"The Refugee Crisis: too little compassion or too much?"
Images of children washed up on a beach, newly erected border fences, and citizens welcoming arriving refugees in train stations have been populating our screens. They appeal to our compassion, but they also raise warnings of a populist backlash. This year’s Sakharov debate looks at Europe’s refugee crisis, and the response of the EU and its Member States to it. What remedies have been sought and why has an adequate response proved so elusive? Why and how have our various governments, and societies reacted so differently? How can one member state take in 1.5 million people and others next to none? What arguments are being made in favour of helping, or not helping, refugees from the Middle East and elsewhere?
Acknowledging the emotive nature of this ongoing problem, we will seek to view it from the angle of compassion, and through arguments framing different approaches to dealing with it. Is an excess or shortage of compassion the key reason behind diverging national responses? What other explanations might there be? We will discuss what Europe’s divided responses tell us about our ability to act together effectively and how the treatment of refugees, at our borders as well as within them, defines what kind of Europe we do and wish to live in. And, we will ask, is the crisis turning into a crisis of Europe?
Associate Professor at the Political Science Department, University of Sofia, and Programme Director at the Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia
Professor, UCL Faculty of Laws
The European Parliament UK Office is organizing a debate to mark the awarding of the Sakharov Prize. The debate is open to the public and is hosted jointly with UCL European Institute.