Causes and consequences of forced migration explored at event

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The consequences of forced migration and human rights atrocities were the focus of a conference at the University of Bedfordshire.

The event, called Human Rights and Migration: Movement, Peace and Settlement saw nearly  180  participants mainly students and staff from across the University who came together to  discuss the causes and impacts of forced migration and human rights abuses through an interactive Q&A session, workshops, drama and comedy and interfaith panel.

Local organisations supporting refugees and asylum seekers, former survivors of war and human rights violations also took part.  They gave insights to the real life impacts on individuals, families and communities, and on the legal and policy frameworks, industry practices, the role of the media in portrayals of forced migration.

The event was organised by the University’s Sustainability Forum, a cross-disciplinary community which shares teaching practices and organises to engage the University in education that enables students to construct healthy futures for themselves, their communities and the planet.

Sustainability Forum co-ordinator Dr Diana Pritchard said: “The mix of groups we arrange at our events is central to its pedagogical underpinnings. It allows students to see the applied relevance of their studies, and interactions with people who are dedicated to work in these fields, facilitate deep learning.”

A powerful play proved a highlight, generating a strong emotional response from the audience. Performed by Bedfordshire students, the play explored the personal journals of five different people caught up in the politics of mobility, place, class and skin colour, drawing on the themes of conditioned racism and stereotypes.

Lecturer in Media Production and Sustainability Forum member Amanda Egbe said: “Human rights, migration and peace cannot be understood without challenging the notions of the ‘other’, of race and racism and the understandings we must have on this subject if we are going to make change.”  

Sustainability Forum member and Senior Lecturer in Sociology Dr Helen Connolly, who hosted a workshop on youth, peace and security, said: “The conference bought to the surface our shared humanity and the ethics and practices of solidarity which are so important but typically overlooked in our teaching provision for students.”  

For Professor in Media & Criminal Justice Jon Silverman, who had a central role in the event, it manifest a practice of hope, saying: “At a time when this and other countries are looking inwards, an outward-facing event such as this is an extremely valuable corrective.”

Employers participating expressed interest to follow-up on a number of leads, including closer collaboration on taught courses at the University and research opportunities.

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