Wednesday 29 July 2020, 16:30-18:00 CET

What is the refugee problem?

What do we owe to refugees?

Who is the ‘we’ that owe something to refugees?

Is hospitality a matter of generosity or a matter of rights?


Those are some of the questions that will be addressed in this trace. A trace that starts with a story that aims in reminding us that the refugee problem is not only a political problem that refugees pose to states to solve. It is also and first of all a problem that refugees face. The story that I will share with you was inspired by the testimonies of three female refugees (Clemantine Wamariya, Marisol Kadiegi and Hannah Arendt). They all talk about what does it mean to be forced to exist as a refugee. They denounce how little hospitality the world has to offer to superfluous human beings.


After approaching the refugee problem from the place of refugees themselves I will reconstruct how the refugee problem is often approached in contemporary political philosophy. That is, as a political problem related to the legitimacy of states. Often discussed in the framework of the debate on open and closed borders. Refugees are almost always characterized as those that impose limitations on the states’ right to exclude. Moreover, the refugee problem is often approached as a burden that capable states are or are not obliged to endure.


My aim is to show that how we understand the refugee problem interferes in how we see our responsibilities as individuals towards especially vulnerable others.


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