Erin K. Wilson

Erin K. Wilson is director of the Center for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain and senior lecturer in religion and politics, faculty of theology and religious studies, University of Groningen, The Netherlands. Her research is positioned at the intersection of religious studies and international relations, with particular interest in the impact of secular worldviews in areas of global justice. Her books include After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics(2012), and Justice Globalism: Ideology, Crisis, Policy (with Manfred B. Steger and James Goodman 2013). She has co-edited The Religious as Political and the Political as Religious: The Blurring of Sacred and Secular in Contemporary International Relations (2014, Special Issue of Politics Religion Ideology), and with Luca Mavelli, The Refugee Crisis and Religion: Secularism, Security and Hospitality in Question (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016). Her articles have appeared in International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Refugee Studies, Globalizations, Politics Religion Ideology, and Global Society. She blogs regularly at The Religion Factor.

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Thursday, December 1st, 2016

The refugee crisis and religion: Beyond physical and conceptual boundaries

refugeecrisis_2dAccording to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), as of the end of 2015, 65.3 million people were displaced globally at a rate of twenty-four persons per minute. This is the largest number on record and is expected to have grown in 2016. Despite the enormity of the situation, responses from Western countries (who host a mere 24 percent of displaced persons in comparison to the 86 percent hosted in countries surrounding conflict zones) have been inadequate, to say the least. Their harsh exclusionary rhetoric has resulted in increasingly hardline immigration policies.

Australia has led the way in this regard, deploying a deterrence-driven model of offshore mandatory indefinite detention, which prevents asylum seekers from ever settling in the country, even if found to be “genuine refugees,” and laws that make family reunion almost impossible. Whilst this approach has been condemned by the UNHCR and multiple human rights organizations, it has been highlighted by numerous policymakers in Europe as a possible model for governing migration on the continent. Despite the notable exceptions of Germany and, to a smaller extent, Italy, European responses to the crisis have privileged exclusionary and securitizing policies, leading many commentators to observe that rather than a refugee crisis, this should be more properly described as a crisis of leadership or a crisis of solidarity.

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