Camden Conference > 2017 CAMDEN CONFERENCE

Refugees and Global Migration: Humanity’s Crisis

February 17-19, 2017

[message background_color=’#ff6600′]Across the Middle East, in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, and South and Southeast Asia, an extraordinary human migration is underway.[/message]

More than 65 million people are now on the move, seeking food, safety, and better lives for themselves and their families. They are fleeing for a variety of reasons: wars, ethnic and religious conflicts, corruption and crime, and the devastating consequences of climate change. The post–World War II international framework—created to meet what was then an unprecedented flow of humanity across borders—is now facing its severest crisis.

The 2017 Camden Conference—“Refugees and Global Migration: Humanity’s Crisis” —will feature lively discussions with speakers chosen for their firsthand knowledge and strong views on migrant and refugee issues. They will explore the varied causes of the current international crisis and the unique challenges that come with accepting immigrants from particular countries, regions, and demographic groups. Speakers will also examine the political, economic, and social consequences of population flight for the countries they have abandoned in the Middle East, Africa, and Central America. Going beyond the present crisis, conference speakers will examine the factors that will likely drive migration in the coming decades—from dramatic demographic shifts to climate change, natural disasters, and ethnic, territorial, and political conflicts. And, turning the spotlight in our direction, speakers will discuss the role that should be played by the United States, a country built by immigrants.

These volatile issues dominate the media today, and they will undoubtedly be unresolved in 2017, when a new administration will be in place in Washington and the next Camden Conference is convened. 

The Camden Conference looks forward to having you come back to help us learn about and debate these challenges in February 2017.

Paul James The World is on the Move, and We Have No Idea How to Respond

Karen Koning AbuZayd Comparing Responses to Refugees and Migrants: Governments, the UN and Civil Society

Gerald Knaus Germany, Europe, and the Politics of Refugee Protection

Maha Yahya Refugees and the Remaking of an Arab Order

Kelly Clements Addressing Forced Displacement, A Collective Responsibility

Saturday morning panel

Voices From Maine’s Refugee Community

Bruno Stagno 2016-The Year the World Stopped Caring about Refugees: Central America and Beyond

Cas Mudde Has the Refugee Crisis Created a Perfect Storm for the Far Right?

Alexandra Bilak At the Heart of the Problem: Global Scale and Patterns of Internal Displacement

Saturday afternoon panel

Timothy Kane American Attitudes Toward Immigration

Muzaffar Chishti The US Immigration Debate: Facts, Policies, Politics

Sunday morning panel

Final Panel

Studio portraits for Internews. Photo by Louis Tinsley/DC Corporate Headshots.


Jeanne Bourgault (Moderator) is President and CEO of Internews, an international nonprofit founded in 1982 to focus on the need for accurate information amid crises. In more than 90 countries, and in 83 languages from Acehnese to Zaghawa, Internews provides access to news for people affected by wars and natural disasters. Before joining Internews in 2001, Ms. Bourgault worked in countries undergoing dramatic shifts in media and political landscapes. She was a strategic adviser for media development programs in postwar Kosovo, as well as manager of community development projects in Serbia and Montenegro. She served for six years with the Agency for International Development, including three years at the US Embassy in Moscow, where she managed a $250 million portfolio of democracy assistance and educational exchange programs through a period of intense democratic transition. Ms. Bourgault serves on the Media, Entertainment, and Information Industries Steering Committee for the World Economic Forum; the Steering Committee of the Global Forum for Media Development; and World Learning’s Global Advisory Council. She earned an MA in International Studies and an MA in Public Affairs at the University of Washington. She commutes to projects around the world from her family’s home in Blue Hill, Maine.

Karen Koning AbuZayd


Karen Koning AbuZayd was appointed in January 2016 as Special Adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for the Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, which culminated in a special United Nations meeting in September 2016. Ms. AbuZayd had previously served as Under Secretary-General and Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA). Based in Gaza, she oversaw education, health, social services, and microfinance programs for 4.7 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Before joining UNRWA, she worked for 19 years for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Sudan, Namibia, and Sierra Leone. Since 2011, she has been a Commissioner on the UN Human Rights Council’s Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. Before joining UNHCR, Ms. AbuZayd lectured at Makerere University (Uganda) and at Juba University (southern Sudan). She earned a BS degree at DePauw University and an MA in Islamic Studies at McGill University. DePauw has awarded her an honorary doctorate and the McNaughton Medal for Public Service. She has also received the Spanish UN Association/Catalonia Peace Prize and the Golden Medal with Star for service to the Austrian Republic.



Alexandra Bilak is the Geneva-based Director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), a program of the Norwegian Refugee Council. She has more than 15 years of experience in international NGOs and research institutes in Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, working on strategy, policy development, and program design and delivery. She has directed a number of programs on forced migration in conflict and post-conflict contexts, and has published extensively on these themes. Prior to becoming IDMC’s director, Ms. Bilak had been in charge of the organization’s projects and research on displacement in the context of conflict and violence, disasters related to natural hazards, and development projects. She has a particular interest in understanding the drivers of protracted and chronic internal displacement, and in finding solutions that will bridge the gap between prevention and risk reduction, humanitarian action, and sustainable development. Ms. Bilak lived and worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya from 2004 to 2014 and has worked extensively across Central, East, and West Africa. She earned an MA in International Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London and a DEA in African Studies and Political Science from the University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne.

Muzaffar Chishti, immigration, migration, immigrants, immigaration policy


Muzaffar Chishti is a lawyer and Director of the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) at New York University School of Law. Prior to joining MPI, Mr. Chishti was Director of the Immigration Project of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial & Textile Employees (UNITE). He has authored or coauthored a number of publications on the US immigration selection system, immigration enforcement, rights of immigrants, and immigrant integration. Mr. Chishti serves on the boards of directors of the National Immigration Law Center, the New York Immigration Coalition and the Asian American Federation. He has served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Immigration Forum, and as a member of the American Bar Association’s Coordinating Committee on Immigration. He has testified extensively on immigration policy issues before Congress and is frequently quoted in the media. In 1992, as part of a U.S. team, he assisted the Russian Parliament in drafting its legislation on forced migrants and refugees.  He is a recipient of the New York State Governor’s Award for Outstanding Asian Americans, and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Mr. Chishti was educated at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi; the University of Delhi; Cornell Law School; and the Columbia School of International Affairs.



Kelly T. Clements is United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees. Before assuming this position in June 2015, she had been US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), with responsibility for humanitarian issues in Asia and the Middle East. Ms. Clements has been closely involved with refugee and displacement issues throughout her 25-year career. She had previously led PRM’s Office of Policy, Planning, and Resources, where she oversaw the Bureau’s strategic planning, policy development, and financial resources to protect and assist refugees, conflict victims, and vulnerable migrants worldwide. She also served as Acting Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Beirut during 2014. Her prior experience in working with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees included a temporary assignment in the UNHCR office in Bangladesh during the 1990s, to assist and protect refugees fleeing Myanmar (Burma). In 1991, she was a member of the State Department’s Iraq Task Force on Kurdish Refugees and Displaced Persons, which coordinated the US Government’s emergency response to the flight of 1.8 million Kurdish refugees to Turkey and Iran. She received a BA in International Studies and an MA in Urban Affairs from Virginia Tech.



Paul James is Director and Professor in the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University (Australia). He also serves as Research Director of Global Reconciliation, an international organization based in Australia that has been bringing people together in ongoing dialogue in global zones of conflict, including Sri Lanka and the Middle East. He is the author of many articles and 31 books, including Urban Sustainability in Theory and Practice (2015) and Globalism, Nationalism, Tribalism (2006). Dr. James’s research interests include globalization and its impact upon social relations; the impact of modernization on customary and traditional ways of being; and sustainable urbanization. He has been an adviser to agencies and governments, including the Helsinki Process, the Canadian Prime Minister’s G20 Forum, and the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor. An Honorary Professor of King’s College, London, and an editor or board member of 10 journals, he earned his PhD at the University of Melbourne. For the last decade, Dr. James has been engaged in bringing out Central Currents in Globalization, a 16-volume series that maps the contours of a field that now crosses the boundaries of all the older disciplines in the social sciences and humanities.



Timothy J. Kane  is the JP Conte Fellow in Immigration Studies at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. Since 2013, he has been editor of Peregrine, an online journal devoted to US immigration policy. In addition to senior research roles at the Hudson Institute, the Kauffman Foundation, and the Heritage Foundation, Dr. Kane has served twice as a senior economist at the Joint Economic Committee of the US Congress. He has published his research on immigration policy, national security, entrepreneurship, and economic growth. His research has been cited in leading publications, and he has frequently provided commentary on network and cable programs. His most recent book is Balance: The Economics of Great Powers from Ancient Rome to Modern America, coauthored with Glenn Hubbard. In 2012, he wrote Bleeding Talent, about leadership in the US military. In the late 1990s, Dr. Kane cofounded multiple software firms in San Diego. His start-up, enonymous.com, received venture funding and was named 1999 Software Start-up of the Year. A graduate of the US Air Force Academy, Dr. Kane earned a PhD in economics from the University of California, San Diego. He served as an Air Force intelligence officer, with tours of duty in Seoul and Tokyo.

Gerald Knaus


Gerald Knaus is founding Chairman of the European Stability Initiative (ESI), a nonprofit research and policy institute focusing on South East Europe, Turkey, and the South Caucasus. Based in Istanbul since 2004, Mr. Knaus coordinates field research and provides strategic analysis to policymakers throughout these regions and Central and Western Europe. A native of Vienna, he studied at Oxford University, the Free University of Brussels, and the Johns Hopkins SAIS Bologna Center, and he taught economics at a Ukrainian university. In Bulgaria and Bosnia-Herzegovina, he worked for NGOs and international organizations, including the International Crisis Group, the Office of the High Representative, and the International Mediator. From 2001 to 2004, he was the director of the “Lessons Learned Unit” of the European Union Pillar of the UN Mission in Kosovo. He coauthored (with Rory Stewart) Can Intervention Work? as well as more than 80 ESI reports and scripts for 12 TV documentaries on South East Europe. A founding member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Knaus spent five years as an Associate Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School. His current observations on migrant and refugee issues appear in the blog www.rumeliobserver.eu.



Cas Mudde is Associate Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia and Researcher at the Center for Research on Extremism (C-REX) of the University of Oslo. His research focuses on extremism and democracy and is guided by the question: How can liberal democracies defend themselves without undermining their core values? Before moving to Georgia in 2012, he held tenure-track and visiting positions at a number of universities in Europe and the United States. His recent publications include: On Extremism and Democracy in Europe (2016); SYRIZA: The Failure of the Populist Promise (2017); The Populist Radical Right: A Reader; and Populism: A Very Short Introduction (2017). He is working on four new books: The Radical Right in America (2017); Politics in Populist Times (2018); The Israeli Settler Movement: Assessing and Explaining Social Movement Success (2019), and The European Populist Radical Right Parties in the 21st Century (2020). Professor Mudde is co-editor of the European Journal of Political Research, columnist at HOPE not hate, and blogger at Huffington Post. His new ambition is to create a Center for Analysis of Democracy and Extremism (CADE) at the University of Georgia, for which he is currently fundraising.



Bruno Stagno has been Deputy Executive Director for Advocacy at Human Rights Watch since September 2014. Before joining Human Rights Watch, he was Executive Director of Security Council Report, 2011–2014. He was Foreign Minister of Costa Rica from 2006 to 2010, Ambassador to the United Nations from 2002 to 2006, and Chief of Staff of the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry from 1998 to 2000, among other foreign service postings. Ambassador Stagno also served as the President of the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court from 2005 to 2008, Co-President of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Article 14 Conferences from 2007 to 2009, and Vice President of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development from 2002 to 2004. He is a graduate of Georgetown University, Université de la Sorbonne, and Princeton University and author or editor of several books, chapters, and articles, including The UN Security Council in the Age of Human Rights, published in 2014. Ambassador Stagno’s article on the plight of the Rohingya refugees, “The Other Refugee Crisis,” appeared in the October 2015 issue of Foreign Affairs. In 2011, he received France’s highest honor when he was designated an Officier de la Légion d’Honneur.



Maha Yahya is director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, where her work focuses broadly on political violence and identity politics, the challenges of citizenship, pluralism, and social justice after the Arab uprisings, and the political and socio-economic implications of the migration/refugee crisis. Prior to joining Carnegie, Dr. Yahya led work on Participatory Development and Social Justice at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA) advising on social and urban policies and spearheading initiatives to address the challenges of democratic transitions in the Arab world. She has been a consultant for international organizations and the private sector on projects related to socioeconomic policy analysis, development policies, cultural heritage, poverty reduction, housing and community development, and post-conflict reconstruction in various countries, including Lebanon, Pakistan, Oman, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.  Her recent publications have included Great Expectations in Tunisia (March 2016) and Refugees and the Making of an Arab Regional Disorder (November 2015).   She earned a Ph.D. at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. at the Architectural Association in London was the founder and editor of the MIT Electronic Journal of Middle East Studies.


Layla Mohamed


Layla Mohamed lived in the village of Jerinka in Ogaden, the Somali region of eastern Ethiopia until 2003, when she and her husband left to escape civil war.   After a journey through many countries, Ms. Mohamed has now settled in Portland, where she works for Catholic Charities.  The mother of two children – Mohamed, who is 13 and Manal who is 12 – she is studying to earn a high school diploma and wants to go on to university.  She hopes to become a midwife or to pursue another specialty in health care. 

Ali Al-Mshakheel


Ali Al-Mshakheel worked in media relations and outreach for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq before he and his family left Baghdad, Iraq in 2014.  He had previously been a producer for ABC News reporting on events throughout Iraq; editor of news and feature stories for Aswat Al-Iraq News; and reporter and interpreter for The Times of London and Asahi Shimbun.  Mr. Al-Mshakheel  is now  Parent Community Specialist (Arabic-Iraqi families) for the Portland Public Schools and a freelance journalist writing on political, economic, social and cultural topics.  He and his wife and three children live in Portland.

Suggested Readings for the 30th Annual Camden Conference



The Age of Migration, Fifth Edition: International Population Movements in the Modern World. Ed. Castles, Stephen, Hein de Haas and Mark J. Miller PhD. The Guilford Press. 2013.

Global perspective on the nature of migration flows, why they occur and their consequences for both origin and destination societies.


Betts, Alexander. Survival Migration: Failed Governance and the Crisis of Displacement. Cornell University Press. 2013.

Examines flight from three of the most fragile states in Africa-Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia-and the institutional responses.


Bhabha, Jacqueline. Child Migration and Human Rights in a Global Age. Princeton University Press. 2016.

Comprehensive account of the global phenomenon of child migration and the complex challenges these children face.


Collier, Paul. Exodus: How Migration is Changing Our World.  Reprint Edition. Oxford University Press. 2013.

An exploration of the effects of encouraging and restricting migration from the perspective of the migrants themselves, that of the people they leave behind and the host societies where they relocate.


Committee on Foreign Affairs House of Representatives. Examining the Syrian Refugee Crisis. Create Space Independent Publishing Platform. 2014.

A comprehensive look at the Syrian refugee crisis, both internally displaced refugees and refugees who left the country.


Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective, Third Edition. Ed. Hollifield, James, Philip Martin and Pia Orrenius. Stanford University Press. 2014.

Comparative assessment of the efforts of a selection of major countries including the US: including their attempts to control the entry of illegal and legal third world immigrants, cope with their social and economic integration and how they deal with forced immigration. It reflects the ever-widening gap between their migration policy goals and outcomes.

Culling the Masses

Fitzgerald, David, David Cook-Martin and Angela S. Garcia. Culling the Masses: The Democratic Origins of Racist Immigration Policy in the Americas. Harvard University Press. 2014.

A history of the rise and fall of racial selection in the Western Hemisphere.

Irregularization of Migration in Contemporary Europe

The Irregularization of Migration in Contemporary Europe: Detection, Deportation, Drowning. Ed. Jansen, Yolande, Robin Celikates, and Joost de Bloois. Rowman & Littlefield International. 2014.

Insight into the political, normative, economic and cultural dimensions of the establishment and crossing of borders in Europe today.


Jonas, Susanne and Nestor Rodriguez. Guatemala-U.S. Migration: Transforming Regions. University of Texas Press. 2015.

An analysis of migration in a regional context including Guatemala, Mexico and the US, the perilous passages and resettlement.


Kingsley, Patrick. The New Odyssey: The Story of Europe’s Refugees Crisis. Guardian Faber Publishing. 2016.

A definitive book on the refugee crisis from the Guardian’s award-winning migration correspondent.


Knaus, Gerald. Can Intervention Work? W.W. Norton & Co..2012.

A history of foreign intervention by Western democracies over the last half-century.


McDonald-Gibson, Charlotte. Cast Away: Stories of Survival from Europe’s Refugee Crisis. Portobello Books Ltd. 2016

Stories of five migrants who risked life and limbs to reach Europe’s shores

Climate and Human Migration

McLeman, Professor Robert A.. Climate and Human Migration: Past Experiences, Future Challenges. First Edition.  Cambridge University Press. 2013.

A comprehensive review of how physical and human processes interact to shape migration.


Moorehead, Caroline. Human Cargo: A Journey among Refugees. Vintage. 2016.

The triggers, the camps, the journey and government policies that affect migration.


Mudde, Cas. On Extremism and Democracy in Europe.  Routledge. 2016.

A collection of short and accessible essays on the far right, populism, Euroscepticism and liberal democracy.

City of Thorns

Rawlence, Ben. City of Thorns. Picador. 2016

Nine lives in the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab, in Kenya.

The Price of Rights

Ruhs, Martin. The Price of Rights: Regulating International Labor Migration.  Princeton University Press. 2015.

Examines labor immigration policies in over 40 countries as well as policy drivers in major migrant-receiving and migrant-sending states.

The Diversity Illusion

West, Ed. What We Got Wrong About Immigration & How to Set It Right. Gibson Square Books Ltd.. 2015.

A look at immigration policies in the UK, the scale of the change in the UK and the failure of democracy that no one voted for these policies.



Boat People: Personal stories from the Vietnamese Exodus 1974-1996. Ed. Hoang, Carina. Beaufort Books.

Stories of perilous sea journeys, refugee camps and refuge.


Danticat, Edwidge. Brother, I’m Dying. Vintage. 2008.

A story of a Haitian family-those who stayed and those who left and came to America.

House of Sand and Fog

Dubus III, Andre. House of Sand and Fog. Vintage. 1999.

A former colonel in the Iranian army contends with life in Southern California.

What is What

Eggers, David. What is the What. Vintage Books. 2007.

The autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, a Lost Boy of Sudan.

The kite runner

Hosseini, Khalid. The Kite Runner. Riverhead Books. 2003.

A story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy in Afghanistan and the son of his father’s servant.


Lahiri, Jhumpa. Interpreter of Maladies. Houghton Mifflin Co. 1999.

A winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this accomplished collection of short stories explores the lives of Indian immigrants.


Martinez, Oscar. The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Immigrant Trail. Verso.2014.

A searing account of the hardships faced by Central American migrants heading through Mexico to the United States.

Angela's Ashes

McCourt, Frank. Angela’s Ashes. Simon and Schuster. 1996.

A memoir of a boy born in America but raised in Ireland.

The Beautiful Things Heaven Bears

Mengestu, Dinaw. The Beautiful Things that Heaven Can Bear. Riverhead Books. 2007.

A story of Ethiopian immigrants living in Washington, D.C.

Sour Sweet

Mo, Timothy. Sour Sweet. Sphere. 1982.

A penetrating portrayal of a Chinese immigrant family in England and the world they live in.

Enrique’s Journey

Nazano, Sonia. Enrique’s Journey. Random House. 2007.

A story of the journey of a Honduran boy looking for his mother in the United States.


Ngozi Adichie, Chimamanda. Americanah. Anchor. 2013.

A story of two Nigerians leaving and returning.

New Mainers

Nyhan, Pat. New Mainers: Portraits of our Immigrant Neighbors. Tilbury House. 2009.

Twenty-five stories of the journey of immigrants to Maine.

The Emigrants

Sebald, W.G. The Emigrants. New Directions. 1992.

A story of four Jewish émigré in the twentieth century and an overwhelming evocation of exile and loss.

House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East

Shadid, Anthony. House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2012.

A story of a journalist’s rebuilding of a family home in Lebanon and an unforgettable meditation on war, exile, rebirth and the universal yearning for home.


Somalis in Maine: Crossing Cultural Currents. Ed. Huisman, Kimberly A., Mazie Howe, Kristen M. Longgellier and Carol Nordstrom Toner. North Atlantic Books. 2011.

Stories of the journeys of Somalis into Maine and their stories in the Diaspora.

The Sympathizer

Thanh Nguyen, Viet. The Sympathizer. Grove Press. 2007.

A story of an Americanized Vietnamese with a divided heart and mind.

The Warmth of Other Suns

Wilkerson, Isabel. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. Pensea Books. 2010.

The story of the Great Migration, the movement of Blacks from the South to the North and West.

Suggested Films for the 30th Annual Camden Conference

America America - Movie Poster

America America (1962)

Elia Kazan, who chronicled twentieth-century social issues in gritty films like On the Waterfront and East of Eden, explored his own roots in this epic about immigration. Greek newcomer Stathis Giallelis won a Golden Globe for his twitchy, feverish starring performance in a role based on Kazan’s uncle, who fled from Anatolia to New York in the 1890s to escape Ottoman oppression.

It’s quite confronting for a Hollywood film of the day, especially in the harrowing early scenes, which depict the buildup to the Armenian and Greek genocides. On his long quest, Giallelis’ character faces homelessness, starvation, brutal wage slavery and constant humiliation at the hands of Turkish authorities, before worming his way into middle-class society (and some desperate romance).

Aside from its social interest, America America is worth it for its typically Kazanian mixture of realism and ravishing melodrama, and its gorgeous cinematography by Haskell Wexler, future Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen collaborator.

Border Documentary


Change cannot come without debate. Filmmaker Chris Burgard’s new documentary, BORDER, which takes an imperial look at the agonizing issue of our porous southern U.S. border, can go a long way towards fostering debate, discussion and, hopefully a more balanced outlook towards a national problem that has polarized America.

Pieter van Huystee Film & TV - Borders

Borders (2001)

Jacqueline van Vugt traveled to Africa and observed the boundaries lie between Nigeria and the European Union: from Nigeria to Niger, Burkina Faso, Senegal and so further north. At every border they will find many people who dream of a better life and have put their sights on the promised land of Europe. But that choice they bring dire sacrifices. The border region is a harsh world where violence, exploitation and depletion lurk. Men risk their lives in plastic boats on the open sea, women have been sentenced to a pimp. One of the women has her address tattooed on her arm, in case they are lost or dies. The closer get migrants in Europe, the more will lose the Dream.

Collier, Paul. Exodus: How Migration is Changing Our World.  Reprint Edition. Oxford University Press. 2013.

An exploration of the effects of encouraging and restricting migration from the perspective of the migrants themselves, that of the people they leave behind and the host societies where they relocate.


Border War: The Battle over Illegal Immigration (2006)

Border War is a fresh, intimate look at many sides of the immigration debate — told from people on the front lines of this growing crisis. Viewers are taken into the smuggling tunnels of Nogales, Arizona, to the migrant halfway houses for deportees in Tijuana, Mexico, to the Congressional corridors of power in the nation’s capital.


Casablanca (1942)

If you haven’t seen it, or haven’t seen it recently, one of the greatest of all Hollywood films remains, among many other things, a surprisingly hard-nosed portrait of life in wartime, especially for those fleeing Nazi occupation. The “tortuous, roundabout trail of refugees” culminates in the film’s stylized Morocco; some can afford exit visas from the black marketeers (who, of course, gather every night at Rick’s Café). “But the others wait in Casablanca… and wait… and wait.”

Despite the Golden Age sheen, the story of the Czech (read: Jewish) underground leader and his Norwegian lover trying to escape to the States and the burnt-out American mercenary who secretly helps them must have been a bit unnerving for audiences watching it at the war’s peak. In and around the rousing action and classic romance lie edgy references to invading fascist armies, the legacy of colonialism, secret police, torture, genocide, desperate asylum seekers and – of course – people smugglers.


Children of Men (2006)

Naturally the definitive dystopian thriller of our time is a story about refugees. Before his career shot into orbit with Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón crafted this grimly beautiful masterpiece. It’s 2027, and humans are no longer able to reproduce; the UK has become a fascist state in which asylum seekers fleeing worldwide anarchy are hunted down and forced to live in vast offshore penal colonies. So in other words, it’s pretty realistic.

Clive Owen is a nihilistic shell of a man charged with protecting an African refugee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) and her seemingly miraculous unborn child. (The Christian iconography is not hard to spot, and entirely appropriate to the refugee theme.) Watch it for its brilliant screenplay and its phenomenal cinematography and action set pieces, but it’s the disturbing vision of our society that’ll stay with you.

Clínica de Migrantes

Clínica de Migrantes (2016)

The volunteer-run clinic Puentes de Salud provides medical care to 10,000 undocumented immigrants each year in South Philadelphia. These patients often have nowhere else to go; they are not permitted to buy private health insurance and are unable to afford emergency medical care. Director Maxime Pozdorovkin’s moving film introduces us to the staff and medical providers at Puentes, who feel a moral obligation to offer preventative and prenatal care to those in need, and to the patients facing structural and economic barriers to wellness.

Dreaming of Denmark

Dreaming Of Denmark / Drømmen Om Danmark (2015)

Young Wasi came to Denmark when he was fifteen, having arrived alone from Afghanistan. Film-maker Michael Graversen, who followed Wasi for several years between Denmark and Italy, has managed to obtain remarkable access to Wasi’s life underground in Europe and followed him throughout his year-long struggle, not only for survival, but also for an identity outside his country of in the absence of a family. Dreaming of Denmark is a compelling insight into what happened to one of the many unaccompanied refugee children who disappear each year from Danish asylum centers. Many darker stories remain untold.

El Norte (1983)

Gregory Nava helped kickstart the American indie film movement with this epic about two Guatemalan siblings, indigenous peasants from the country, who undertake the treacherous journey to “the North” (California) after their family are killed by the army. Once Enrique (David Villalpando) and Rosa (Zaide Silvia Guitérrez) arrive al norte – and trust me, watching how they get there is not for the faint of heart – the promised land turns out to be a land of cheap motels, backbreaking work in kitchens and sweatshops, and constant fear of being caught by la migra, the INS police.

Their suffering is buffered by great resilience and boundless hope – but look out, this one is a heartbreaker. Few other American films get inside the lives of immigrants so thoroughly; gringos are true outsiders here – strange, capricious creatures in the background who treat our heroes like children when they’re not ignoring them completely. El Norte is also one of a kind for the way it avoids the standard social realism; instead it’s filled with color, humor, melodrama and magical realism.

Flee documentary


FLEE is an animated documentary film that goes behind the story of the many refugees who arrive in Europe everyday. It’s the story of how people are forced from their homes and into the hands of human traffickers who take them on a journey through hostile environments and cynical bureaucracies. The narrative frame of the film is a conversation between two friends –Tobias and Amin. This sets off the different stories from Amin’s life.

Fire at Sea

Fuocoammare (Fire At Sea) (2016)

The documentary captures life on the Italian island of Lampedusa, a frontline in the European migrant crisis. Situated some 200km off Italy’s southern coast, Lampedusa has hit world headlines in recent years as the first port of call for hundreds of thousands of African and Middle Eastern migrants hoping to make a new life in Europe. Won Golden Bear Prize at the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival.

Le Havre Poster

Le Havre (2011)

Kindly inhabitants of the port city conspire to harbor an illegal African stowaway (he’s en route to England). Gentle, tastefully stylized and eccentrically comical.

Hotel de Paso

Hotel de Paso

Hotel de Paso is a documentary that portrays the everyday life of the deported immigrants that live on this old hotel formerly called “El Centenario” and now known as “Hotel Migrante”; this place represents a microcosm or underworld where good and evil meet through protagonist and antagonistic characters. As life and time go by, as if it was a purgatory with lost souls, every character evolves building this film in a choral manner; each voice brings something different through his own holds: his past, his emotions, frustrations, his survival… all of them have to resolve their migratory situation either by trying to cross illegally again to “the other side”, returning to their home city or country or by surviving on the border. Between the confinement and the wait, the inhabitants of this hotel have to accommodate their lives to the rules and dynamics imposed by those in charge, a civil organization called “Ángeles sin Fronteras”.

In This World Poster

In This World (2002)

This extraordinary film from the prolific Michael Winterbottom (The Trip, 24 Hour Party People) follows the journey of two Afghan asylum seekers. Young Jamal (Jamal Udin Torabi, a real refugee more or less playing himself) and his older cousin Enayat (Enayatallah) attempt a treacherous overland odyssey from a Pakistani refugee camp to the promise of a better life in the UK in the hands of a network of people smugglers.

Shot in a point-blank doco style, with the crew and the actors travelling together on a dangerously authentic migrant route through the region, the film gets into the truth of the refugee experience like few other fiction films. The fear and misery, the hope, the endless waiting and the small moments of happiness are captured with amazing vividness

The Intouchables

Intouchables (2011)

In Paris, the aristocratic and intellectual Philippe is a quadriplegic millionaire who is interviewing candidates for the position of his caregiver, with his red-haired secretary Magalie. Out of the blue, the rude African Driss cuts the line of candidates and brings a document from the Social Security and asks Phillipe to sign it to prove that he is seeking a job position so he can receive his unemployment benefit. Philippe challenges Driss, offering him a trial period of one month to gain experience helping him. Then Driss can decide whether he would like to stay with him or not. Driss accepts the challenge and moves to the mansion, changing the boring life of Phillipe and his employees.

Living At The Border

Living At The Border

Documenting the realities of African refugees and migrants, Living at the Border captures everyday life in Italy. Through their personal stories, this multimedia project shows the complexity of their lives as they navigate through the asylum system in Europe. Field research for this project was conducted in Rome, Italy from September to October 2013.


Mediterranea (2015)

Jonas Carpignano’s feature film debut is a timely story of African migration to Europe. The poignant docudrama follows two Burkinabé men, single father Ayiva (Koudous Seihon) and his close friend, Abas (Alassane Sy), as they make the perilous journey from Burkina Faso to Italy, where they encounter hostility, violence and a life contrary to the “promised land” they envisioned.

The Pirogue

The Pirogue (2012)

This film should be mandatory viewing for every Australian: Senegalese director Moussa Touré’s drama humanizes boat people and people smugglers like no other. A reluctant fisherman (Souleymane Seye N’diaye) is hired to take a ragtag group of desperate souls to a new life in Spain across the North Atlantic in a nerve-rackingly small and ill-equipped boat (the pirogue of the title). Touré says he was influenced by Master and Commander, and it shows in the simple but taut narrative and excellent visual use of confined space. As the brave captain and his charges face danger and diminishing hope on the high seas, it’s impossible not to feel for the thousands who attempt such odysseys in real life every year, with tragedy often the result.

Refugee Kids

Refugee Kids: One Small School Takes On The World

A short documentary that follows students at a New York City summer program for children seeking asylum from the world’s most volatile conflicts. The film presents an intimate, emotionally gripping account of the students’ stories of escaping war and conflict and resettling in America, chronicling their triumphs and setbacks as their lives unfold over the course of one formative summer. Refugee Kids humanizes complex geopolitics and depict the challenges and urgency of immigration to America in an increasingly dangerous – and interconnected – world.

Salam Neighbor Film

Salam Neighbor

Seven miles from war, 85,000 Syrians struggle to restart their lives inside Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp. For the first time, two filmmakers fully embed themselves in a camp, providing an intimate look at the world’s direst humanitarian crisis. From meeting Ghoussoon, a nurse who built a business to provide for three children, to the street smart, 10-year-old Raouf, whose trauma hides just beneath his ever present smile, Zach and Chris uncover inspiring stories of individuals rallying, against all odds, to rebuild their lives and those of their neighbors.

Les Sauteurs

Les Sauteurs (Those Who Jump)

In northern Morocco, lies the Spanish enclave of Melilla: Europe on African Land. On the mountain above, live over a thousand hopeful African migrants, watching the fence separating Morocco and Spain. Abou from Mali is one of them – the protagonist in front of the camera, as well as the person behind it. For over a year, he has ceaselessly attempted to jump the fence.

A Syrian Love Story

A Syrian Love Story

Filmed over 5 years, A Syrian Love Story charts an incredible odyssey to political freedom in the West. For Raghda and Amer, it is a journey of hope, dreams and despair: for the revolution, their homeland and each other. A Syrian Love Story is available to download/stream from the BFI website and through iTunes.

Simshar Poster

Simshar (2014)

Based on astonishing true events, Simshar tells two parallel stories of survival at sea which unravel on and around the Maltese islands. A fishing family from the Mediterranean island of Malta become stranded at sea after their boat, Simshar sinks. Their fate gets entwined with the saga of irregular African migrants crossing from Africa to Europe, with tragic consequences.

Those Who Feel the Fire Burning

Those Who Feel the Fire Burning (2014)

A group of refugees trying to enter illegally by boat Europe. Suddenly a storm is rising. All hell breaks loose as an old man overboard. His consciousness slips into another, dark and hallucinatory dimension. Driven by a mysterious force and desperate for his loved ones, his soul will experience the everyday reality of many refugees stranded at the border of the supposed paradise of Europe.


The Visitor (2007)

After writer/director Tom McCarthy helped unleash Peter Dinklage on the world with 2003 indie classic The Station Agent, he used his knack for witty dialogue and savvy ground-level views of suburban life for this heartfelt look at immigration in post 9/11 America.

Walter (Richard Jenkins), a lonely Connecticut College professor, befriends a Palestinian-Syrian drummer (Haaz Sleiman) and his girlfriend (Danai Gurira), a Senegalese jewelry designer, after he discovers them living in his New York apartment. Both are world travellers and free spirits who teach Walter to let down his hair and groove to Afrobeat, but soon the pair’s precarious situation – including harassment by the authorities and a stint in a detention centre – crashes the party.


Welcome (2009)

For a film that sits next to middle-of-the-road French comedies on the DVD shelf, Philippe Lioret doesn’t pull any punches with this touching but unsentimental tale of an Iraqi Kurdish teenager’s foolhardy attempt to swim the English Channel in order to seek asylum in the UK.

Along with fantastic performances from French great Vincent Lindon and young Firat Ayrvedi, the film provokes with its depiction of the depressing real-life situation in Calais, where homeless refugees are brutalized by police and citizens can actually be arrested and imprisoned for hosting or comforting them. Even more depressingly, Lioret says he actually had to tone things down for the story in order to get the film made.


Wetback: The Undocumented Documentary (2005)

Director Arturo Perez Torres’s award-winning documentary about undocumented workers chronicles the life-and-death journeys of Central American and Mexican migrants as they enter the United States without going through proper immigration channels. The subjects’ first-person perspective sheds light on individual motivations for the trek and the hazards encountered on their way to the American dream.