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Pupils focus on global migration

October 16th, 2019

Global migration and refugees were the focus of a recent Geographical Society talk at Monmouth School for Girls, led by Dr. Peter Mackie, Senior Lecturer at Cardiff University.

Keen to find out more about one of the most pressing issues facing human society today, more than 45 pupils from Years 8-13 attended the talk – which also touched on Dr. Mackie’s recent refugee research in Ethiopia.

Dr. Mackie introduced pupils to methods of fieldwork that he incorporates in his research – with some not too dissimilar to those used in GCSE and A Level fieldwork.

Head of Geography, Mr. Meek, said: “Pupils were then told that the talk was designed to challenge any assumptions they may have of migration and refugees. They were asked about how media portrays migrants and refugees: Where they live? How they may have travelled? How old they are? The question of how many refugees there may be in the world today drew a wide range of responses, 18 million? 60 million? There are in fact 25 million refugees globally.”

Countries of origin were discussed, before pupils thought about where refugees go. Dr. Mackie explained the main concentrations are not European, with many refugees travelling to the Lebanon, Ethiopia and Uganda. Pupils were able to see the bias in much of the news coverage and how politicians have been selective in the information supplied for public consumption. Most refugees in fact do not live in camps but in cities.

Dr. Mackie then explained that there were international rules surrounding refugees overseen by the United Nations. However, sometimes these rules were not enforced, particularly with freedom of movement and the right to work.

In the final part of his talk, Dr. Mackie spoke about the people he interviewed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He explained how some groups find it difficult to settle due to differences in language and religion, many have journeyed large distances from Eritrea and Somalia. Even though there are difficulties gaining employment, many refugees have prospered working in the informal sector and creating their own businesses.

Mr. Meek continued: “Dr. Mackie concluded by stating that refugees need to be seen more as normal people, with many skills, rather than a problem. Global migration is a growing crisis and is getting worse with the effects of climate change. Attitudes and government policies towards refugees must change, as the hostile environment is not working. Dr Mackie challenged pupils to be part of this future change in attitude.”

Plenty of questions came from the audience concerning Dr Mackie’s research and the people he met in Ethiopia, with the Lecturer thanking them for their enthusiasm and interest.

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