August 23-26 2012 Societas Ethica, the European Society for Research in Ethics held its 49th annual conference. The conference theme was “Ethics and Migration” and the setting the Romanian city Sibiu in Transylvania. The site for the conference mirrored the theme. Transylvania has during the centuries been a place for waves of migration, for example, already in the 12th Century it received many German immigrants. It is also today a home for hundreds of thousands of Roma people.
Migration is so far a neglected issue within applied ethics. This is surprising due to both the seriousness of the issue and the ethical dilemmas it poses. With this conference the Societas Ethica, wished to bolster the ethical discussion on migration. The conference channels illustrated the range of ethical issues that migration raises:
Many people migrate from poverty and oppression but are stopped at the borders of the rich nations in Europe and America; what are their obligations towards the migrants? How is migration related to global justice?
Migrants and refugees are vulnerable. They have lost their communities and citizenships. What are the rights of migrants and refugees? Who is obliged to protect their rights?
Fortress Europe has unfortunately become a reality. With surveillance, fences and barbwire Europe tries to keep the migrants at a distance. But, what are the moral obligations of the individual European nations and of the European Union? What do we owe them?
Immigrants who have successfully entered Europe are often met with hostility and end up in segregated communities. What are the ethical challenges of segregation and conflicts based on religion and ethnicity?
The unknown person, the different, the Other, is often despised and persecuted. European history shows ample of evidence of this fact. How should minorities, like for example the Roma people, be respected and included by the majority populations and by the states?
The first key note speech was held by Dr Gernot Haupt, Alpen-Adria University Klagenfurt over the theme “Antigypsism and migration”. Haupt showed with plenty of examples how the Roma people in Europe have been victims of constant policies of exclusion; from repression to extermination culminating in the Holocaust in the 1930s and 1940s. Haupt expressed critique of the present attitude of the majority in societies with Roma minorities. Their message is; it is always they, the Roma, who must change, not we!
Dr Matthew Gibney from Oxford University addressed the topic “Refugees and justice between states”. He noticed that presently the majority of the world’s refugees go to neighboring poor countries and hence that the refugee situation exacerbate the global inequalities. How can this change? Are not for example nations responsible for creating massive streams of refugees, like the United States after the attack on Iraq in 2003, obliged to host the resulting refugees?
Dr Michelle Becka from University of Frankfurt am Main talked about “Ethics on the border. Towards a theological horizon in the discourse of migration”. She emphasized that being a stranger is an important theme in the biblical tradition; migrants are in focus for theological ethics. When the humanity of migrants is reduced due to oppression and segregation it is crucial for theological ethics to emphasize the need for solidarity.
In the last keynote speech Dr Oliver Bakewell from Oxford University talked over the theme “The relationships between migration and human development”. His lecture focused on the potential positive effects of migration for development through Diasporas communities with links to their homelands, remittances, i.e. the financial support that immigrants send back to their home countries, etc.
More than 40 participants, among them many young scholars from all over Europe but also from India, the United States, Hong Kong and Australia, presented high quality paper. As the only European society open for scholars in moral philosophy, theological ethics and applied ethics, Societas Ethica has a great potential to influence and stimulate the ethical discussions in Europe.
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2012. , 200 p.
The 49th Societas Ethica Annual Conference 2012, Theme: Ethics and Migration, August 23–26, 2012, Lucian Blaga University Sibiu, Romania