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Please note, due to unforeseen circumstances this seminar has been cancelled. We apologise for any inconvenience.


RSC Public Seminar Series, Hilary Term: 'Destination: Europe'

Convenors: Cathryn Costello and Stephanie Motz

In the absence of safe and legal routes to claim asylum, refugees currently make their own way to Europe, risking their lives in the process. They face many European crises: humanitarian ones at their places of arrival and border crossings; legal ones as some states flout their international and EU obligations, and security ones as rational fears become unduly associated with refugees. There are, of course, many Europes: the EU (with its elaborate Common European Asylum System); the wider Europe of the Council of Europe and pan-European human rights protection, encompassing Turkey; and the Europe of the Mediterranean, Mare Nostrum. Faced with the arrival of refugees in large numbers, the reactions and responsibilities of these various Europes will be considered. Reactions range from small scale offers of relocation and resettlement; to military responses to human smuggling in Libya; to border closures of the Balkans and Central and Eastern Europe; and moves to accommodate large new refugee populations in Germany, Sweden and the other main destination states. The series will examine the implications for European integration, European values and the global refugee protection regime, taking a long and broad view. Legal, historical and political perspectives will be explored.

This seminar series complements Issue 51 of Forced Migration Review, published on 5 January 2016 and also titled 'Destination: Europe'.

about this seminar

This seminar situates Europe’s current refugee crisis in a wider context of limited responsibilities to protect the fundamental right to life, liberty and security of person of those whose own governments cannot or will not do so. This wider view highlights the connections between protracted conflict of various kinds and situations of protracted mass displacement. It also opens the field up to insights from a decade of critical literature on responsibility, directed towards the UN Responsibility to Protect doctrine.

The lecture examines a range of European reactions to the refugee crisis, examining their implications for responsibility. It seeks to identify convergence and divergence in the approaches of key actors, including host and donor governments, EU bodies, cities, and civil society actors, to questions of responsibility for refugees. The contemporary meaning of responsibility to and for refugees has important implications for European values and for the global refugee protection regime.

The challenges of solidarity highlighted in the title relate not only to the variation between discourses of responsibility, but also to the limited imagination that characterises so much talk of responsibility, limiting in turn the protection of refugees. The speaker argues that greater European responsibilities to refugees will need to be based on what has, in International Relations theory, been called ‘embedded cosmopolitanism’ (Erskine 2008). Only by imagining pathways to greater responsibility based on European values and social identities will today’s apparently inexorable crisis begin to be assuaged. Although any progress in this vein will be incremental, contingent, and pluralistic, Staples argues that this represents the best hope for greater responsibility.

about the speaker

Kelly Staples is the Director of taught MA programmes and a Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Leicester. She was awarded her PhD by the University of Manchester in 2008 for a thesis addressing the relationship between statelessness, international relations and political theory.

Her research strives to combine theoretical innovation with the exploration of real-world exercises of state power and their consequences for individuals. She has ongoing interests in the status of the individual in international relations, the definition of statelessness, and International Political Theory. Currently, she is in the early stages of a book on responsibility and protection in international relations.

She is the author of Retheorising Statelessness: a background theory of membership in world politics, published by Edinburgh University Press in 2012, as well as articles on statelessness and political theory in Philosophy and Social Criticism and Res Publica.