Skip to content

No Child Left Behind?

April 17, 2014
by

margreth-olin-2In 2012, Norwegian filmmaker Margreth Olin released a new documentary. “Nowhere Home” follows the stories of several teenage boys, all lone child asylum seekers, who fled to Norway to escape their war-torn countries. They all thought that making this journey would be their salvation; that Norway, in the “enlightened” West, would take them in her arms and act as the mother of which those children had all been cruelly deprived. They all made treacherous journeys, unaccompanied, only to find that the West was not quite as welcoming as it promised to be.

As the documentary begins, we meet Goli, a hardened youth from Kurdistan who had fled to Norway two years prior to escape from his home, in which his stepfather regularly abused him and threated his life. Like most of the boys in the film, Goli gets deported once he turns 18. Goli, however, is determined. He feels like he has absolutely nothing to lose, so he risks making his way back. He is arrested for stabbing another boy, is deprived psychological care, and is deported once again.

 
Then we meet two brothers, Hasan and Husein, who fled Iraq after their entire family was brutally killed. Husein, a year younger than Hasan, had been stabbed in the stomach with a bayonet when he was 12 and bNowhere Home Husein 1ecame paralyzed. In Norway, he  moves back and forth between the refuge centre and the hospital, not being administered proper care. From the first time we meet him, Husein says he had lost hope a long time ago. Hasan, however, is more optimistic. He has to be, for his brother’s sake. He visits with Husein in the hospital for 4-5 hours a day and tries to help his brother exercise. Hasan has to take care of his only brother, the only family he has left. Towards the end of the documentary, Hasan calls Olin, enthralled, saying that he spoke with an official on the phone who told him that he and his brother will most likely be allowed to stay in Norway after they turn 18. Olin gently warns him that without official paperwork, nothing is certain. By the end, we find out that the two boys’ lives are still in limbo. They are still denied residence permits and the right to go to school. By the end, Hasan still lovingly looks after his brother, but he has lost all hope.

 
Finally, there is Khalid, a boy of 17 who fled Afghanistan to escape from a sure death. He smiles often, but his smiles are not happy ones. He feels completeNowhere Homely alone, hanging in limbo along with the other boys in his refuge centre, dreading the decision of the Norwegian government concerning his appeal for residence. He plays the Playstation often—the only time he gets to be in control. When we first see him he wonders, “Who can we shout to?” When Hasan and Husein learn that they might be granted permission to stay in Norway on the basis of protection of human rights, Khalid thinks, “So, are [the rest of us] not human?” The boys are all alone, and the Norwegian state waits for them to reach their 18th birthdays so they can be “legally” disposed of. When that day comes for Khalid, he celebrates by sharing a cake with his friends. Then he receives his present from the Norwegian state: a final denial of his appeal. “Game over,” he says.

 
“Nowhere Home” brings to light a crucial problem in the West—that of the protection of child asylum seekers’ lives. It shows how even the most advanced countries in the world can still be so backward in their treatment of foreigners, even when those foreigners are children. This problem extends far beyond lone child asylum seekers, and is deeply intertwined with the West’s (often) veiled racism and xenophobia.

 
Olin’s documentary was filmed right after Anders Breivik, a white Christian Norwegian male, blew up the Prime Minister’s building in Oslo and then opened fire on a youth camp, killing 77 (most of them teenagers) and injuring 200. Breivik was sentenced to 21 years in prison, in a 3-cell suite fully equipped with exercise equipment, a television, and a laptop. The young boys in “Nowhere Home” each had a small room, an almost inexistent allowance, and were given the death sentence—deportation back to countries in which they no longer had any support system and in which they would most likely be killed; deportation to the same countries in which much of the conflict had been caused or exacerbated by Western interference.

 
Breivik was deprived of only 21 years; the lone child asylum seekers were deprived of their lives. In the context of the ever-growing nationalism and xenophobia all over the West, this situation only hopes to get worse. If even those countries that are the most advanced and proclaim moral superiority still choose, in the 21st century, to not uphold the basic human rights of those whom they claim to want to save, what hope is there for those more “backward” countries to which the West has offered its moral guidance?

EURO hosts 2014 Midwest Model European Union

April 14, 2014

This spring, the Institute for European Studies played host to the 20th annual Midwest Model European Union. One of only half a dozen events of its kind, the year’s MMEU brought together 150 students from 12 universities in a 3-day simulation of the upper echelons of the EU administration, debating policy reforms and engaging with the most pressing issues facing the supranational organization today.

Image

Image

The team representing Germany was voted best delegation by their peers.

Image

EURO staff

Faculty Announcements

March 13, 2014
by

Events:

Call for Papers:

Graduate Student Announcements

March 13, 2014
by

Events:

Opportunities:

Call for Papers:

Study Abroad:

Faculty Announcements

March 6, 2014
by

Events:

Call for Papers:

Graduate Student Announcements

March 6, 2014
by

Events:

Opportunities:

Call for Papers:

Study Abroad:

Back in the U.S.S.R.?

March 4, 2014
by

It was only about a month ago that Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned EU Foreign Affairs Representative Catherine Ashton’s visit to Kiev as an unacceptable interference of the West in Ukraine’s internal affairs. A few days ago, proving his dedication to the upholding of his neighbor’s national sovereignty, Putin requested that Russian troops be swiftly deployed to Ukraine. On March 1st, the Russian Parliament approved Putin’s proposal and Russian troops swiftly took control of the Crimean peninsula.

 
According to the Russian President, Ukraine’s new pro-EU government overthrew a legalcrimea 1ly elected President and is therefore illegitimate. Putin therefore claims that the deployment of Russian troops is necessary for protecting Ukraine’s pro-Russian population and restoring democracy to the conflict-stricken country. If foreign intervention aims to protect the interests of Ukrainians who are opposed to their country’s alliance to the West—so Putin’s logic goes—then that interference is not a violation of Ukraine’s national sovereignty. So what is it then, exactly?

 
For Putin, deploying Russian troops into Ukraine to protect Russian interests is equivalent to making use of Russian troops on Russia’s own territory. In his eyes, Ukraine is Russia. The country is considered by many Russians to be the birthplace of the Russian state, and Kiev the fountainhead of the Russian Orthodox faith. For Putin, Ukraine’s turn to the West is a personal affront and cannot be tolerated.

 
To remedy the situation, therefore, Putin has deployed troops to Crimea, an autonomous republic within Ukraine. Forget the agreement that any movement of Russian troops outside their naval base must be authorized by the Ukrainian government. Russian soldiers profited from the overwhelmingly pro-Russian sentiment in Crimea to take control of the entire peninsula and ready themselves to enter the main territory of Ukraine at the first sign of instigation from the opposition.

 
This has made for an extremely tense situation in the region. The new Ukrainian Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, declared that Russia’scrimea move is an unequivocal declaration of war, and Ukrainian men have been receiving calls to report to military training. But how would Ukraine’s forces fare against Russia’s? According to a BBC analysis, Russia’s armed forces far outnumber Ukraine’s. Additionally, Ukraine’s forces are much more dispersed and unprepared, and their equipment is more antiquated. A breakout of conflict is therefore incredibly undesirable. If Russian troops were to move into eastern Ukraine, a civil war would be likely to erupt between pro-EU and pro-Russia sympathizers, with the latter having Russia’s military backing and therefore the upper hand.

 
At this point, one might wonder why Ukraine does not make an appeal for help to the big players russiaof the West who have hitherto expressed solidarity with the anti-Russian opposition. The fact is that, although the West rhetorically and economically supports Ukraine’s new government, it will not interfere militarily in the conflict. The U.S. and the U.K., Ukraine’s most vocal supporters, have chastised Putin’s intervention but have no desire to use armed force against him. Instead, they threaten that anything short of a withdrawal of Russian troops will cast Russia in an irreparably unfavorable light on the international stage. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.K. Secretary of State William Hague have both stated that Russia will face punitive economic measures if it does not respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, with the former claiming that Putin might even end up being excluded from the G8 altogether. Aside from this, the West also threatens visa bans for Russian officials and asset freezes for Russian businesses.

 
Is Putin shaking? Apparently not. And when considering the West’s response to the situation in Georgia in 2008 and Europe’s reliance on Russian oil, who can blame him for being cavalier? When Russia interfered in Georgia, the West’s sanctions did not last long. As for the oil question, many European countries depend on Russia for that resource, the most influential of which is Germany. Furthermore, worsening relations with Putin might have disastrous impacts on conflict regions of the Middle East which have been the traditional battleground for the U.S. and Russia. The West might threaten Russia with economic sanctions, but will the U.S. and Europe actually risk further antagonizing the trigger-happy Putin and take a bullet for Ukraine?

 
This issue not only calls into question the sovereignty of Ukraine and the function of democracy in that country, but also has significant implications for Ukraine’s neighbors, and the international stage at large. How will the conflict in Ukraine affect those countries on its borders? With the economically backward, often neglected Romania and with Viktor Orban’s ultra-nationalist, anti-EU Hungary on its borders, Ukraine could end up bringing further instability to its already precariously-positioned neighbors. Will this situation turn into a Cold War 2.0? Although Europe is geographically in the midst of the conflict, the U.S. has high stakes in whether or not Russia will gain more control over that part of the globe. But can the West, and especially the U.S., even reprimand Putin without risking being labeled with the stamp of hypocrisy? Putin’s intervention in Ukraine is a clear violation of that country’s national sovereignty and is therefore wrong. Condemning such an action is certainly justified. But how much weight do those condemnations hold when they are expressed by those who have similar stains on their records? It is perhaps for this reason that Putin is forging ahead with his plans, sticking his tongue out at the enraged West. Whether Russia will march into Ukraine unabated—or whether it will raise the white flag—is as of yet unclear. For now, the West holds its breath.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 33 other followers