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The Rise of Xenophobic Nationalist Politics and Policy Implications for Migrants
20 Apr 2017 -  UNU Panel Series on Academic Thinking on Migration This event is part of the United Nations University (UNU) ‘Panel Series on Academic Thinking on Migration’, convened by the UNU Migration Network with the support of the UNU Office in New York (UNU-ONY). The panel series is held against the backdrop of thematic consultations feeding into negotiations towards a Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
The 2016 New York Declaration strongly condemns racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and intolerance against refugees and migrants, reaffirming obligations under international law (paragraphs 13-14). States are seeking adequate responses to the rise of xenophobia, practices and rates of violence against migrants witnessed in recent years. Policy makers are struggling to counter these dynamics at the sub-national, national and global levels. Social scientists caution that social tensions due to poverty, alienation and anger can fuel extremist movements. Such movements often label outside actors as ‘threats’ in order to make political gains. Historical and current examples from around the world demonstrate how such movements exploit divisiveness in a society – in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, for example – to fuel nationalist sentiments while tearing at the social fabric of diverse communities. Individual migrants are dehumanized and depicted as menaces to the living conditions of locals or nationals, while their positive contributions to their new communities are ignored. From different academic perspectives, this seminar will consider the dynamics in which nationalism and xenophobia arise, and how authorities can address these phenomena. Scholars on the panel will consider, in the context of difficult political climates, how groups seeking greater inclusivity might redress divisive politics. This panel will address current research exploring questions pertinent to these challenges, including: What are the main reasons behind a recent increase in anti-migrant violence in some contexts – and why do some countries experience a rise in anti-migrant sentiment while others, especially countries that observe similar migration patterns, do not? How do xenophobic attitudes affect States’ responses to migration phenomena – such as in the case of the current ‘migration crisis’ in Europe? How have xenophobic and nationalist groups used anti-migration rhetoric over time, and what can we learn from historical examples? How might policies at the sub-national, national, regional and global levels address xenophobia?