world war ii displaced nearly 30 million displaced people throughout europe H u m a n i t i e s
Journal entries will identify a “contemporary issue” and analyze it using concepts from class.
- Offer a summary of the topic
- Identify and describe the course principles, ideas, or concepts that the topic reflects/raises (you need to use at least one principle, idea, or concept from the course content or readings in your analysis)
- Offer your very insightful and critical analysis of the topic/materials (FYI: “I thought it was interesting” is neither insightful nor critical)
- Include any questions you may have about the event, if relevant
- Include a weblink, if relevant
Try to select topics that raise your curiosity or interest—it will make it much more relevant for you!
Displacement Around the GlobeIn this final unit, we will look more in-depth at examples of displacement around the globe, by region. This will enable you to get a sense for the different processes of displacement encountered by people, and the different strategies people utilize to ensure a future for themselves, their families, and their communities. After completing this unit, you will be able to: Describe significant/major processes of displacement globally Critically evaluate root causes of displacement Identify strategies people employ in contexts of displacement Note that although the rest of the course is broken up into sections by region, the demarcation of regions is itself a cultural construct. For instance, there is no ‘real’ place in the world called “Asia” or the “Middle East”– these are terms developed in the West to describe multiple, diverse cultural groups. Introduction to Displacement in EuropeFor the past 350 years, Europe partially dealt with its problem of unemployment and transition to industrial economies, as well as political repression, through emigration. From the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, over 50 million people left Europe. In the aftermath of the Russian revolution of 1917, some 2 million Russians left the country. The turmoil of World War I displaced millions in the Balkans and elsewhere. World War II displaced nearly 30 million displaced people throughout Europe. Historically, western Europe has contended with migrants from eastern Europe, as well as migrants from Africa seeking refuge and economic security in the west. (Links to an external site.)Today, some of these same routes and mechanisms are also being employed by an ongoing stream of Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghani refugees. According to the UNHCR, by the end of 2016, nearly 5.2 million refugees had reached European shores. Many of these are making the perilous journey by sea, with devastating results. In 2018, more than 2,000 people drowned. And increasingly, this journey is being undertaken by women and children. Resource: UNHCR “Refugee Crisis in Europe” accessed on 8/18/2020 at https:// (Links to an external site.) Root Causes of Displacement in EuropeDiscrimination and repression of ethnic minorities, racism, and xenophobia have been integral aspects of the European process of nation-state formation. It was the consolidating and colonizing monarchies in Europe that produced thousands, and now millions, of refugees. Root causes associated with migration and displacement movements in Europe include; democratization, the collapse of governments and regimes, and emerging political initiatives in Europe. Many European politicians perceive displaced people as a threat to political stability and national culture.Democratization and Consolidation Democratization in Eastern Europe, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and new political momentum in western Europe (i.e. the creation and maintenance of the European Union) has created an environment where mobility and migration have become a concern. From Moscow to Madrid, politicians raise the specter of potential hordes of migrants threatening political stability and national culture. During the 1960s, European governments sought to meet their demands for labor by allowing for temporary immigration (“guest workers”), who provided needed labor, and who had only provisional resident status. The 1956 Hungarian uprising and the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia both produced substantial numbers of refugees, seen as “Victims of Communism.”Refugees in a camp in West Germany post WWIIUNHCR’s first task in 1951 was to help an estimated one million, mainly European civilians, including these refugees in a camp in West Germany, still uprooted in the aftermath of World War II.The International Refugee Organization, the predecessor of UNHCR, also helped one million people, including these Europeans en route to a new life in the United States, to resettle in other countries.Child refugee in Austrian housing projectWhen the Hungarian uprising erupted in 1956, UNHCR faced its first post-war emergency, coordinating help for more than 200,000 people who fled that country. Some refugees remained in Austria where UNHCR funded housing projects like the one pictured in this image.Image of shelter provided to homeless Cyprusians. In 1974, 400,000 people became homeless during clashes between Greek and Turkish communities in Cyprus. UNHCR coordinated food, health and shelter. During the 1980s alone, they transferred some $15 billion US to Turkey.North-South DimensionsBy the early 1980s, increasing numbers of asylum seekers were arriving in Western Europe. Unlike the earlier periods, most came from “third-world” countries. Britain saw increases from 2,000 in 1980 to 5,500 in 1988 to 25,000 in 1990 to 50,000 in 1991. By 1991, only about 8% of asylum applications were accepted. Most of the asylum applications did not meet the strict criterion of individual persecution.Twenty million immigrants (5% of the population) now call Western Europe home, including nearly 5 million North Africans and Turks on the continent and some 1.2 million South Asians in Britain. During the 80s European governments experienced increases in political asylum applications, growing migration from the third world and increasing numbers from Eastern Europe.Most migrants came from war torn countries, such as Sri Lanka and Lebanon, or from countries with policies of ethnic discrimination, such as Turkey, or from countries experiencing both political upheaval and desperate economic conditions, such as Somalia and Democratic Republic of Congo.East-West DimensionsAs in other global situations, the evidence suggests that when governments ease their repressive policies, people seize the opportunity to leave. The mass movement of people, in turn, became a powerful impetus for change. The refugees from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were often well-educated political dissidents. These contributed greatly to their new societies. Many of these settled in the western hemisphere, including western Europe.Implementation of new economic policies in the East was painful. People experienced both a decline in their standard of living and the elimination of social safety nets. Thus, many decided to seek opportunities in the West. The establishment of democratic processes also led to an escalation of long-latent conflicts, which the fragile democratic institutions could not cope with. For western European governments, the arrival of so many refugees and migrants created many tensions and contradictions.European UnionIn more recent times the European Union has attempted to formulate a uniform set of policies covering all areas of dealing with immigration including: border security, rules for granting asylum, treatment of those denied asylum, interdiction and prevention of human trafficking and illegal immigration, temporary guest worker certification, and designation of who may have immigrant status.Image of Libyan migrants traveling by boat to southern EuropeBoat PeopleThe EU has tightened its interdiction of “boat people,” those coming across the Mediterranean illegally. Southern European countries especially have heavily militarized their maritime defenses, have instituted regular joint military operations with a number of “sending” countries, and have sponsored detention camps in North African.Some of these measures have met with international criticism, as there is said to be little international oversight of foreign detention centers. Further, Mediterranean interdiction of boat people has pushed desperate immigrants to follow longer, unsafe routes over water, and statistics are beginning to show that more lives are being lost at sea.Ethnographic Case: SpainIn the past decade Spain has accepted approximately three million immigrants (more than 11% of its 44 million residents are foreign born. The figure for the United States is 12.9% by comparison.). Immigrants have supplemented an aging population in Spain. They have provided for labor for a construction boom, for agricultural work, and care for the elderly and children that allow Spanish women to seek employment outside the home. For some years Spain had the fastest growing economy in the European Union. Workers, who come from such places as Romania, Morocco, and South America, often do not face serious cultural differences when in Spain, and the language barriers are less serious. They are reported to contribute at least 20% more in taxes and social security than they cost in public services. In recent years, Spain experienced a significant economic issue with widespread unemployment, although by all reports the Spanish economy is rebounding. Spain has been criticized by other EU nations for granting easy amnesty to irregular migrant workers as long as they could prove they were gainfully employed. More than a million persons have received such amnesty since 2000. Claiming it brought the problem on itself, recently, Spain has suffered for this generous immigration allowance as other nations in the Union have not wanted to help it with the large problem it is experiencing trying to stop illegal transit from the west coast of Africa to its territory of the Canary Islands.To get a sense for what this is like for the locals, read this excerpt from a news article about the experience of living in the Canary Islands, and the life and death issue of migration. “One Village’s African Boat Trauma” from BBC News October 2006 (text below) (Links to an external site.)Every day hundreds of African migrants cross the Atlantic Ocean to the Canary Islands in search of a better life. Debbie Woodmansey, who has lived in Gran Canaria for two and-a-half years, describes the impact this has on her village.”I became aware of the boats from Africa not long after I arrived. At first I would just see piles of battered boats in the corner of the harbor. People told me they had arrived carrying up to 100 people but I didn’t believe them. One day in the summer of 2005, I came home from work to find my daughter really distressed. She told me she had seen hundreds of African people sitting on the ground in the square looking sad and hungry. The sirens, the police, the desperation of the boat people. These are all commonplace, as is the feeling of helplessness experienced by the villagers who truly want to do something to help. Boats now arrive most days, sometimes several in a day. They hold around 100 men, women and children. They are now about 12 meters long but this doesn’t mean they are safer. I wouldn’t take my daughter to the next village in one. These people cross an ocean in them, and a dangerous one at that.We always know when a boat is about to arrive as the harbor fills up with tents, hospital beds and wheelchairs. When we see the helicopter arrive, we know that someone needs to get to hospital at great speed. The sadness of this sight never fades. The arrival of the boat people is normal conversation for us, here. We discuss how many arrived last week, what time the boat came in last night, how many didn’t make it.However, we can’t help but notice the effect on our community. We live on a very small island and this is a major drain on the resources here. The navy boats, the coast guards, the civil guard and the Red Cross used to work together fighting the battle against drugs. Now it seems all their time and resources are spent working with the boat people. The villagers are not angry with the people, they are angry about the drain on resources. It cannot be sustained. The boat people cannot leave the island until they are fit. Because they arrive in such an appalling condition – they are too weak to walk or stand – this takes quite a while. Who foots the bill for their medical care?Bodies are sometimes brought in by the fishermen, as they sometimes catch them in their nets. I once heard of a fisherman finding a pregnant woman floating in the sea. A few days ago, 220 people arrived in one day. When the authorities were cleaning one of the boats before it was destroyed, they found three dead bodies. A woman had arrived with a one-week-old baby, and the baby had died. Her loving husband had sent them instead of himself. The villagers have such sympathy for these desperate people. We sit silently as the convoy heads out of our village and up to the capital, Las Palmas, listening to the sirens and holding back our tears. I had family visiting on one occasion; we were down by the beach. As our children swam happily in the sea, the boats arrived. The contrast was so sharp.” Unfortunately, these processes continue on today. Local NGOs are incredibly overwhelmed in their efforts to help those arriving by boat to the Canary Islands. Check out this news report from El País (Links to an external site.) for more information about how NGOs are dealing with the influx. See the images below for examples of the types of boats people might use to cross the Mediterranean. As the closest European country to the African continent, Spain is on the frontline for irregular migration. From there, migrants often make their way to other European countries. Spain’s enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in northern Morocco are initial targets for many migrants. Once detained they can be expelled, repatriated or sent to mainland Spain, where many are reported to be released, pending expulsion.The enclaves’ authorities were forced to double the size of border fences around the coastal territories in 2005 when hundreds of migrants attempted to scale the defenses. Two migrants were shot dead by a Moroccan guard. For years, people have risked crossing the sea to get to mainland Spain, but starting in 2006 there was a closer focus on its islands – thousands headed for the Canary Islands in former African fishing boats, prompting an increase in joint border patrol operations by Spain, the EU and African nations. For instance, in recent years, Spain and the EU have worked jointly with Libya, asking Libya to use its Coast Guard as the first line of defense against irregular migrants seeking to go to Europe by boat. But tightening security at one departure point simply seems to shift it elsewhere. Because of the militarization of the Mediterranean, this route is one of the longer, more dangerous routes attempted by boat people. Contemporary Migration to EuropeSince 2016, European countries have seen an influx of displaced persons. This wave of migration has taken a terrible toll on people’s lives—many migrants have died or gone missing while crossing the Mediterranean Sea, and they face a multitude of new risks once they arrive in Europe. Read this 2018 Human Rights Watch region report about Europe (Links to an external site.) to get a better sense of contemporary issues related to human rights and displacement there. In several of the discussions about specific countries, individual’s stories are highlighted—read through these to see how these broader social, political, and economic processes impact people’s everyday lives.You can also check out different news sources for up to date information on the causes and effects of migration to Europe. Here is a good article by PBS’ Frontline from 2018 (Links to an external site.) detailing the effects of the EU’s response to the refugee crisis. Next, watch this documentary by Frontline, ‘Exodus’ (Links to an external site.) to get a better sense of the human faces and lived experiences of forced migratory flows heading to Europe. Some of the footage is filmed by the migrants themselves on their journeys.