UW retirees, alumni, faculty and students joined professor
Emeritus Rob Crawford, a retired professor at the School of Interdisciplinary
Arts and Sciences with a Ph.D in Political Science, for the Migration, Muslims
and the Rise of the Right in Germany and Greece — Lessons for America. The
event was held on Jan. 20 from 11 a.m.–12 p.m. at the William W. Philip Hall,
focusing on Dr. Crawford’s past experience in Germany and Greece.
Dr. Crawford, the current founder and leader of the Washington State Religious Campaign against Torture. He also currently works in research for human rights and treatment of prisoners, as well as how to demolish torture within them. Crawford has been awarded the 2018 UW-UWRA Distinguished Retiree Excellence in Community Service Award. He has a Ph.D. in political science, and has opinion compositions currently in the works.
“Like so many other people I became more deeply involved in
the politics of immigration,” said Crawford. “It quickly came into focus what I
would do in Europe, which was [that] I would go and I would interview as many
people as I could.”
This trip took place in the cities of Berlin, Germany and
Athens, Greece. Dr. Crawford interviewed activists and academics about the political
response and consequences in regards to the migration of refugees that
initially became big in 2015 during a four-week period.
“I come back realizing how little I know and how much there
is to learn…” explained Crawford.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees, an estimate of 1,000,573 refugees fled to Europe by sea, primarily to
Greece and Italy in 2015. The UNHCR states that half a million were Syrian
refugees, who had fled the still current civil war.
“Numbers are inevitably numbing,” Dr. Crawford said. “One
must at least pause for a moment and consider the UN statistics for what is
described as the highest level of displacement of record.”
The numbers were indeed high, as he cited by a report from
the UN, which states that there are 68.5 million people who were forcibly
A majority of the refugees who fled war torn countries, such
as Syria, fled by boat — one of the most dangerous ways to travel, as the boats
are filled with more people than they can carry. The Reuters organization
reported that in this case, two boats were carrying a total of 23 people.
In 2015, the country of Germany decided to allow in
“Germany’s Angela Merkel did something extraordinary by
announcing that Germany would step up to its moral responsibilities as a leader
of a Europe committed to humanitarian principles, and in late August she
announced ‘we can do this,’” Crawford said. “Germany proceeded to admit over a
million migrants — a decision that included an outlay of billions of Euros to
provide emergency assistance.”
Merkel’s decision had sparked outrage and many protests,
such as an anti-Islam protests and a popular slogan titled “Merkel must go!”
that became popular.
“ [It] changed the political landscape, not only in the
right-wing strongholds of the former GDR, but across Germany,” Crawford said.
“Prominent members of [Merkel’s] center right party and bavaria parties allied
were taking up anti-migrant positions. Most people I talked with recognize that
there are legitimate concerns about immigration that need to be addressed. Yet
they also agree about the urgent necessity that convince voters that the real
threat to Europe is not migration. The threat to Europe is the far right.”
According to “The Independent,” there were six European
countries in 2016 that built border fences to allegedly stop the migration of
refugees. These countries included Austria, Bulgaria, France, Hungary,
Macedonia and Slovenia.
“‘Your papers please’ has once again become standard
practice, creating an apartheid system for one of the cherished achievements
of European integration for freedom of movement,” said Dr. Crawford,
referring to the many border fences.
A quote by one the people Crawford interviewed emphasized
the crisis and the political response to this issue.
“By donning the clothes of their enemies, they empower the
people they were trying to undermine. In the process they become the beast
they were fighting against.”
Referring to the title of the talk, “Lessons for America,”
Dr. Crawford concluded with a final question to the audience, “What do such
lessons ask of us?”