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The Criminalization of Kindness: The Legality and Politics of Migrant Rescue across the Sahara and the Mediterranean

When: Monday, March 2, 2020
12:30 PM - 1:30 PM CT

Where: Kresge Hall, Room 1-515 (The Forum), 1880 Campus Drive , Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: Free

Contact: Danny Postel   (847) 467-1131

Group: Middle East and North African Studies

Category: Lectures & Meetings, Global & Civic Engagement, Women 150


Across the globe in migrant receiving states there has been an increase in state criminalization of civil assistance for refugees and migrants. While under international and national refugee law a refugee ought to be protected and granted an administrative process to determine refugee status, the increase in what Galya Ben-Arieh of Northwestern and Volker Heins of the University of Duisburg-Essen call the "criminalization of kindness" has been supported through measures also legitimized by international law.

The contradictions between the humanitarian commitment to protect refugees who enter with the assistance of smugglers, and international sanctions against smugglers have given rise to multiple narratives of legality. Ben-Arieh and Heins focus on two dominant narratives that are at the heart of conflicts over the legality of migrant rescue. The ‘smuggler narrative’, which assumes that migration can be managed and that deterrence and development aid will reduce refugee flows, leads to commitments of containment. The ‘rescue narrative’, by contrast, assumes that migration cannot be managed and that development and education increases migration flows, and creates interpretive communities that support mobility and human rights.

Galya Ben-Arieh dedicates her time as a lawyer, teacher and action researcher to understanding the realities of refugee policy and how we can better fulfill our promise of humanitarian protection. A full Professor of Political Science in the Lecturer Faculty at Northwestern, she teaches courses on refugee policy and constitutionalism. She founded and directed the Center for Forced Migration Studies, which was housed at the Buffett Institute from 2011 until 2018 and is now a research group within the Weinberg College Center for International & Area Studies. She is co-editor (with Benjamin Lawrance) of Adjudicating Refugee and Asylum Status: The Role of Witness, Expertise, and Testimony (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

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