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Panel of Experts Discusses Refugee Crisis in the Middle East, Europe

By Gail Hairston

(Oct. 6, 2015) — The images of untold thousands of people — many of them children — escaping the horror and despair of the war-ravaged Middle East are seared in the memories of anyone even semi-aware of global events in recent months.

Newscasters and reporters around the world have failed to find the words to adequately describe and explain the tsunami of humanity that washed upon the shores or stumbled across the borders of European nations. So many questions and so few answers.

panel of nine experts from six disciplines was formed by the University of Kentucky’s International Studies Program and its director Sue Roberts to help the campus community better understand this ongoing crisis. At a panel discussion 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7, in the William T. Young Library Auditorium, the experts hope to shed light on questions such as:

  • What is actually happening (the basic flows of people, from where to where, via where; numbers, directions, etc.)?
  • What is causing people to leave their homes? What is happening in Syria (and other source countries)? Why?
  • What is the difference between migrant and refugee (and IDP)? What is the legal significance of refugee status?
  • What is going on with the EU and member states' responses?
  • What organizations (international, etc.) are involved in responding to the situation?
  • What could/should the U.S. do? What could/should we ourselves here in Lexington do?
  • What are some good sources for learning more about the crisis and for keeping up with the news on this situation?

To answer these questions and more, Roberts contacted people she knew with related research interests and expertise. This included people who work directly on questions of refugee migration as well as people interested in European union politics and policies, the Middle East, and refugee/immigration law (internationally and in the U.S.).  

“These experts and I want to provide the campus community, especially undergraduates, and the public with the chance to learn more about the on-going refugee crisis by hearing a range of expert perspectives and by participating in an open discussion,” said Roberts, who, in addition to directing UK’s International Studies Program, is associate dean for UK International Affairs and professor of geography.

The panel includes:

  • Patricia Ehrkamp, associate professor of geography, researches migration in Europe. She has a newly funded National Science Foundation grant (with Anna Secor below, and Jenna Loyd, a professor at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee) titled “The Geopolitics of Trauma: The Role of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Admission and Resettlement of Iraqi Refugees in the U.S.” Ehrkamp teaches a range of human geography courses, including an introductory course on immigrant America, and she is currently the director of UK Graduate Studies in Geography.
  •  Emily Jones, an immigration attorney with Kentucky Refugee Ministries, helps refugees as well as other immigrant clients with a variety of immigration matters, such as applications for citizenship and legal permanent residence, family petitions (to bring family members to the United States), employment authorization cards, travel documents, and replacement documents. A native Kentuckian, Jones graduated with honors from the University of Kentucky with a bachelor’s in political science and French and holds a law degree from the University of Kentucky College of Law.
  • Kristin Monroe, assistant professor of anthropology, is a cultural anthropologist whose research concerns human mobility with a focus on Lebanon. Her book “The Insecure City: Space, Power, and Mobility in Beirut” will be published by Rutgers University Press in March 2016). Monroe teaches courses on urban anthropology, cultural anthropology and the anthropology of the Middle East at UK.
  • Michael Samers, associate professor of geography, studies migration, especially the life and experiences of immigrants in Europe, with a focus on France. He has a well-known book "Migration (Key Ideas in Geography Series)," (Routledge) and many academic papers on immigration, labor markets and cities in France. Samers teaches in the UK Department of Geography, the UK Honors Program and International Studies.
  • Anna Secor, the Hajja Razia Sharif Sheikh Islamic Studies Professor at UK and professor of geography, is a political geographer whose research focuses on how spatial processes — such as those that demarcate territories and bodies, inclusions and exclusions — produce political subjects (such as “citizens”). She has worked primarily in Turkey, examining politics in the everyday lives of a range of people. In 2015 Secor was named the first Hajja Razia Sharif Sheikh Islamic Studies Professor here at UK. She teaches courses on political geography, the Middle East, and war and violence.
  • Christine Smith, postdoctoral fellow in geography, recently completed her doctorate in geography and also earned a Certificate in Social Theory here at UK. She has won National Science Foundation funding for her research into state violence and mobility in urban space, in which she focused on people’s experiences of violence in Cairo, Egypt. Smith has taught courses such as “Cities of the World” and “Geography of the Middle East.”
  • Janet Stamatel, assistant professor of sociology, is a sociologist with interests in transitional crime and political sociology. She has researched how macro-level political change affects crime rates — with a focus on Eastern Europe. Stamatel teaches sociology and international studies courses and leads a UK summer Study Abroad program in Morocco and Spain called “Crime and Justice at the Crossroads.”
  • Todd Stoltzfus, a former relief worker and U.S. Department of State Refugee Officer, is now with UK’s Certified Nonprofit Professional program (Division of Undergraduate Education). He is director of Social Enterprise and Innovation/Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) Program. Stoltzfus provides overall leadership and day-to-day management of the new CNP program, which launched January 2015 at UK. He has over 10 years of international experience at nonprofits and at the U.S. Department of State working on complex humanitarian emergencies and refugee assistance programs, particularly in Africa. He also brings 10 years of extensive business management, finance, and negotiations experience from a Fortune 500 company.
  • Mohammad Zannoun, is a visiting lecturer in the UK Department of Sociology and the International Studies Program. He is a sociologist with interests and expertise in sociology of gender and has researched the relationships between gender and religion, especially Islam. He has deep, personal knowledge of the Middle East.