Ethics and Responsibility: Thoughts on the UN General Assembly's Summit for Refugees and Migrants

October 6, 2016

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2016 marks the deadliest year for refugees traveling across the Central Mediterranean: some 281,740 people have crossed the sea to Europe in the first eight months of 2016 and an estimated 4,176 of those have perished during the crossing. European states continue to struggle to accommodate the flow of refugees with some governments facing an internal nationalistic backlash and pressure to close their borders. The total number of refugees and internally displaced people, over 60 million, is higher than at any time since World War II.

On September 19, 2016, the UN General Assembly met to discuss the continuing plight of migrants and refugees with the aim of coordinating global efforts to resolve the crisis in a humane fashion. And on September 20, President Obama hosted a long anticipated Leaders Summit.

The Berkley Forum asks contributors to consider the ethical implications of both UN-coordinated international efforts and individual state policy to address what is aptly termed a crisis. What is the moral and the practical responsibility of different international actors? What in practice can they do most effectively? How can the United Nations encourage European nations to allow refugees to enter their territory and provide economic and other forms of support to those who remain? How might individual states tackle their internal security concerns while still accommodating the needs of migrants and refugees, and what are the religious dimensions of their concerns and responses? What role can and do religious institutions play in encouraging both state and individual assistance in this crisis? Finally, how might religious and ethical considerations shape UN and national policies regarding refugees?

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