Workshop in Fribourg on state and religious actors’ perspectives on refugees

Jun 03, 2024

On May 24, 2024, COST Action COREnet Working Group 2 members held a public workshop at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, entitled “State and Religious Actors’ Perspectives on Refugees: Discrepancies and Overlaps in Their Narratives”.

The workshop delved into the often unnoticed but equally significant contributions of religious actors in refugee politics alongside the more recognised role of state actors. Nine COREnet researchers shared their insights by discussing the cases of Turkey, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Greece and analysing the impact of religious actors on refugee policies in these countries.

Research on Turkey

In her presentation, Dr. Rabia Karakaya Polat (Işık University) discussed the evolving refugee narrative in Turkey since the onset of the Syrian Civil War in 2011. Dr. Besim Can Zırh from the Middle East Technical University also addressed the case of Turkey and presented insights on the Syrian migration. Additionally, Dr. Gulay Ugur Goksel (İstanbul Bilgi University) presented her research on the dual role of religious NGOs in providing immediate relief and facilitating long-term societal integration, as well as their relationship with the Turkish government.

Faith-based organisations and integration policies

A researcher from the University of Vienna, Dr. Deniz Coşan Eke, focused on the role of faith-based organisations and integration policies on immigrant groups in Austria. The presentation highlighted that these organisations play a crucial role in supporting integration policies through practical support, advocacy, and empowerment opportunities while sparking debates about cooperation and coordination along migration routes.

Dr. Vladimír Naxera and Dr. Petr Krčál from the University of West Bohemia explored how narratives related to refugees are produced by selected relevant actors. Their research revealed a clear division between pro-migration and anti-immigration discourses in the Czech socio-political context.

“Serving the Needs of Others: Religious NGOs’ Aid to Refugees in Greece (2015-Present)” was the presentation of Dr. Angelo Tramountanis (National Centre for Social Research, Greece), who examined the role of religiously affiliated non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in providing humanitarian aid to refugees in Greece from 2015 to the present. While operating on secular grounds, these organisations draw inspiration from Christian teachings and principles of love and compassion. 

The understanding of the interaction between state and religious actors

According to the moderator of the workshop and local event organiser, Prof Ansgar Jödicke from the University of Fribourg, the workshop’s examples demonstrate that the religious factor can play a role both in state migration policy and in humanitarian groups. However, since religion is not automatically opposed to secular reasons, motivations and behaviour, it will be important to examine the religious factor more closely in individual cases.

Overall, the workshop helped better understand the interaction between state and religious actors on refugee issues in various contexts. It also led to the idea of a broader and more productive dialogue between these actors, which could contribute to the development of effective integration policies.



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