"The Muslim Debate", an online debate platform of MUSLIM Institute has launched the debate on "Refugees should always be accepted by other countries?". After twenty days of extensive debate, featuring well-articulated and coherent arguments from both sides, the debate comes to an end with the voting of 73% for and 27% against the motion. Both sides have argued their positions through various compelling and stimulating arguments that induced our audience to participate in this timely and important debate through their valuable votes and interesting comments. Following is a glance at the concluding remarks of both the debaters defending the motion and opposing the motion as well as the Moderator.
Moderator’s concluding Remarks
M. Hamza Iftikhar
Research Associate, Muslim Institute - UK Chapter
As we progress into the closing session of this debate, the differences amongst our debaters remain at large as both attempt to address each other’s arguments and comments. I will try my best to briefly summarize what our debaters had to say in their rebuttal remarks. Dr. Kirsten McConnachie, while defending the motion, pointed out how most European nations have been unaware of the global refugee flows, particularly in the third world countries which have hosted large populations of refugees with little international recognition. She clarified her point regarding refugee protection by saying that, “it is not an open-ended protection but operates within clearly defined limits.” Dr. McConnachie stresses that “any system for granting asylum must be rooted in objective principle rather than kneejerk opinion.”
Arguing against the motion, Mr. David Goodhart began his remarks by comparing the current refugee crisis in Europe with that of 1940s and 1950s, arguing that both situations are “completely different”. He said that most people at that time “were released prisoners or demobbed soldiers desperately trying to get home.” However today, he said, the people seeking refugee are not trying to get home. Rather, “they are looking for a better life in a rich country.” “Who can blame them?” asks Mr. Goodhart, “If was in their position I would probably do the same.” However, he argues, that is not the solution and “the more we let in, the more will come.”
For the motion
Dr. Kirsten McConnachie
Assistant Professor of Law at University of Warwick - UK
This debate, and the wider public debate about refugees, has focused predominantly on fears and threats and obligations, but there are many very positive arguments in favour of accepting refugees. Goodhart is not persuaded by arguments from legal obligation or human compassion, but perhaps he may find self-interest more convincing. He does not believe that refugees may provide an economic benefit, but there is growing recognition that this is the case – and this argument is not emerging from the liberal left but from the neoliberal right. In relation to the current arrival of refugees in Europe, the IMF estimates a short term cost of 0.19% GDP (Europe-wide) from hosting refugees, but a longer term fiscal boost of 0.1% to 0.3% GDP annually. The Economist has described refugees in Europe as “a demographer’s dream”. Countries with ageing populations and a shrinking labour pool are facing impending social and fiscal disaster. In the UK, rather than rejecting refugees, we should have the foresight to recognise that they may rescue us from economic catastrophe.
A further concern raised by those opposing refugees is that our countries cannot cope with the influx and our societies will be damaged beyond repair. While we cannot predict the future, we can read the past. In the UK we have accepted Huguenots, Jews, emigres from the Russian Revolution, Hungarians fleeing after the 1956 uprising, Ugandan Asians exiled by Idi Amin. We have also generated our share of forced migration, sending Scots and Irish to the US, New Zealand, Canada and elsewhere. The movement of people is an ancient and unstoppable force and the world is richer for it.
Ultimately, refugees will continue to exist. If people’s lives and security are at risk, they will leave in search of asylum elsewhere. Goodhart’s argument is simply that these people should not be accepted in the UK, in Europe. My position is that there are legal, moral and ethical imperatives to accept refugees. Not only that, we will be economically stronger and politically safer by doing so.
Against the motion
Journalist, Author and Director at The Integration Hub - UK
I proposed that rich countries, and the EU in particular, should take over the management of refugee camps. The UNHCR is not working as it should which means that conditions in the camps are not good enough which is one cause of the current high flows. Europe has the money, the technology and the know-how to create the model refugee camp with schools, hospitals and proper jobs—it also has the motivation because its people and politicians do not want 1m to 2m refugees a year coming to live in their societies. The EU as an organisation should formally takeover responsibility for refugee camps in our near abroad, meaning the Middle East and North Africa. It is not a panacea but it would give the EU a genuinely useful role, for once, and relieve pressure on poor countries that currently bear too much of the burden.
So long as there are significant imbalances in global wealth enterprising young people from poor countries will want to come and live in rich ones, especially now that movement is so much easier. They have every right to leave their countries if they wish; we have absolutely no obligation to accept them just because they want to live in London rather than Lahore. Indeed, if we have any obligation to such people and their countries it is to encourage them to stay put and help narrow the global gap where they are. There are such things as genuine refugees who face individual persecution but they are a small percentage of the current flows. Too many people, as this debate has made abundantly clear, are not really interested in refugees as such but in writing the wrongs of history and wresting from western countries the right to control their borders in the belief that this is the quickest way to a fairer world. It isn’t.
Throughout the debate we observed that majority of the participating audience have been inclined towards the proposition. The voting statistics show that in the end, 73% of those who voted have sided for the motion, debated by Dr. Kirsten McConnachie, concluding that refugees should always be accepted by other countries. Nonetheless, we cannot ignore the remaining 27% who voted against the motion, debated by Mr. David Goodhart.
The nature of the debate and the fact that people all around the world took part in it by voicing their opinions through votes and comments shows us how global and significant are the refugee crisis and the need for this debate. Thanks to both our debaters and the guests, we were able to explore the conceptual and empirical challenges that persist in this debate. In doing so, many questions were answered and many concepts got cleared up regarding the refugees and their right to seek asylum in other countries. Despite various disagreements, the opposition also seemed to agree that refugees should at least be temporarily granted refuge by other countries if they face persecution in their home countries. Likewise, the productive reasoning brought about some important arguments and factual evidence that broadened the understanding of our audience, who followed and participated in the debate with great enthusiasm.
We truly hope that this debate proves successful in its objective to act as a tool for a better understanding and solution of the global refugee crisis.
Statements of debaters are their independent thoughts, opinions, beliefs, viewpoints and are not necessarily that of MUSLIM Institute's.
To read full statements of the debaters, please visit
The Muslim Debate Website.