The Great European Refugees and Migrants Debate

Wednesday 25 November 2015, 7pm | VIDEO ONLINE NOW

Add to Calendar >

Share:

Video

Podcast

Info

Europe is gripped by the biggest migrant crisis since the Second World War. The parallels with that earlier crisis are hard to avoid. When in 1938 tens of thousands were fleeing Nazi Germany, not a single European country agreed to raise its quotas. In response Hitler and Goebbels observed that, while other countries complained about how Germany treated the Jews, no one else wanted them either. This is one of the points that Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg made in the Intelligence Squared Great European Refugees and Migrants Debate. With the squabbling last month between the countries of Europe over the quota system, the Hungarian government erecting a steel fence on its southern border and Germany and Sweden reintroducing border controls, will this period go down in history as another one when Europe closed its doors?

Some would argue, however, that humanitarian pleas to give a compassionate welcome to the refugees may be admirable, but the numbers entering Europe are simply too high for everyone to be accommodated. Over a million people have already crossed into the continent this year, and the European Union estimates that another 3 million will enter by 2017. Angela Merkel – who of all the European leaders has been most generous in welcoming the refugees – has seen her popularity in Germany plummet amid anxieties about a surge in support for the extreme right. Meanwhile, the declaration by Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that he is defending Europe’s ‘Christian identity’ against a vast ‘Islamic influx’ has given him a boost in the polls.

And now the situation has been further complicated by the horrific attacks in Paris carried out by Isis terrorists on Friday. Evidence has emerged that one of the killers may have posed as a Syrian refugee to enter Europe. Whether or not this can be proved, more European countries look set to impose border controls as a response. What will this mean for refugees who are likely to be trapped in a backlog in the Balkan states, and how will the rising tensions be dealt with?

Joining Rabbi Wittenberg in this major event were: Lord Ashdown, who played a key role in putting Bosnia back on its feet after the war in Yugoslavia; Pia Oberoi, a migration adviser from the UN High Commission for Human Rights; former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind; and Hungarian migration expert Balázs Orbán.

Speakers

Paddy AshdownPaddy Ashdown

Lord Ashdown is a former Liberal Democrat leader and international High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2002 to 2006 when he advocated decisive action by the international community.

 

Pia OberoiPia Oberoi

Adviser to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. She has worked with NGOs and think-tanks around the world on migrant and refugee rights.

 

Balázs OrbánBalázs Orbán

Director of Research at the Századvég Foundation in Hungary, a conservative think tank which is the official adviser to the Hungarian government on migration matters.

 

Malcolm RifkindSir Malcolm Rifkind

British politician who held several cabinet roles under Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major, including Defence Secretary (1992–1995) and Foreign Secretary (1995–1997).

 

Rabbi Jonathan WittenburgRabbi Jonathan Wittenberg

Rabbi of New North London Synagogue and Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism, a traditional non-fundamentalist form of Judaism. He lectures widely and writes frequently for the Jewish and interfaith press.

 

 

Chair

Jonathan FreedlandJonathan Freedland

Executive editor and columnist at the Guardian, author and broadcaster.