JCORE chair Jewish Book Week session on past and present migration

The history, and present reality, of forced expulsion, displacement and migration in Europe were discussed in front of a packed audience at Jewish Book Week’s ‘The Outsiders’, run yesterday (8th March) in association with JCORE and chaired by our Executive Director, Dr Edie Friedman.

This session, particularly timely and poignant given the current desperate situation on the Greek border, featured The Guardian’s investigative journalist Amelia Gentleman (author of The Windrush Betrayal), the University of Vienna’s Professor Philipp Ther (author of ‘The Outsiders’) and Professor Panikos Panayi of De Montfort University (author of ‘Migrant City’).

The discussion opened with the authors providing background and inspiration for their works, with Amelia Gentleman giving a fascinating insight into how the story of the Windrush Scandal emerged, and continues to develop.

Historical parallels with the modern context were a key feature of discussions, and Philipp Ther revealed similarities between the Windrush Scandal and the internment and deportation of Britain’s German community, after the outbreak of WW1.

The panel also shared positive stories of migrant history in the UK, with Panikos Panayi highlighting how migrant communities have historically, and continue to be, central to London’s existence and identity. Panayi also explored the paradox of ‘multicultural racism’ in Britain, where despite often xenophobic and exclusive government policy, migrant populations have been able to thrive.

The importance of sharing ‘ordinary’ stories was also reinforced, with chair Dr Edie Friedman stating that it is key that asylum seekers, refugees and migrants are celebrated for their wider contributions, and not just considered in economic terms.

The panel concluded with a discussion about what the future holds for migrant communities in Britain, and how we can avoid a repeat of the Windrush Scandal in future.

Chair Dr Edie Friedman ended the session by calling for the Jewish community to ensure it has a strong voice against racism and xenophobia, and stated the importance of standing together with other communities to push the government into undertaking its moral duty to support refugees.

A recording of the session can be watched here: https://vimeo.com/396452076

Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director at JCORE, said: “I was delighted to chair this important session.

While it is important to share positive stories of migration, the present reality, where only 36 people have been compensated for the Windrush Scandal, asylum seekers face record delays for claims to be decided and the government is failing to reach its own commitments to resettling vulnerable child refugees, is deeply concerning.

With all forms of racism rising, and the cruel new points-based immigration system presenting migrants merely in economic terms, it is critical that we urgently review our approach to migration in this country.”