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52nd Foreign Policy School to examine closed borders and forced migration

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 10:11pm

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The human faces of forced migration - one of the topics under the spotlight at this weekend’s 52nd Otago Foreign Policy School.

Anticipation is mounting for this weekend’s 52nd Otago Foreign Policy School, which is themed “Open and Closed Borders: The Geopolitics of Migration”.

A special feature of the School will be a roundtable late on the afternoon of 1 July discussing the question: “Should the refugee quota in Aotearoa/New Zealand be raised?”

The Forced migrations of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, the closing and enforcement of immigration borders, and the widespread misery and geopolitical instability that ensues is the focus of this year’s School. This annual gathering is the premier fixture in the New Zealand international relations calendar.

"No territory, including Aotearoa/New Zealand, remains unaffected by the web of consequences that links forced migration events, which include people smuggling and human trafficking."

Topics to be explored include the disturbing statistic that in 2012, it was estimated that one person every second was displaced by climate change or weather-related disaster. It is calculated that by 2050 up to 200 million people could be forced to leave their homes because of climate change.

One speaker will highlight the issue through the case of the forced relocation of Colitha Kasuana and her family from their tiny island home of Piul in Papua New Guinea. Rising sea levels threatened their home and also submerged the little piece of land where they grew bananas. Piul is part of a group of coral atolls known as the Carteret Islands. More than 1,700 of the 2,500 original residents have been or are being moved to Bougainville due to impacts caused by storm surges, sea inundation and shoreline erosion.

The School will see international and national experts converge in Dunedin to tackle this and other pressing issues around national and international boundaries and borders – including political, economic, legal and ethical aspects – those that forced migration creates through factors such as disasters and armed conflict.

The venue is St Margaret’s College and the School opens on Friday 30 June and continues until Sunday afternoon. Around 150 attendees are expected to take part.

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The co-directors of this year's Foreign Policy School (from left) Dr Simon Ryan, Associate Professor Jacqui Leckie and Dr Heather Devere. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

This year’s School is being co-directed by Associate Professor Jacqui Leckie of Anthropology and Archaeology, Dr Heather Devere of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and Dr Simon Ryan of Languages and Cultures.

The impressive speaker line-up features international experts on a range of topics including globalisation, immigration borders including the US-Mexico border and the Trump factor, Pacific climate change migrants, global migration, refugee policies, asylum seekers, Pacific detention centres, and racism and Muslim identity.

“The humanitarian tragedy resulting from the Syrian conflict has thrown these issues into stark relief, but that particular horror is only one of dozens being played out around the world,” Associate Professor Leckie says.

“No territory, including Aotearoa/New Zealand, remains unaffected by the web of consequences that links forced migration events, which include people smuggling and human trafficking.

"We expect that the School will involve much fruitful debate about the most workable solutions to what, on the face of it, can seem like intractable problems."

“For example, there has been an ongoing increase in New Zealand’s refugee quota, which recently saw Invercargill announced as new resettlement centre. This has caused some disquiet among civic leaders due to a perceived lack of consultation about the centre’s establishment.”

Concerted efforts by a broad range of governmental and non-governmental agencies are required to effectively respond to the profound challenges that forced migrations present, Associate Professor Leckie states.

“We expect that the School will involve much fruitful debate about the most workable solutions to what, on the face of it, can seem like intractable problems.”