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Richard Black on Europe’s refugee / migrant crisis

It is too early to say if September 2015 was a turning point in western Europe’s attitude towards migrants and refugees, but the tragic and very public death of Aylan Kurdi has certainly had a powerful effect on both public and political opinion.

It should also have a galvanizing effect on those of us who have researched refugee and migration issues for many years – the voice of the academy has been there, in radio and TV interviews, commentaries on the crisis and in emerging proposals and some funding for new research, including some from SOAS researchers. But a systematic engagement remains to develop.

There is much to understand – but one way of approaching the crisis is to think through the historical precedents, to consider whether they offer us pointers as to what the space is for political and public action.  This is not easy, as historical precedents are never quite the same as what is going on now. But surely this is an area for analysis and debate that is currently lacking.

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