Damaging discourses: why meanings matter in migration & health research, advocacy, and action

Here’s an input I made at the CESSMIR Conference on Needs and Care Practices for Refugees and Migrants held at the University of Ghent in September 2018.  I was concerned about the lack of engagement with non-EU contexts, and the limited discussions associated with our responsibility to challenge dangerous discourses when engaging on issues associated with migration and health.

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The Conference aimed to be global but is very Eurocentric.  What does this mean for engagement in global discourses and global experiences relating to movement and health? How does this impact our interactions with global policy debates and processes? What does it mean when we engage only in the European context without linking to other geopolitical contexts? How is this contributing to the moral panic relating to the so-called ‘European Refugee Crisis’ [I agree with others who recognise this as a political crisis, not a refugee crisis – for example here and here]?  What is our responsibility in challenging this persistent framing? How do we challenge the continued obsession with trafficking discourses? How do we bring voices, research, insights and experiences from non-EU contexts into this discussion? How do we effectively emphasise the global realities: the numbers of people moving into Europe don’t compare to the numbers of people moving within the African continent.  And we know that the number of refugees hosted in Europe is only a small proportion (approx 25%) of those found globally.

These frustrations (and there are many more) are linked to concerns about global framings, sites of (presumed) power in agenda-setting, and the dangers associated with damaging discourses.

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