Ukrainian War, Refugees, and Human Rights in a Global Context

Panels and Discussions

The Ukrainian war unleashed unprecedented displacements in Europe, unseen since WWII. Most of the borders in Europe and throughout the world were opened to Ukrainians - in contrast to the restrictive border regimes many recent refugee movements to Europe, such as the Syrian or Afghani refugees fleeing war, were subject to. A series of schemes were developed to welcome Ukrainian refugees and emplace them into the labor markets and educational systems of their host countries. Instead of approaching the current Ukrainian refugee movement as unique and singular, this panel aimed to situate its dynamics within a broader context of refugee movements in Europe and beyond. It further placed it in conversation with the historical, political, and social contexts that cause such movements in the first place and seeks to explore it in relation to and together with other refugee movements globally.
The Ukrainian war unleashed militarization and the weaponization of economic sanctions, and in addition once again revealed the contradictions, exclusions, politics and narratives of human rights regimes. It highlighted the politics of who is allowed to become a refugee in Europe and on what terms. Among others, the panel asked the following questions:

  • What kind of a light does the Ukrainian war shed on the changing nature of borders?
  • What is the impact of the increasing dominance of civilizational discourses on the framing and provisioning of protection in our current world?
  • What are the (cultural) responses to the mass population displacement of Ukrainians in Europe? Do we see any changes in human rights regimes and humanitarianism taking shape in relation to the prominence of cultural arguments? Could we talk about a culturalization of human rights?
  • What are the similarities and differences between the current Ukrainian and the 2015 ‘refugee crises’?

Alex Aleinikoff is Professor at the New School for Social Research, and has served as Director of the Zolberg Institute since January 2017. Aleinikoff has written widely in the areas of immigration and refugee law and policy, transnational law, citizenship, race, and constitutional law. 

Grażyna Baranowska is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the Hertie School in Berlin and an Assistant Professor at the Polish Academy of Sciences. She is the Principal Investigator of MIRO, a project funded by Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, which seeks to identify and interpret international legal obligations regarding ‘missing migrants’ and accordingly critique and shape the practices of the EU, its Member States, and pertinent international organisations.

Ayşe Çağlar is Professor at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna and a Permanent Fellow at IWM. She has widely published on processes of migration, urban restructuring, transnationalization and the state, and of disposession and displacement. Her most recent comparative empirical research addressed the location of migrants in city-making processes especially in disempowered cities.

Olena Fedyuk is an anthropologist and a film maker working on the issues of gendered labour and migration. She obtained her PhD degree from the Central European University, Budapest and her dissertation is an ethnographic examination of transnational moral economies and distant motherhood through the cases of Ukrainian female labour migrants to Italy. Her most recent project, RightsLab, looks into mediated employment and deals with transnational labour rights, overlap of gendered employment, labour and care regimes.

Randall Hansen is Director of the Munk School’s Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, as well as the Global Migration Lab. He is Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto and Canada Research Chair in Global Migration. Hansen works on immigration and citizenship, demography and population policy and the effects of war on civilians.

Ranabir Samaddar is the Distinguished Chair in Migration and Forced Migration Studies at the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group in Kolkata, India. He has written on migration, forms of labour, urbanization, and political struggles that have signaled a new turn in post-colonial thinking.