Friday, July 22, 2016


Cartoons published in the infamous French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, brought the complexities of representation and politics to the fore, in the recent past. In the cartoon depicting a drowned immigrant figure next to a Jesus like figure walking on water, was also the legend, “Christians walk on water, Muslim children sink”. Yet another featured dead Aylan Kurdi’s figure, next to a McDonald type advertisement.
The detractors were quick to condemn Charlie Hebdo’s overtly racists and insensitive cartoons, while the magazine’s editors and several others pointed out at the satire inherent in their representational practices. They claim, the satire was not directed at the migrants themselves, but Europe’s response, inadequate, to the migrant crisis.This debate points at the complexities inherent in the ‘circuit of culture’, pointing at the tensions between signifying practices, modes of production, consumption, identities and regulations.

The current issue of Refugee Watch Online seeks to tease out the politics inherent in cultural representations of migration and forced migration, From the differential and evocative use of a term to the popular imaginary of a space definitively forming an identity and a desire in the universe of Malayalam cinema, to the imaginative use of borders and crossings in search of a supportive and irreverent Europe— this issue brings together a host of articles reflecting on the representations of migration across mediums, spaces and modes.

The articles in this issue are as follow (click on the links below):

The Gulf on the Malayali Big Screen: An outline history

IO STO CON LA SPOSA: A Video-Graphic Review

Migrations and Identities: A Study of Sea of Poppies

Harraga: Snapshot on A Migration and Its Representation

Fratricide: A Review.

Mein Hoon Yusuf Aur Yeh Mera Bhai: The Story of a Real People

Samata Biswas (

The Gulf on the Malayali Big Screen: an outline history

Mohamed Shafeeq K. 

(Shafeeq teaches Comparative Literature at University of Hyderabad and can be reached at

The first Malayalam movie to refer to what is called the Gulf came out in 1980, and was called Vilkkanundu Swapnangal – Dreams for Sale (dir. M. Azad). Who did the selling was not clear, but there were clear buyers, the Malayalis being foremost among them. Written by M.T. Vasudevan Nair, the movie begins with a voice-over telling us
[how] we [were] always attracted by the promise of a land where we can harvest gold.  Once upon a time it was Ceylon, then it was Malaya. In the last one decade there have been stories doing the rounds of a land where you end up being rich if you somehow, even selling off the roof over your head, you can manage to reach there. Thousands of youth now found a dream to cherish – Dubai.
The movie depicts the hardships and perils of the journey of the days then where many did not even make it to the other shore alive.  It also offers other conclusions:  as the protagonist of the movie, Rajagopala Menon, discovers, (i) Gulf can make you rich beyond your dreams, (ii) but all the richness of it, the villa there, the house in Kerala – none of it – can help you win your love, Sridevi, who would bang the door of her crumbling Nair tharavadu (feudal household) on your face, and (iii) there are more migrants on the way. The movie offers glimpses of what Dubai used to be back then and is thus a rarity.

IO STO CON LA SPOSA: A Video-Graphic Review

Tommaso Manfredini

(Tommaso is a Doctoral Student in the Department of French and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University and can be reached at

EU Regulation 604/2013 remains the latest attempt at legally harmonizing the processing of asylum-seeking and protection claims across all EU Member States. Its origin can be traced back to the 1990 Dublin Convention (ratified in 1997), followed by the Regulation’s original 2003 draft which, through several amendments, led to the adopted text of 2013. Commonly known as “Dublin Regulation” or Dublin III”, the regulation establishes that the Member State where applicants first lodge a status application is responsible for reviewing that claim. This means that an asylum-seeker has only one chance and, formally, one choice: he or she must lodge their application in the country where they would like to be admitted and eventually reside. Lodging an application”, however, is not exactly an act of free will. In theory, an application for asylum will be filed on behalf of an undocumented migrant whenever and wherever this person comes into contact with a European state representative. If a person enters the EU through Italy but wants to live elsewhere, as is the case of the characters in Io sto con la sposa, he or she must make their way to the country of their choosing without being intercepted by state representatives”—police, train controllers, highway patrols, etc.Io Sto con la Sposa is thus a statement about and against the growing inadequacy of the Dublin Regulation and its power of fragmenting the purportedly borderless space of the European Union.

Migrations and Identities: A Study of Sea of Poppies

Samata Biswas

(Samata teaches English at Bethune College and can be reached at

“...the Ibis was not a ship like any other; in her inward reality she was a vehicle of transformation, travelling through the mists of illusion towards the elusive, ever-receding landfall that was truth”(422-423)[i].

Set in the 19th century, immediately before the first Opium War, Sea of Poppies chronicles the journey of Ibis, from the coast of Calcutta to Mauritius. Central to the novel is Ibis, once a vessel that carried slaves, now fitted for human cargo, and later, for opium. It brings together merchants, indentured labourers and their guards, convicts undergoing a sentence of kala-pani, lascars who ply their trade, one white woman trying to build an independent life in another country, a black man passing as white- the link between the different sections on board etc. The narrative is at pains to underscore the idea that on board the ship, everyone, especially the marginalised are part of a unified community of forced migrants irrespective of the reasons behind their migration and their previous situations in life. This article teases out the tensions inherent in the creation of a homogenous migrant identity.

Harraga: Snapshot on A Migration and Its Representation

Baya Yantren 

(Baya is a Law student at McGill University and she can be reached at

Harragaحراقةis a word that has many meanings, that has its own sounds, its images, its texts, and most of all it is a word that has claimed its own bodies. Derived from the classical tri-literal root حرقmeaning 'to burn', this word has an even longer history, a history which has impregnated the word with metaphor.

Harraga is one of the current methods of irregular emigration:  though its name is ‘el harga’, it is the person who does it that is called ‘harrag’, the plural of which is the term ‘harraga’. It is this word that has gained much media attention and has come to mean both the phenomenon and its candidates. Harraga is a phenomenon that, more than any other form of irregular immigration—by virtue of its physical weight and its and symbolic meanings—puts into question the state, and this time on a global scale. 

Algerian Migration

Since the publication of Abdelmalek Sayad’s The Suffering of the Immigrant, much has changed in the ways of emigration from Algeria, North Africa and, more generally, from around the Mediterranean. The traditional pattern of emigration from Algeria that automatically translates into immigration to France has been put into question, and the validity of the traditional Paris-Montreal-Algiers triangle of Algerian migration has been interrogated. It remains, however, that the migration of Algerians to France still was numerically the most important inflow of non-EU population to France in 2012. If the predominance of Algerian migration to France remains, the past thirty years have nonetheless witnessed a marked change in migratory fluxes.

Fratricide: A Review.

Madhurilata Basu

(Madhurilata teaches Political Science at Gurudas College and can be reached at

Director: Yilmaz Arslan
Cast: Erdal Celik, Nurretin Celik, Xevat Gectan
Running time: 90 mins

As moths drawn to the light, many took the road to the Promised Land’, hoping that, ‘at the end of the tunnel, shines the light of money…’

The movie Fratricide (Brudermode; Germany: 2005), tries to capture the aspirations of migrants in Europe, in this case an unnamed German city, their struggles at various levels— to have a life, to live with dignity and be accepted as well as the struggles of competing with other migrants for assimilation. Yilmaz Arslan's Fratricide, traces the journey of a young Kurdish shepherd boy, Azad (Erdal Celik), to Germany, with the help of his elder brother’s (Semo, Nurretin Celik) money, in order to support their struggling family.

When Azad is all set to leave in a truck full of teenage boys or young men from nearby villages, all suited up, Azad’s father picks up some soil and puts it in his shabby coat pocket. At that moment, the words of a fellow passenger that in a new land one might lose a brother to find another,  might seem to be harsh, based on the timing, but as the film unfolds, it would seem that harsh is another name for the reality in Azad’s life. On arrival in Germany, Azad stays in some kind of a refugee shelter. He comes to know that Semo has become a pimp and he, unlike his brother, sets off to earn his living by shaving beards and trimming the nose hair of the customers from a neighbourhood hangout. It is at the shelter that Azad meets Ibo (Xewat Gectan), an orphaned Kurdish boy and forges a friendship and brotherly attachment towards him.

Mein Hoon Yusuf Aur Yeh Mera Bhai: The Story of a Real People

Maithreyi Karnoor (Maithreyi writes reviews for The Hindu, and can be reached at
An earlier version of this review was published in The Hindu, April 29, 2016.

Ethnic violence on a gargantuan scale happens in another continent; a huge war is fought whose victory doesn’t undo the death and destruction on either side; mythology is invoked; meetings are held by a few powerful men in closed rooms in a far away country and a ‘solution’ is found by which you and your family will pay for the damage by giving up your home – your land, your loved ones, your dreams.

When one cannot explain the occupation of Palestine to a six year old convincingly, without losing one’s own convictions in the process, it is stupefying – shattering – when a six year old tells you this story himself.

All Yusuf, wants to do is play with his older brother and experience an innocent joy and warmth in the intense love story between his brother and his lover Nada. He wants to eat chocolates and let his brother fill his eyes with dreams of the future – in a home full of warmth and love. But Yusuf is flung violently in a story framed by colonialism, world wars, partitions and migration. People are forced out of their homes, many lose their loved ones. Yusuf’s brother is killed and Yusuf spends many years meandering through refugee camps living a life of confusion and pain, until he is found by Nada, a woman who would have been his sister-in-law in another destiny. What follow are emotions resonating with tenderness – mixed with the pain of loss and nostalgia – that tell a gripping story of the futility of war.

Renowned artist from Kolkata, Sanatan Dinda won the first prize at the World Bodypainting Festival 2016, Portschach (Austria). The theme of the final round was ‘Propaganda’ (control of the public mind) wherein Dinda portrayed the image of Aylan Kurdi who’s corpse was  washed ashore on Turkey’s sea beach. The message ‘immigration is not a crime’ was painted on both hands of the model. According to Dinda he represented the issues of ‘internally displaced person’ through the portrayal of Aylan.

Photo courtesy: The Times of India

Book Review: The Agartala Doctrine: A Proactive Northeast in Indian Foreign Policy, Subir Bhaumik

Snehashish Mitra

(Snehashish is a research assistant at Calcutta Research Group and can be reached at

In the annals of history, today’s northeast region (NER) of India has been a frontier region without any clear cut boundary or borders. Territories were marked by a few kingdoms like the Ahoms, Koch, Manipur and Twipperah (today’s Tripura), while ethnic demography was equally influential in controlling resources. Until the dawn of independent India’s rule, the region witnessed frequent border shifts & orientation, while internal reorientation has continued through formation of new states and autonomous councils as a response to security centric agendas and aspirations of autonomy along ethnic cum indigenous lines. As per the design of partition in 1947, the NER shares borders with multiple nations of southeast Asia. Therein the foreign policy of India holds multiple ramifications for the northeast region. With options of India being limited on the Western front due to unfriendly Pakistan, unstable Afghanistan and turbulent middle-east, India has recently focused on expanding bilateral ties with the eastern neighbours; though northeast India didn’t figure in India’s Look East policy in the 1990s, around 2008 it has started to gain importance in the imaginaries of India’s geopolitics as it aspires to shift from security centric governance to trade centric governance in the northeast.   Tripura deserves a special mention with regards to its proactive nature in engaging with its immediate foreign neighbour . Thus the choice of the book title by veteran journalist Subir Bhaumik has in a way acknowledged Tripura’s role by including Tripura’s capital Agartala within the title.

‘The Agartala Doctrine’ brings together a myriad range of articles which encompasses the local dynamics of the region by focusing on Assam and Bhaumick’s own inputs on Tripura, and stretches out to the multiple dynamics of foreign policies, sub-regional bodies like ASEAN, BIMSTEC etc.[1] Bhaumik  introduces the readers by giving a critical overview of India’s recent foreign policy and how domestic politics also play a pivotal role considering West Bengal and Tamil Nadu’s stance on international issues. Bhaumik then goes into the detail of Tripura’s tryst with migration, insurgency, ethnic autonomy and relation with Bangladesh and aims to formulate few guiding principles of India’s foreign policy drawing from Tripura’s experience. Bhaumik locates the success of the Tripura’s decision making in the past and hence roots for the ‘Tripura Line’ for appropriate response of India’s foreign policy which is actively pursuing the Eastern neighbours.

Workshop on Power and Influence in the Global Refugee Regime, 23 to 25 September 2015, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada: A Report

Sreya Sen

(Sreya Sen is a Doctoral Fellow at University of Calcutta. She participated in the workshop as an International Student Rapporteur along with Dacia Douhaibi (York University).)

A workshop on “Power and Influence in the Global Refugee Regime” was organized by the Migration and Diaspora Studies Initiative at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada from 23 to 25 September 2015. The workshop considered how power and influence may be observed and studied within the global refugee regime before taking into consideration the influence of various states, international organizations, NGOs and other actors within the global refugee regime.

The workshop took off with the presentation of a background paper on “Understanding Power and Influence in the Global Refugee Regime” by workshop host Dr. James Milner, Professor of Political Science, Carleton University. The paper drew from literature on global governance and international regimes and proposed analytical tools which may explain or be used to observe power and influence in the global refugee regime. It also presented a framework for understanding power and influence in the global refugee regime that would stimulate discussion over the three days of the workshop.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Migration and Security

Ranabir Samaddar 

[Distinguished Chair in Migration and Forced Migration Studies, CRG. He can be reached at]

When we speak of human security we first of all recognise the need and the practice of a juridical structure of security that acknowledges various special claims for security, but reconciles at the same time the differential claims for security in its structure. Such a structure becomes overall by displaying three features – by being legal, by acknowledging special claims, and by reconciling differing claims for security. In case of India, the constitution has recognised the presence and certain rights of the indigenous people, has made room for specific provisions for those rights, has provided for special security arrangements in an area such as the North east, has tried to settle legally the international borders and boundaries as much as possible, and has done away with old hierarchies in terms of political-administrative units of the Union, and has made all units equal as states. Yet, as India’s post-Independence history indicates, the emphasis on country’s overall security has reinforced molecular insecurity. Assam is a telling case, where its international boundary, inter-state boundaries, and internal boundaries – all have combined to make each fragment of the state of Assam insecure. In that region, probably like many others, no one can provide security at the grassroots – the rebels, the army, the ethnic home guards, the civil society, frankly no one. The special provisions only display their own inadequacy; the reconciliation mechanisms prove to be mere governmental exercises of rule; the army and the paramilitary forces prove oppressive; and the international boundaries become the negotiating space for kin groups, kin political formations, the immigrant army of labour, and people fleeing from torture, threats of persecution, and fear. The overall security is reinforced by an “overall” political economy of the region, some of whose features produce insecurity. Such a security framework cannot acknowledge fully the figure of the immigrant except in the sense of denying or ousting the immigrant from the political universe. Unable to provide enough economic resources and development, or to put matter correctly, unable to de-link development and the influx of migrant labour, and unable to cleanse the nation of aliens, the only way remains for the indigene then to ensure molecular security is to claim homeland. The fly in the ointment is that, this path of overall security leading to molecular security is also the path to molecular insecurity. It is like a place degree zero, where constitution has stopped bearing relevance, only pragmatism rules, and daily negotiations order the day. It is a hard case, harder than all juridical security arrangements, harder than constitutional provisions; it is a terra incognita where history rather than law has the capacity to play the grand jury. In fact history calls law into question here, and whatever may be the outcome of the security/property question in the present juncture, we must recognise the hardness of the case, if we are to claim that we are making serious intellectual effort towards revising our notion of security, if the phrase “non-traditional security” suggests some such need.

Friday, July 08, 2016

UN Report Declares Crime against Rohingyas as Crime against Humanity: News Links

Sucharita Sengupta

(Sucharita Sengupta works at Calcutta Research Group and can be reached at

2015 was a landmark year for Myanmar. In the first half it made news for all the wrong reasons and in the second half for a supposedly positive change. The first half of the year saw tragic deaths of thousands of Rohingya Muslims, who, although hailing from the Rakhine state situated in the South West coast of Myanmar, are denied citizenship and hence are ‘stateless’, forced to flee. Starvation deaths in border detention camps of countries like Thailand, Malaysia and images of overloaded boats capsizing in the Bay of Bengal evoked worldwide sympathy for the Rohingyas. The enormity of their being victims of international trafficking-smuggling rackets also came to the forefront making it difficult for states to feign ignorance. Amidst criticism from the UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies, all eyes were fixed on the recent election in Myanmar, on 8 November 2015. It was believed that a solution would be attained if Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) comes to power. On the contrary, however, even after a landslide victory of her party, Aung Suu Kyi has still now refrained from taking any positive stance on the issue. In fact, following a report by the UN which states the Rohingyas in Myanmar have suffered crimes that “amount to crimes against humanity”; the Myanmar leader has told an UN special Reporter on Human Rights that the newly elected government, sworn in April 2016, will avoid using the term “Rohingya” to avoid controversy of any sort. Aung Suu Kyi’s comments clearly indicate the discomfort that the government has in recognizing the Rohingyas as Myanmar’s citizens, denoting how even the nomenclature ‘Rohingya’ is a subject of controversy in the country. The previously military backed government believed the Rohingyas to be illegal “Bengali” migrants. Although a new committee has been formed to establish peace and development in May, the plans of the committee are not clear.

Monday, July 04, 2016

CMHA Ontario’s Webinars: Important resource in taking care of refugee mental health.

Mahanam Bhattacharjee Mithun

(Mahanam is a MA student under European Masters in Migration and Intercultural Relations Programme. He is presently an intern in Calcutta Research Group)

Canadian Mental Health Associations webinars provides some very important insights into the mental health issues among the refugee population ( The guidelines and recommendations provided by CMHA put light on the fact on how to better deal with mental health issues specially regards to child and adult refugees mental health. These also help us to better understand the concept of mental health, factors affecting mental health, people that are more vulnerable to mental health problems and most if all provides an important guideline how to enhance our capacity in support refugees with mental health issues.
Due to ongoing war, violence and persecution in home countries, a lot of people continue to be forced to leave their own country and seek refuge in other countries. It is very important for us to understand the concept of mental health, mental health condition of the refugee population and how to support the refugees most effectively. According to the public health agency of Canada, mental health is the capacity of each and all of us to feel, think and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with challenges to face. It is a positive sense of spiritual and emotional well being that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice, interconnections and personal dignity.