Law Prof. James Hathaway gave a talk Thursday evening in the Hatcher Graduate Library Gallery titled “Policies on the Refugee Crisis”, discussing flaws in the refugee system worldwide.

Hathaway is the founding director of the Law School’s Program in Refugee and Asylum Law, and his work is regularly cited by international courts.

Thursday’s lecture centered on Hathaway’s hope that there will be an international effort to revamp the model most countries use in dealing with refugees. Hathaway said current models do not require more funding, but rather the funds individual countries have appropriated to hosting refugees need to be more efficiently allocated.

“We have more than enough money in the system to provide an immediate international response — to provide the dignified protection for the duration of risk, to move people to new homes — without spending one dollar more,” Hathaway said.

The talk was facilitated by the University of Michigan’s Global Scholars Program in coordination with Amnesty International, a global human rights organization.

The current refugee crisis encompasses 19.5 million people seeking sanctuary in countries outside of their own, who often very few options in developed first world countries. According to Amnesty International, 86 percent of refugees end up settling in developing countries that often don’t have the resources or infrastructure to provide for an influx of this scale. As conflict in Syria and other areas of the world has unfolded over past months, causing a surge in refugees, international groups have called on more developed countries like the U.S. to accept more refugees.

Speaking specifically to the procedures to revamp refugee laws, Hathaway said the only viable approach is through international coalitions such as the United Nations.

“We see scenes like this of refugees in tiny boats, surrendering their well-being to smugglers in very dangerous conditions,” Hathaway said. “We see horrid images of refugees surviving massive difficult overnight treks only to be confronted by barbed-wire barriers when they get to a place they thought was safe.”

Kenneth Grunow, a representative of the Detroit chapter Amnesty International who also spoke during the event, also called for more increased awareness and effort in finding a permanent solution.

“What we need to do is to find it in our hearts and our determination to help these people with support,” he said. “With a place to go and try to get them in out of the cold and give them a place that they can call their own again.”

Event coordinator Tiffany Chau, a Public Policy sophomore and Global Scholar Program member, said she was inspired to host the event because of her father, who was a refugee from Vietnam.

“I realized that my ethnicity and my cultural background isn’t the only thing that defines me, but it is something that defines me and I have a lot of stories that I can share,” Chau said.

Amnesty International also provided a petition at the event addressed to U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D—Dearborn), urging her to call for an increase in the number of refugees resettled in the United States among other requests.


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