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Recap: Migration and Welfare in times of Crisis Panel Discussion

STEAR hosted its next Guest Speaker Series event last Friday on the topic of migration and welfare in times of crisis, a particularly salient issue in light of the economic fallout and humanitarian emergency across Eurasia associated with the coronavirus pandemic, but also the crisis that has been unfolding in Afghanistan in recent days. Our speakers offered their unique insights to an audience of over 30 participants into how migrant and refugee crises are addressed in Europe and Asia, what measures should be taken or are being taken to ensure social welfare and protection of refugees in host countries, and what states, international organisations and NGOs should do to prevent forced migration.

Our events officer Tinkara Godec began the session by introducing the event topic and outlining recent developments to put the event into context. From the 2015 refugee crisis in Europe, to the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and surrounding states, the social welfare of refugees, protection of their basic human rights and efficient support to asylum-seekers have been some of the crucial challenges states have faced in the past decade. The floor was then given to our stellar cast of panelists: Rodora Turalde-Babaran, Director of Human Development at the ASEAN Secretariat; Rizka Argadianti Rachmah, co-founder of SUAKA, the civil society association for refugee rights protection; and Nina Gregori, Executive Director of the European Asylum Support Office, for their presentations.

The speakers discussed the different facets of migration and asylum-seeking, drawing from their own experiences in the field. Their presentations touched on the refugee situation in Indonesia, legal aid and empowerment for migrants and asylum-seekers, as well as mainstreaming and providing better understanding and awareness about refugee rights and forced migration issues to the public. They also highlighted the consequences that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on refugees and migrant workers, and its broader effects on social welfare and development. Lastly, our guests spoke on the evolving crisis in Afghanistan, which is expected to lead to a high number of women and children refugees, as well as the EU’s security and member-state driven approach to its refugee policy.

Following these informative speaker presentations by our panelists, we had a short time period for audience questions. Our Vice President for External Affairs Daniel Tafelski spoke on behalf of the participants, who had numerous questions for our guests. These included the Afghan issue and whether we would see a repeat of the European migrant crisis in 2015 and what projections our speakers had for how host country governments would respond this time around. Other issues included a deep-dive into what transnational actors in Asia have been doing in light of the pandemic for workers rights and their welfare, clearing up misconceptions that host countries still have of migrants and refugees as well as the separation of poverty and refugee issues by host governments, who often see both as interlinked.

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