University of Maryland ‘Year of Immigration’ continues with refugee panel discussion

Shibley Telhami, Dina Kawar, Nancy Lindborg, and Eric Schwartz discuss the refugee crisis happening in the world today. Kawar, Lindborg, and Schwartz were all guest speakers on the panel.

By: Casey Gannon

The Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development, the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences and the Office of International Affairs held a panel discussion entitled “The Global Response to the Refugee Crisis” on March 7 as part of the academic “Year of Immigration” movement.

The panel was comprised of four speakers: Nancy Lindborg, the president of the Institute of Peace; Eric Schwartz, the president of Refugees International; Dina Kawar, ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the United States; and Shibley Telhami, an Anwar Sadat professor for the Peace Development.

Telhami facilitated the discussion and asked questions to the three guest speakers. He emphasized that while this year is entitled the “Year of Immigration,” the refugee crisis has been a topic of discourse for a long time.

“There are now upwards of 70 million people around the world who have been forcibly displaced from their homes due to conflict, due to persecution, due to violations of their human rights,” Schwartz said.

Lindborg also chimed in about the type of help refugees need. She emphasized that there needs to be a development approach as opposed to refugees only being supplied with resources. These refugees need to be provided with opportunities to work and to get an education, as well.  

“It’s not enough to do humanitarian assistance, it’s the type of humanitarian assistance,” Lindborg said.

Linette Kingston, a freshman bioengineering major, agreed with the guest speakers that the refugee crisis is a serious issue the country is facing today.

“I think unfortunately there’s a lot of confusion and misconceptions about the issue, and I think a lot of times we view the issue we forget that it’s a ‘we’ problem not a ‘us versus them’ problem,” Kingston said. “I think if we had a little more compassion towards people it would be something we could actually solve.”

Kingston stated how students should be aware of the refugee crisis because the University of Maryland is located in an area with refugees and has students with a refugee background.

“A lot of organizations go out into Prince George’s County to serve the population, so it’s important to understand the background of the people we’re serving, especially the students who are refugees.”

Freshman government and politics major Taylorann Vibert has attended several Year of Immigration events this academic year. She thinks the American government is not handling the refugee crisis correctly.

“I think it’s not being addressed accordingly by political leadership in the United States, and I think it is something that is only going to increase in intensity and worsen over time if it is not addressed,” Vibert said.

Vibert appreciated the advice and input the panelists had for the audience about how to keep the refugee crisis in public discourse. She agreed with the main solution the panelists offered, which is to ensure that this crisis remains a topic of conversation.

“I think the solutions we were offered today are something that policymakers really need to listen to and act accordingly on,” Vibert said.

Regarding the refugee camps and how it affects campus, Vibert thinks it is important for students to be educated on the situation.

“I think the refugee crisis impacts students as we’re seeing, for example President Loh, he’s from a refugee family,” Vibert said. “We’re seeing people with a multitude of backgrounds and how the refugee crisis impacted them so we can better see and understand as students what needs to be done and how to solve this problem.”

As someone who has refugee parents, President Loh found this topic important and attended the event. He appreciates the effort made around the Year of Immigration, although he believes this is an issue that deserves more than a year nationally and on campus.

“This year is the Year of Immigration,” Loh said. “This should be the era of immigration and refugee crisis.”

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