Emerging Global Issues Forum on Forced Migration, Immigration, and Security Global Studies Institute
Georgia State University

Forced migration reverberates globally and locally like few other issues. Wrenching images of families risking their lives to flee their homes have focused public attention on the civil wars and humanitarian disasters that fuel migration, and the challenges that arise where they land. The Forum on Forced Migration, Immigration and Security will explore the causes, consequences and policy responses to the rapid increases in forced migration and refugee movements around the world.

The surge in forced migration over the last two years has deepened long-standing challenges. Over one million refugees flowed into Europe in 2015, many of them fleeing protracted civil wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere. Criminal violence in Central America contributed to unprecedented numbers of children risking their lives to cross the border into the United States. These migrants have joined the scores of people fleeing political repression, religious persecution and gender-based violence every year.

In the U.S., these flows have sparked intense debates regarding legal and policy responses. A long- standing humanitarian tradition has fueled a desire to welcome people fleeing violence and persecution, but new security concerns have arisen following the recent terrorist attacks in the U.S. and Europe. Once in the country, refugee communities have contributed actively to economic and civic life, but they have also struggled with lingering trauma, economic hardship, and stigma. With economic, social and security implications of migration flows hotly contested, national and local authorities have struggled to balance competing concerns.

These challenges have resonated deeply in Europe, where disagreements over how to respond to forced migration have shaken the foundations of the European Union. Concerns over security and economic impacts have fueled a broader public backlash against globalization. The recent “Brexit” vote is seen as deeply linked to this backlash. Refugee flows now constitute one of the most contentious issues that are reshaping relations within Europe and with its neighbors.

These myriad issues play out here in Atlanta as they do in few other places. Home to the world’s busiest airport and a designated refugee resettlement hub, over three thousand refugees from thirty different countries arrive in Georgia each year. The Atlanta area hosts the second largest foreign-born population in the U.S., and 1 in every 5 children in Atlanta is raised in a household where English is not the first language. Atlanta and neighboring cities like Clarkston have pioneered programs aimed at integrating immigrants safely and productively into communities. Atlanta is home to Immigration Courts that adjudicate the claims of migrants who apply for asylum. Yet the services are far from comprehensive, and critics worry about the economic and social strains placed by continued flows of displaced people. As a microcosm of these challenges, Atlanta stands at the center of national-level debates regarding how to manage immigration, and particularly forced migration.

The Forum on Forced Migration, Immigration and Security will bring together scholars, practitioners, policymakers and the public to grapple with these challenges. The event aims to educate the public by bringing to bear the most cutting edge research across disciplines; to facilitate informed debate on how to manage these challenges; and to bring together people from a range of sectors to identify solutions. The symposium will also include sessions aimed at dialogue and problem-solving, to identify effective means to address this issue at local, national and international scales.

Drawing on the insights of distinguished speakers and panelists, the forum will address the following key questions:

  • What are the main drivers and causes of forced migration today?
  • What are the benefits and challenges associated with the flow of refugees and other migrants across borders, and into communities?
  • How should governments balance national security and protection of human and civil rights of forced migrants?
  • What responses have proved most effective at local, national and international levels?
  • How can individuals across sectors in Atlanta collaborate to best address this global challenge?