies to respond with swift action to “manage” the crisis, but a clear dichotomy emerged. Some states opened their borders, while others enacted restrictive policies and practices to keep refugees out. Alongside these polarizing state responses came a sharp rise in far-right populism and divisive rhetoric that painted refugees as “swarms,” “invaders,” “criminals,” and “illegals,” which furthered their already precarious status. In a world with a growing divide of “us” versus “them,” it begs the question of how war-affected refugees experience trust—specifically in its generalised and institutional forms?

 

The former refers to trusting people without any prior connections, and the latter refers to trust in institutions (e.g., government, healthcare). To explore refugees’ relationships with trust in this increasingly distrusting world, I will draw upon various branches of the trust literature as well as interviews I conducted with Syrian refugees in my community of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. I answer the following question: how does generalised and institutional trust affect Syrian refugees’ journeys and their integration into the Kitchener-Waterloo (KW) community? The focus on my community stems from Canada’s unprecedented response during the 2015 mass exodus when elected Liberal leader Justin Trudeau followed through on his election promise to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees. Despite the global praise Canada received, there was a key piece missing in the academic work: refugees’ relationships with trust. This paper helps fill this gap as the interviews place refugee stories at the forefront and provide unique insights into how trust influenced the tough decisions throughout the refugees’ journeys, from fleeing Syria to integrating into Canada. My findings also illustrate to the Canadian government, local refugee organisations, and community members the importance of developing reciprocal relationships with refugee communities. Overall, this study shows the importance of placing trust at the forefront of refugee stories and highlighting refugee experiences—especially in a world where external actors dominate the narrative.

#7:  Methodological Devulnerabilisation: The Case of Voluntary Statelessness of Rohingyas Projected Through Resettlement to the Bashan Char Island in Bangladesh

 

Author(s): Dosol Nissi Lee and Sumaiya Siddiqua Maria, Centre for Advanced Migration Studies (AMIS), University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Abstract: Owing to widely known protracted statelessness in a relic of decolonisation and postcolonial nation-building in the region, Rohingya refugees are often depicted as vulnerable. In this perception of ‘vulnerability’, humanitarian calls for Rohingyas are often justified with their ambivalent care and control and the implications are inadequately scrutinised. This chain of vulnerability is reoriented by this paper, proposing methodological devulnerabilisation. To this end, this paper employs middle-range theory, analysing the voluntary statelessness of Rohingyas projected through the resettlement to the Bashan Char Island in Bangladesh. This paper argues that the protractedness of vulnerability takes its course through institutionalised scapegoating practices of the states that incentivise Rohingyas’ voluntary statelessness; and such state practices responding to vulnerability are often based on the framework of identifying vulnerability with ‘people’ but not with the ‘system’ which makes the people vulnerable. To be specific, the recent resettlement provides the improved living conditions for Rohingyas (i.e., material security arbitrage) but simultaneously reinforces the immobilisation of Rohingyas in terms of both physical mobility (location) and legal mobility (status).

 

This strategic ‘body management’ targeting Rohingyas seems not effectively address the deep-seated political (e.g., independence in Myanmar) and religious (e.g., Islamophobia) conflicts which are the backdrops of their strip-offed nationality and increased politicoeconomic docility. This is problematic in that the Bangladeshi government rarely recognises the refugee status of Rohingyas and the options given to Rohingyas for their future are usually either to remain in status quo immobilisation or return to Myanmar where many of them had fled from the institutionalised stigmatisation and discrimination through the practice of citizenship. On the one hand, this illustrates the liminality of the legal protection of refugees with the absence of the right to ‘receive’ asylum and the need for re-examining the principle of non-refoulement. On the other hand, this shows that the ‘distorted’ voluntary statelessness of Rohingyas in the façade of the Bashan Char Island tends to serve the politicoeconomic interests of stakeholders rather than Rohingyas. This paper concludes with the reflections of methodological devulnerabilisation of primarily but not limited to Rohingyas in Bangladesh.

#8: The fragility of the migration process in relation to the implementation of EU Law

 

Author(s): M. Isabel Garrido Gómez, University of Alcalá, Spain

Abstract: The reference to migration movements is becoming more interesting, the Host Countries are divided into two big areas which vary concerning the existence of more or less tradition. In order to solve the current conflicts, the acceptance of the other by means of tolerance and non-exclusion, recognising the diversity within the unit, is urgently needed. This means that we should not succumb to the risk of a mere juxtaposition, creating a legal systems conglomerate, nor elude the diversity trying to result in a standardisation process. Thus, legal norms should recognise and approve both the variety and differentiation, assuming and appreciating them in a positive way, with the limit of respect to their inherent human dignity and inviolable rights. To sum up, the most correct thing is that the social integration of the difference is to be carried out by means of its recognition and acceptance as legal-political principle.

 

But in relation to the implementation of EU Law, there is a certain number of criteria drawn up from standards which have been situated on the level of principles of interpretation; this is what happens with the principles of legality, legitimacy or need, with regard to the democratic spirit. Added to this is the legal porosity which has an impact on interlegality, creating networks. From this point of view, there are alternative flows and reflows of the legal and social regulations considered the two sides of the same coin. This problem looks to interrogate the way that discrimination paradigms about the immigration operate at different levels - and is an argument for a more flexible approach that mirrors the reality of social relations, within a reality in which war is not an isolated event, producing socio-economic, political, cultural and individual conflicts.

bottom of page