The ethics and politics of the refugee crisis May 2016- Mar 2017


Rationale and research background

The migrant camp in Calais has become a potent symbol of Europe’s refugee crisis, but its proximity—just twenty miles from our shores —has also raised a series of ethical dilemmas about our relationships to, and responsibilities towards, not-so-distant-others. The crisis has brought mtogether a host of different actors, with multiple, contrasting projects, intentions and motivations. This obviously includes refugees and migrants, but also those who police and regulate migration, those campaigning for more of it, those who support migration for personal benefit, and those who aid migrants out of solidarity and compassion. Not only have we been forced to question the politics and ethics of engagement, including researching and reporting of the crisis, but we have also been compelled to revaluate our understandings of hospitality, compassion, justice, citizenship, borders and migration.

This is an integrated programme of knowledge exchange activities including: a public exhibition, learning labs, school projects and a showcase event focusing on Europe’s refugee crisis – see further information under the ‘methods’ tab.

Aims and Objectives

  1. Collaboratively devise avenues to contribute to public knowledge about migrants and refugees by sharing the expertise independently gained by COMPAS, Citizenship & Governance Research at OU, MMP, actReal and IOM on engagement with the current refugee crisis, and in relation to broader themes relating to migration, borders, citizenship, and justice.
  2. Establish a long-term agenda for furthering the collaboration between academic research, civil society, education and the cultural sectors via avenues of creative expression.
  3. Engage with young people, families and local community groups from backgrounds traditionally under-represented in the arts and cultural heritage sector.
  4. Engage with national and international civil society organisations active on issues of (forced) migration to demonstrate how arts projects can inform their work and contribute to their agendas.
  5. Devise ways of challenging negative representations in media and government discourse by bringing in direct voices and sensitising the public through stories of Calais camp residents.


Asylum and RefugeesBordersEducationPoliticsPublic Opinion




1. A month-long interactive exhibition (June 2016) on stories from the “Jungle” camp outside Calais – Call me by my name. This is an immersive storytelling experience following the journeys of migrants attempting to enter the UK. The exhibition contains oral testimonies, as well as visual displays of the camp, photographs, audio and visual projections, an exhibition by young refugee artists in the UK, and a final installation made by using feedback from visitors to the exhibit. This will be principally curated and managed by Sue McAlpine at MMP in collaboration with Calais camp residents, with input from all project partners, and other contributors . The exhibition will take place in a 3,000 ft gallery space in central London, donated in-kind by Londonewcastle property developers.

2.Three learning labs on the following themes: The politics of research on the refugee crisis; The ethics of engagement with the refugee crisis; and Rethinking citizenship and justice after the crisis. Each learning lab will involve participatory activities and discussions and include a broad range of stakeholders such as researchers and academics, journalists, artists, policymakers, and NGOs. Graphic artist Laura Sorvala will provide visual facilitation of the labs by making sense of complex ideas with drawings and engaging people creatively. These graphic recordings will form part of the exhibition.

3. An education programme (June – Dec 2016) including four workshops with two schools in London delivered by actReal, using theatre and performance. ActReal will devise short scripts using COMPAS research which will then form the basis of intensive theatre workshops with the schools. The schools will, among others, also visit the exhibition on tours specifically designed by the Migration Museum for primary and secondary schools. Related to this element of the project COMPAS will provide educational material for teachers freely available online.

4. A showcase and civil society forum (December 2016) facilitated by IOM drawing on their networks, targeting specifically stakeholders in national and international NGOs working on issues of (forced) migration. The forum will showcase best practices of cross-sectoral knowledge exchange developed during this project for raising public awareness of issues surrounding the migration situation in Europe, seeking to combat anti-migrant sentiment.


Resources produced in connection to this project:

Other resources not produced by this project: