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Sum-up of week 1

This article sums up the main points of week 1

Hi everyone! Congratulations! You have made it to the end of the first week of the programme. Here we sum up what we have learned during the week.

In week 1 we introduced some key terms related to the question of migration – in particular the notions of ‘irregular migration’ and ‘asylum’. We emphasised that these terms need to be applied carefully if we are to have a reasoned discussion about migration, and that a common phrase like ‘illegal migrant’ not only hinders such a discussion but is actually inaccurate insofar as people can not be illegal. At the same time, we indicated that insisting on distinctions between labour migration and asylum can conceal the blurred motives and experiences of the people who move across international borders. Maintaining this distinction is, however, often a formal requirement for those involved with managing migration flows.

We then turned to the unfolding situation of Syrian refugees – the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War – and focused our attention on the relocation of millions of Syrians to the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, considering the consequences of this mass exodus both for the refugee themselves and the host communities. During our discussion of the Syrian conflict we cited a number of statistics in order to underline the sheer scale of the refugee situation in the Middle East. You will have noticed that these numbers are in the main careful estimates based upon available records such as those the UNHCR. As with our terms, we need to treat numbers with care. We need to also be aware that numbers are often disputed for a variety of reasons, as in the case of the Jordanian government, which over-estimated the number of Syrians residing in the country, and included those who had arrived before the conflict, to emphasise the political enormity of the situation.

In week 2 we will turn our attention to migration across the Mediterranean Sea and we will consider how the European Union has responded to an increase in maritime arrivals in recent years. We will look at EU policy, the attempts to create a common European asylum system as well as agreements with third countries such as Turkey. We will also consider how the EU has tried to redistribute asylum seekers and we will evaluate the success of its programmes to relocate and resettle refugees between member states.

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