Keep Them There: Humanitarianism Overseas and the Politics of Containment

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
WMB - Gannochy Seminar Room 3 (University of Glasgow)
Karolina Follis , Politics, Philosophy and Religion, Lancaster University
In 2015 the numbers of refugees arriving in Europe increased at a rate that alarmed politicians and large segments of the public. In this context, leaders of some EU member states, primarily, but not only in Eastern Europe, declared that they would not support mandatory refugee resettlement quotas agreed at the EU level. They claimed that accepting those who arrive in Europe via maritime routes legitimizes illegal migration, and encourages more people to come. Instead those politicians argued that humanitarian efforts ought to be focused on countries of origin and transit, offering assistance to those who remained in their region of origin, enabling them to stay where they are. The right-wing Polish government has been among those advocating this policy since its raise to power in 2015. It has funded humanitarian organizations, notably the Catholic charity Caritas to deliver humanitarian assistance to Syrians and Iraqis in Jordan and in Lebanon. This paper presents the results of a preliminary investigation into the implementation of this approach. Drawing on research in Poland, I unpack the relationship between the humanitarian objectives of the Church-affiliated charity and the containment imperative embraced by its funders. The discourse and practice of “keeping them there” has been presented as “responsible migration management,” but this case study will show whether the charity, its volunteers and supporters consent to such instrumentalization of their religiously motivated humanitarian endeavors. The analysis will contribute a thus-far underexplored perspective to the recent debate on the entanglements between humanitarianism and the European border regime.