Officials see them as cruel exploiters of human misery: criminals, traffickers, predators. Indeed, many policymakers seem to suggest that if only we crack down on smugglers, refugee crises would be solved. Popular culture—including through Oscar-nominated documentaries—glorifies Greek and Italian Coast Guards and other anti-smuggler agents as saviors from the machinations of evil smugglers. Syrian migrants have a different view.
The association of violent criminality with immigration crops up time and time again across the popular and political press. Last Monday’s coverage on the New York Times Daily, which focused on the bind sheriffs face when asked by ICE to impose detainers on “illegal immigrants,” unfortunately takes up this characterization.
As debate on the European migrant crisis shifts from the voyage of migrants and their initial arrival in Europe to the long-term experiences of migrants in host countries, we must reexamine the issue of organized crime and forced migration.
The idea of "international migration law" is not new, but it is receiving increased attention from a number of legal scholars. In some degree, they are responding to the domination of refugee law in discussions of international law relating to the movement of people. AJIL Unbound (the online edition of the American Journal of International Law) has recently published a "Symposium on Framing Global Migration Law," in which Jaya Ramji-Nogales has a piece well-worth reading: "Moving Beyond the Refugee Law Paradigm."
Volker Türk, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection at UNHCR, has recently given two speeches that merit attention. Türk's March 3 keynote address to the Fourth Humanitarian Congress in Vienna includes important language criticizing "externalization" policies that undercut international responsibility-sharing.
It is a reality of human behavior that people usually relate better to stories than to facts and reasoned analysis. Stories have the power to motivate, compel, and persuade – to create a movement or call people to action. Social media has become a space for the sharing of stories, and indeed much of the online conversation about refugees is through this medium. Which stories people choose to share should be of interest to anyone concerned about the plight of refugees; as these choices elucidate points of interest, allude to how perceptions might be shaped, and open an opportunity to influence hearts and minds. This Forum post will consider the refugee stories that are shared on twitter. Analyzing common narratives from the popular stories, this post hopes to give a flavor of the kind of content that is capturing the public imagination, and explain why anyone working to improve the lives of refugees should care about these stories.