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Rethinking refugee support: responding to the crisis in South East Europe

This Foreign Policy Centre and Aston Centre for Europe seminar will examine the worsening conditions in refugee camps and increasing border violence in the EU’s transit zones, particularly in Greece, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. It will explore the impact of EU policies both specifically in the area of asylum and border closures, and more broadly such as the EU-Turkey deal and initiatives funded through the ECHO programme. There are concerns that these policies may be contributing to worsening conditions in transit zones because arriving refugees are unable to move on, turning them from transit countries to places expected to host people indefinitely. This has led to overcrowding and insecurity in the camps, with associated issues such as worsening mental health and inadequate supply of food and water, in countries that currently lack the capacity or structures for integration, social welfare and refugee protection.

These countries are turning to ‘closed border’ policies that are exacerbating tensions and violence, with evidence that rights to claim asylum are being denied with people being deported back across the EU border, creating  informal camps in squalid conditions. The seminar will also explore the ‘alternatives’ to camps currently being practiced in by the UN’S ESTIA in Greece and whether such approaches could be used elsewhere.

The seminar will explore the UK’s role helping partners in the region address the impact of the crisis, particularly in the context of Brexit. The UK has so far been contributing to the EU’s Regional Trust Fund (Madad Fund) that supports Syrian refugees in their host communities, including in the Western Balkans, alongside UK aid directly supporting camps in Turkey and elsewhere. It can address the nature of future cooperation between the UK and the EU’s Frontex post-Brexit and the UK’s involvement in refugee resettlement. The seminar will also explore the future role of both the UK Government and civil society in responding to these issues. The Aston Centre for Europe operates with the support of the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union.

When February 26, 2019 February 26, 2019, 6pm-7.30pm

Grimond Room, Portcullis House, London, SW1A 2LW


Dr Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, Aston University

Dr Gemma Bird, Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, University of Liverpool

Catherine Woollard, Secretary General of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles

Thangam Debbonaire MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees

Chair: Stuart McDonald MP, Shadow SNP Spokesperson for Immigration, Asylum and Border Control.

Listen to an audio recording of the event here. 

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