The Syrian Refugee Crisis: Global Community or Global Incongruity?

By Brayden Anstee

According to Seta Kabranian-Melkonian (2015), a researcher at the University of Alaska, the number of refugees and internally displaced people is continually rising all across the world. In Syria alone, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that the refugee crisis there entails 12.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Although Syria is not the only area with an increasing number of displaced persons, the actions of terrorist faction ISIS in that region have made it one of the most active areas in terms of violence against innocents. With this influx of people desperately in need of assistance, many countries particularly in the European Union (EU) have taken on the onus of assisting the millions of people displaced by this conflict.

Or have they? Many citizens in the European Union are deeply divided on whether or not accepting refugees is a meritorious use of state resources. Leaders of nations are equally as divided (Investor’s Business Daily, 2015), and in particular, Hungary has refused to acquiesce to the EU’s plans for compulsory migrant quotas on the ideologically driven position that multiculturalism has been a failed experiment in Western Europe, and this has been coupled with the vague notion that “Christian Europe” is now under serious threat (Freeman, 2015). It is not surprising to learn that millions of people in need of humanitarian assistance identify as Muslim, and religious ideological differences seem to be a key point of serious contention in the refugee debate not only in Europe, but also in North America. For instance, nationalistic fervor has erupted in the United States, with panic ensuing that refugees have the potential to, and are motivated to, “…change the way of American life” (Fausset, 2015). Of course, post-9/11, the rhetoric of Islam threatening the championed concept of ‘American life’ has been strikingly pervasive.

It is this particular global issue that has, in my view, necessitated a closer examination of the philosophy of cosmopolitanism. Put simply, according to Martha Nussbaum (1994) this view stresses that we are all first and foremost citizens of the world, not merely of our particular nation-state, and that we are all equally worthy of a particularly high degree of respect and consideration. In her article, Nussbaum cautioned against the potential for patriotic nationalism, now deeply ingrained in many citizens of Western nations, to become ‘politics of difference’; in other words, she posited that nationalist sentiments could potentially lead to the outright rejection of the humanity of those who do not live in a particular nation-state. The truth of this warning is perhaps nowhere better evidenced than in nations with a strong anti-refugee stance. Pondering on the Fausset article, just what is the “way of American life”? Ostensibly, it is a way of life that emphasizes a particular set of local values and privileges the holders of such values above others in the human community.

I have not focused on specific developing countries, but my observations above are as equally applicable in the context of Africa. At a recent conference in Toronto on nationalism and development in Africa, the noted Congolese scholar Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja issued a passionate plea for a cosmopolitan approach to the world’s ongoing refugee crisis. Among other things, Dr. Nzongola-Ntalaja believes very strongly that all states should welcome political and economic refugees with open arms (and residency permits).

In my view, the cosmopolitan viewpoint is becoming progressively relevant and important in a world that is characterized by what Manfred Steger (2003) termed ‘globality’. The refugee crisis is merely one instance of the increasing necessity to view others on earth as equally worthy of our respect and consideration as those in our own country. As it stands, there are many people worldwide that direly require our compassion and assistance. Their very lives depend on it. And it is only by embracing the sort of morality that does not privilege one life above another, the sort of morality that more or less equally values every member of the human community, that they can be protected in their time of need. Nationalism and ethnocentrism of the sort that exist now preclude the alleviation of the horrible injustices facing so many of our fellow human beings at this very moment.

References

Fausset, R. (2015, September 25). Refugee crisis in Syria raises fears in South Carolina. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com.

Freeman, C. (2015, September 26). Hungary to EU: migrant quotas will repeat Western Europe’s ‘failed’ attempts at multiculturalism. The Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk.

Investor’s Business Daily (2015, September 24). Europe still split on migrants. Investors Business Daily.

Kabranian-Melkonian, S. (2015). Ethical concerns with refugee research. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 25(7), 714-722. doi:10.1080/10911359.2015.1032634

Nussbaum, M. (1994). Patriotism and cosmopolitanism. Boston Review, XIX (5), 3-16.

Steger, M. (2003). Globalization: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (2015). Syrian Arab Republic. Retrieved from http://www.unocha.org/syria.

Stigma, Discrimination and Social Exclusion of the mentally ill in Ghana, by Magnus Mfoafo M’Carthy and Jeff Grischow

Ms. Doris Appiah Danquah attended one of the premiere high schools in Ghana, Achimota school in Accra, Ghana. Due to her excellent academic performance, she was eventually admitted to the Medical School at the University of Ghana. However, bouts of depression made it difficult for her to focus on her studies and she dropped out of university. For the next 22 years, she was moved through a series of fetishes and spiritual camps, where she was routinely drugged, stigmatised, chained and beaten. At one point she was made to understand that her mother had cursed her and made her mentally ill. Also, she was told that her condition was because she had not served God well and would never recover. One time, a group of children who knew her bought her food but threw the plates away after she had finished eating. Eventually Danquah became an influential advocate for the rights of the mentally ill in Ghana, and she was featured in a 2014 documentary sponsored by Britain’s international development agency DFID. The film can be found here:

The plight of Ms. Danquah as featured in the documentary is not unique. Despite efforts to improve the mental health system, the mentally ill continue to be stigmatized, discriminated against and socially excluded. I have found four levels of stigmatization in Ghana: within the family, in public settings, at the workplace and among health service providers. At the family level, researchers have shown that mentally ill persons have been deserted by their families, beaten, molested and denied access to their children. At the public level, it is usually the friends and neighbours who act in degrading ways towards of the mentally ill. People mental illness are deserted and shunned and denied the opportunity to marry. In the workplace, employers refuse to hire people with mental illnesses or sack them if they become ill after they are hired. Some employers retained the employees but reduced their hours or days worked. One study (Tawiah, 2012) found that females faced more discrimination at work than their male counterparts. In the healthcare sector, mentally ill patients have been denied food, medicine and shelter. They also have been subjected to cruel involuntary treatments (including forced injections) and physical abuse.

Numerous factors contribute to this behaviour. One problem is the cultural myth that attributes mental illness to either curses or the visitation of the sins of ones forefathers or a form of weakness. These beliefs justify the shunning of the victims and their treatment as second class citizens. It also explains why people such as Doris Appiah Danquah are sometimes sent to consult fetishes or subjected to abuses in spiritual camps. Another problem is the lack of psychosocial approaches to the treatment of mental illness. Ghana’s mental health system is overly dependent on medication, which can negate the effective treatment of the mentally ill. But even where medicines are effective, Ghana’s lack of psychiatrists (only 10 in total in 2008) and shortages of antipsychotic and psychotropic medications severely limit treatment options. As a result, the psychiatric hospitals are severely overcrowded and families are forced to explore alternative treatment through fetishes, mallams and churches.

The situation seems dire, but new developments in disability rights have allowed disabled activists to begin combatting stigmatization and discrimination. After 22 years, Doris Danquah was able to go back to the university to get a nursing degree. She is now a strong advocate for the rights of the mentally ill, and along with other activists she is working to change socials norms and public policies. Her story deserves a wide audience.

Africa in the Age of Globalisation: New Book Edited By Tshepo Fellows

Jeff Grischow

Tshepo Fellows Edward Shizha and Lamine Diallo have edited a new book on African development entitled Africa in the Age of Globalisation: Perceptions, Misperceptions and Realities. The book presents new views on globalisation and development in Africa by Tshepo Fellows and other leading scholars in the field. Its main aim is to challenge the accepted notion that Africa must be protected from globalization because of its negative impact on African development. In response, the contributors to this volume demonstrate the complexity of globalization’s effects on the continent. More importantly, they root out African perspectives on globalization and examine African responses – inserting African actors into the discussion as active agents in their own development. This is a very important project and a unique contribution to the literature on Africa and globalisation.

The volume is divided into four sections. Part I (Social and Institutional Development) includes essays on globalization, development and debt in Africa, as well as a chapter on democracy and governance in Senegal. Part II (Technology and Global Partnerships) presents material on NGO partnerships in Senegal and Zimbabwe, as well as a chapter on ‘China-Japan rivalry in Africa’ and an analysis of broadband access in Africa. Part III (Gender, Migration and Settlement) examines a range of topics, including gender identities in a transnational context, the impact of Chinese programs on gender across Africa, and a case study of the Rwanda diaspora in Canada. Part IV (Education and Globalisation in Africa) rounds out the collection with chapters on globalisation’s implications for African pedagogies, higher education, and the question of whether ‘education for globalised labour markets’ is resulting in a ‘brain drain or gain’ for the African continent.

Contributors to the volume include Tshepo Fellows Edward Shizha (Wilfrid Laurier University), Lamine Diallo (Wilfrid Laurier University), Oliver Masakure (Wilfrid Laurier University), Akbar Saeed Wilfrid (Laurier University) and Ali Abdi (University of British Columbia), who are joined by Timothy M. Shaw (University of Massachusetts Boston), Gloria T. Emeagwali (Central Connecticut State University), Kathryn Mossman, Gilbert Tarugarira (Midlands State University, Zimbabwe), Bertha Z. Osei-Hwedie (University of Botswana), Isioma Ile (University of Western Cape, South Africa), Mulugeta F. Dinbabo (University of Western Cape, South Africa), Phil Okeke-Ihejirika (University of Alberta), Charles Kivunja (University of New England), Margaret Sims (University of New England) and Girmaw Abebe Akalu (Addis Ababa University).

Reviews of the book have been excellent. Korbla P. Puplampu (Grant MacEwan University, Alberta) writes that:

‘This book, anchored by a critical reading of historical and contemporary globalisation, analyses and reiterates the essential conditions for Africa’s development agenda. Drawing from local, regional and global contexts, the study rightfully reveals the significance of human agency and the institutional prerequisites for social development in a bold and refreshing manner.’

George J. Sefa Dei of the University of Toronto writes that Africa in the Age of Globalisation offers a most lucid, insightful and a very interesting account on challenges and possibilities of African development in the context of globalisation.’ Dei praises the book’s ‘multidisciplinary gaze on African development,’ and places it among ‘among cutting edge scholarship on Africa.’

For details see http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781472436696