UCL European Institute


The Refugee Crisis: Too little compassion or too much? 2015 Sakharov Debate

10 December 2015, 12:00 am

The refugee crisis

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10 December 2015
Images of children washed up on a beach, newly erected border fences, and citizens welcoming arriving refugees in train stations have been populating our screens. They appeal to our compassion, but they also raise warnings of a populist backlash. This year's Sakharov debate looks at Europe's refugee crisis, and the response of the EU and its Member States to it. What remedies have been sought and why has an adequate response proved so elusive? Why and how have our various governments, and societies reacted so differently? How can one member state take in 1.5 million people and others next to none? What arguments are being made in favour of helping, or not helping, refugees from the Middle East and elsewhere?

10 December, 4.30-6.00pm

Europe House, 32 Smith Square, London SW1P 3EU

This event will be followed by a reception



Acknowledging the emotive nature of this ongoing problem, we will seek to view it from the angle of compassion, and through arguments framing different approaches to dealing with the crisis. Is an excess or shortage of compassion the key reason behind diverging national responses? What other explanations might there be? We will discuss what Europe's divided responses tell us about our ability to act together effectively and how the treatment of refugees, at our borders as well as within them, defines what kind of Europe we do and wish to live in. And, we will ask, is the crisis turning into a crisis of Europe?

  • Chair: Martine Croxall, journalist and news presenter, BBC 
  • Daniel Smilov, associate professor of political science, University of Sofia, and programme director, Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia
  • Stefanie Bolzen, London correspondent, DIE WELT  
  • George Letsas, professor of the philosophy of law, UCL
  • James Carver, member of the European Parliament, UKIP 

    The UCL European Institute co-hosts this debate every year with the European Parliament Office in the UK, to coincide with the award of the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

    2015 Sakharov Prize Laureate

    This year's laureate is Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger, writer and activist and the creator of the website Free Saudi Liberals, an online platform for political and religious debate. The Prize will be awarded on 16 December.