January 24, 2024

Dealing with Refugees as a Political, Economic, and Humanitarian Problem

Event Series: Free Speech at the Crossroads: International Dialogues

Showing the Dealing with Refugees as a Political, Economic, and Humanitarian Problem Video

The international crisis over refugees has significantly worsened in the past decade. As of mid-2023, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had tracked at least 110 million people in the world who have been forcibly displaced, an increase of 45 million people since 2015. But as refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection attempt to evade conflict and persecution, productive measures have stymied in the West. Instead, controversial and politically charged actions—the British prime minister seeking to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, and the governors of Florida and Texas dispatching those arrested at the southern border to northern U.S. cities and resorts, for example—have grabbed the headlines. This has left many policymakers bewildered and pessimistic about the future, and the refugees themselves increasingly desperate. Amidst the rhetorical gridlock around the issue, who speaks credibly for the refugees and what can the international community do to alleviate the crisis?

This event is co-sponsored by the Free Speech Project (Georgetown University) and the Future of the Humanities Project (Georgetown University and Blackfriars Hall and Campion Hall, Oxford).

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Ggia


Barnabas Aspray, an assistant professor at St. Mary’s Seminary and University, is interested in the way Christian belief and practice interact with contemporary Western society. His research focuses on the Christian ethics of refugees and immigration. He is passionate about making theology accessible and relevant to the lives of those without an academic background. Aspray holds a Ph.D. in philosophy of religion from the University of Cambridge.

Katharine Donato is the Donald G. Herzberg Professor and former director of the Institute for the Study of International Migration in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She has examined critical questions, such as the economic consequences of U.S. immigration policy and deportation and its effects on immigrants. Donato is co-author of Gender and International Migration: From Slavery to Present (2015), as well as Refugees, Migration and Global Governance: Negotiating the Global Compacts (2019).

Rachel Kronick, a clinician-scientist based at the Sherpa and Lady Davis Research Institutes in Montreal, is affiliated with the Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry of McGill University. Her research has looked at immigration policy and its consequences for children and families, with a specific focus on immigration detention. Currently, she does participatory-action research with asylum-seeking communities to develop and implement ecosocial mental health interventions.

Michael Saks, emeritus professor at the University of Suffolk, currently chairs the United Nations-endorsed Institute for Responsible Leadership (IRL) and is an appointed member on the World Health Organization Technical Expert Group on Global Health Practitioner Regulation. He has led many health committees for the National Health Service and frequently advised professional bodies and governments. Saks is also a member of the Innovation Council.

Michael Scott (moderator) is senior dean, fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, college adviser for postgraduate students, and a member of the Las Casas Institute. He also serves as senior adviser to the president of Georgetown University. Scott previously was the pro-vice-chancellor at De Montfort University and founding vice-chancellor of Wrexham Glyndwr University.

Sanford J. Ungar (moderator), president emeritus of Goucher College, is director of the Free Speech Project at Georgetown University, which documents challenges to free expression in American education, government, and civil society. Director of the Voice of America under President Bill Clinton, he was also dean of the American University School of Communication and is a former co-host of All Things Considered on NPR.