The art studio as a ‘room to breathe’

Room to Breathe at the Migration Museum takes visitors on an immersive journey through a series of interconnected rooms, revealing the multi-layered experience of migrants and refugees arriving in a new country. Intimate personal stories are brought to life through audio recordings of oral histories as visitors go through the different rooms. At the centre of the gallery is the ‘Room to Create’, a space conceived as an art studio, which will be occupied by a succession of artists, each on a monthly residency. These artists have been invited to make the studio their own, displaying previous art projects while creating new artwork.

The first artist in residence and the curator of this art studio is Dima Karout, a visual artist and art educator originally from Syria, but who has lived in several countries before arriving and settling in London. In her journey from Syria to Britain via France, California, and Quebec, art has been a constant source of reflection and engagement for Dima.

This blog has been written as a series of questions and answers, with Assunta Nicolini (gallery supervisor at the Migration Museum) asking the questions and Dima and Sue McAlpine, one of the Migration Museum’s curators, answering them.


Assunta: Dima, could you gives us some background to your collaboration with the Migration Museum in ‘Room to Breathe / Create’?

Dima: My appreciation of the Migration Museum goes back to when I moved to London and visited their previous exhibitions. The first time I stepped into the Museum, it all felt very familiar. Some of the elements they presented reminded me of my own work – the suspended canvas, the personal stories, and the collective truth. I loved the slogan ‘All Our Stories’, and its sense of inclusiveness. We’ve been in conversation ever since. I met Sophie first, the Museum’s director, then Sue, one of its curators, and I showed her some of my installation artwork. Both she and Sophie were very welcoming and positive. This current exhibition, Room to Breathe, was a perfect opportunity for us to collaborate. I was thrilled to be invited to be the artist and curator in residence for the exhibition, and to add my vision to this project by designing the concept and overseeing the art studio space and the residency programme.

A ‘room to breathe’ is a metaphor that relates to a lot in my life. My art studio gives me a peaceful space to reflect on conflicts bigger than me, and to create. And the museum curators were aware of the importance of art in a time of displacement, in an artist’s quest for identity and meaning, and in their life in general. This space, as we designed it, gives artists from migrant backgrounds a platform to share their work, interact with visitors and tell their story in their own way. It is a space for them to represent themselves: this was very important for me. We will welcome a new artist from a migrant background every month until June, when I will work with all the artists to curate a final group exhibition.

I am very excited about this collaboration and grateful to be working with socially engaged people. It is important (and visitors’ feedback and reactions confirm this) to change the narrative about Syrians, to work with them and present them in a different light – as artists, educators, travellers – and to show that there is more to a Syrian person than the ugliness of war. I am glad to be part of this process.

Assunta: As the first artist and also the curator in residence at Room to Breathe, what is your vision and approach for the Art Studio?

Dima: As a curator, I wanted the room to reflect an authentic art studio. The artists are invited to display their artwork, handwritten notes, their own books, art tools and materials, etc. The space is personal, intimate and true to the artist’s own life and practice. But most important for me was to fully respect the invited artists’ freedom and to allow them to decide for themselves what their room to breathe would look like. We selected these artists from an open call we launched online, and every month sees a new display of the work and universe of a talented migrant artist. It’s really exciting that it shows there isn’t one way to design this space.

During my residency as an artist, I share pieces from different projects I’ve worked on over the years and exhibited in Damascus, Leipzig, Paris, Montreal and London. Visitors can go on a journey with me, see a photo for a set I designed for The Shroud Maker, a play shown at RADA last May, read some of visitors’ contributions to my installation Boarding Pass at Shakespeare’s Globe last June, follow my travels by reading fragments of my Travelling Souls project, and get to know me better by browsing my books, learning about the friends, artists and writers who inspired me, etc.

Visitors discovering aspects of Dima’s journey in her art studio at the Migration Museum. The large photo on the left is “Hope in Damascus”. © Rudy Hajjar

In addition to all that, I am present in the space most of the time, interacting with visitors. I approached the art studio as an educational space that brings art closer to everyone. I offered hands-on art workshops, and free printing sessions and I designed a participatory installation in which visitors were invited to sit in the art studio on a large table equipped with tools and materials and to create a piece of art reflecting on Human Bridges, and add it to the growing installation.

Assunta: How have visitors reacted to your work and participatory installation at the Migration Museum?

Dima: Visitors have been very moved by the intimacy of the work. They have taken the time to read and discover fragments of the different projects I shared: the struggle with the Syrian passport, being prisoner in your own self, the endless war, and home being more than a physical place . . . I left a livre d’or (a gold book) in my art studio and asked people to write the sentence that moved them the most. Everyone reacted in their own way, but a lot of people wrote the main sentence behind my The Tunnel installation, which I had handwritten in charcoal on the wall: ‘There is no black and white in the Syrian conflict, only shades of grey and too much red.’ Others wrote that, when they read my text The Prisoner (about someone who invented another self), it was the first time they’d realised how hard it was to be reminded of the conflict every day. Many Syrians who visited told me they connected deeply with a sentence from it: ‘You are tired from discussing your burning home.’

Dima Karout’s livre d’or (on the table), Syrian self-portrait and “The Tunnel” (on the wall), in her art studio at the Migration Museum. © Rudy Hajjar

My favourite corner, which I wanted people to take with them from the visit, was the Human Bridges project: ten art objects and ten texts telling fragments of friendship stories, of the human bridges that me and nine Syrian artist friends were able to build and sustain over the years. The introduction to the project reads: ‘We all met at the fine art university of Damascus, sometime around the year 2000. We came from very different backgrounds, but art brought us together. Today, we have all lost our home, we live in different cities around the world, but a fine line of friendship built through art survived and is virtually crossing continents. Our Human Bridges symbolise the power of art over conflict.’

I also designed the Arabic word jesser (it means ‘bridge’) inspired by the calligraphic style Kufi Murabba’ and asked people to be inspired by its minimalist design to create their own bridge, using the table I set up in the art studio with tools and materials, and to add their signed artwork to the installation. Visitors from all ages and backgrounds, school and university groups, all expressed a connection with this project, and told me that they had been very moved by its honesty and simplicity. The installation wall is full with people’s bridges!

A workshop in Dima Karout’s art studio at the Migration Museum. © Rudy Hajjar

Assunta: To what extent does your origin and background as a Syrian influence your art?

Dima: This is a very intriguing question that I’ve been reflecting on a lot lately, specially after the war. My art reflects who I am in many different ways. I was born and raised in Damascus, Syria. I saw the world from this perspective when I grew up. But, since 2005, I’ve been travelling: I studied my masters in contemporary art in Paris, creative writing in Montreal. I got interested in curating contemporary art, and I followed an online certificate in curatorial studies based in Berlin, with international participants. I’ve discovered ideas, cultures and met extraordinary humans on my journey. My identity has evolved and continues to evolve. My art today reflects the new person I’ve become, who absorbed all these new experiences and listened. As much as I miss my younger, lighter self, I can’t possibly say I am still the same young Syrian girl who left Syria long ago. And this is what I am trying to reflect on through We Are Made of People and Places, the new work I am researching during my residency at the Migration Museum.


Dima Karout (centre) in front of her project “We Are Made of People and Places” in her art studio at the Migration Museum. © Rudy Hajjar

On the other hand, it is impossible for me to accept this forced disconnection from my roots. I am very affected by the Syrian conflict, and my art in the last few years has been too. After receiving my Canadian passport, I wrote that ‘You can travel everywhere, but you can’t visit Damascus. You have become a prisoner of the world’. Every Syrian is trying to survive the war in their own way; I created many artworks to cope with it. The Tunnel, one of the artworks that I presented in Montreal in 2016, is on display at Room to Breathe now; it tells the thoughts of a Syrian refugee who survived an explosion and arrived in a new country in a wheelchair. One piece reads: ‘Do you want to die as a whole or to live as a half? He chose life.’ Last year, I was tired from the division between Syrians and looking to create something that might reunite us all. I created the Syrian self-portrait. It’s based on a photo of an abandoned home that I took in old Damascus in 2011 during my last visit before the war, and features a strong façade with two windows, which I transformed into grey tones and then added red ink to. It represents the human behind the wall – and us Syrians, trying to look fine, to function in the societies we live in, hiding behind a strong façade, but bleeding from the inside.

Dima Karout hanging her display of “We Are Made . . . ” in her art studio at the Migration Museum. © Rudy Hajjar

Assunta: How would you define the main advantages and challenges of being an artist–curator?

Dima: I love both. For more than 15 years I have been creating art and also curating art exhibitions and cultural events in different cities around the world. I have worked with a lot of artists and art students from different backgrounds and, whenever I am trying to present someone else’s work, I think of the artist first. I aim to preserve the uniqueness of their journey while trying, if I am working on a group show, to create a narrative between all participants. It is very challenging to find this balance, but I think that being an artist myself helps me understand the artist’s side better.

The advantages are that I understand the uniqueness of every artist, the validity of their demands, and I always try to listen. There is a sense of fragility about artists that I try to protect when I curate group exhibitions, because I went through this journey myself.

My experience with curators is different. It is sometimes very challenging when you are the only artist on the team. The curators focus on presenting the whole exhibition, sometimes working on ‘exhibiting the exhibition’, whereas the artist wants to exhibit their individual work.

I am going to be working closely with the artists invited into the art studio: Habib Sadat, The New Art Studio, Ceyda Oskay, Shorsh Saleh and Belén L Yáñez; we are going to brainstorm and try to understand each other. I aim to assemble our creativity and forces around the final group show we want to launch in June, and to curate a unique experience for all of us and for visitors.

Assunta: Sue, as curator at the Migration Museum, what was your vision for the art-studio space?

Sue: When my fellow curator, Aditi Anand, and I were discussing which rooms we would make in our exhibition exploring stories of resilience and survival in the experience of migrants, the art studio was one of the very first we came up with. We had both seen first hand in the Calais refugee camp the power of art, music and theatre to raise people up from the despair of that notorious place. We met the volunteers who were providing the means for the people there to explore their creativity, and we met those who were benefiting from it. In an earlier exhibition, Call Me By My Name, we displayed some of the art made in the camp and told the stories of those who had made it. Much later I found out from one of the artists whose work we displayed that the opportunity to show his work in the country he was trying to reach had given him hope and strength to keep going and the knowledge that he was being recognised as an artist. He is one of the artists we have invited to be resident in the art studio.

One of my main aims as a curator is to allow people the opportunity to have their voices heard and to tell their stories in the way they would want them to be heard, to give them a platform to show their work – whether this is playing music, cooking food or presenting art, photography, drama or poetry. My role as a curator is to make this happen with as little interference from myself as is possible and practical. So our vision for the art studio was to give artists a studio space to make their own, to furnish as they wished, a space to be creative: to make art, display it, sell it and to share their ideas among visitors and other artists. We were happy for it to be a messy, painty, inspiring space where our artists could feel completely at home. We felt this was especially good for migrant and refugee artists, who are still struggling to keep going in this country and for whom having an art studio, even for a short time, is a real luxury. We loved the idea of providing a space for an exhibition within an exhibition. We liked the idea of it being a changing space, inspiring for our repeat visitors and for the exciting development of the bigger exhibition. Above all, we wanted to demonstrate that the need to be creative touches us all and is a vital and enriching part of our humanity.

Assunta: How would you define your experience of working with artist–curator Dima Karout? What are your thoughts on her artwork and her art studio (Dima’s work is on display at the Museum until Monday 3 December)?

Sue: When I first met Dima, I felt strongly she would be a wonderful artist to present work in the studio. As we learnt more about each other, it became clear that Dima was the perfect person to form a collaboration with and it gradually emerged that she should take on a bigger role as artist–curator of the studio, which fitted perfectly with my idea of the curator who can step back and give others an opportunity to have a say in how the exhibition unfolds. Our discussions were sometimes heated and often confrontational but we have come to a beautiful understanding and a wonderful outcome in the way Dima has made the studio her own and interacted with her visitors. I respect and value Dima’s knowledge of what makes an artist tick and especially her sensitivity and understanding of the artist who is also an immigrant.

“The Tunnel” in Dima Karout’s art studio in the Migration Museum. © Rudy Hajjar

I have watched visitors in Dima’s studio looking at her artwork and have seen them silently witnessing her journey, her pain and her vision for a better world. I saw my daughter crying when she looked at Dima’s images of a lost Damascus. I have seen visitors making their own interpretations of the concept of Dima’s bridge between people and places and hanging them up on the participatory, inclusive space that Dima has made. I have listened to the conversations that visitors have had with her, not just about her art, but about her life, her past friends, her family, her sorrow for her war-torn country and her tentative steps towards building its future. Her studio is a powerful place to be in. Of course, it proves that making art for Dima is a lifeline. But there is more to it than that – it shows that art connects us to our own journeys through experiencing the journey of the artist. We need art to make sense of things and we need artists to express what is going on in our hearts and heads. We need to be artists ourselves.

Syrian drought: have its effects washed up in Calais?

Adam Woodhall visited the migrant camp in Calais in November 2015. In the conversations that followed (particularly one with the MMP’s Sue McAlpine, who is curating Call Me By My Name: Stories from Calais and beyond, shortly to open in Shoreditch, London), he realised that his personal interest in environmental issues, especially drought caused by climate change, was intimately linked to the stories of some of the people in the Calais camp.


So here I am, six months after my visit to Calais, happily tapping away on my laptop, in my comfy, warm, dry, safe, settled flat in London, looking through my double-glazed windows onto a calm residential scene. In Calais I had looked into the eyes of people whose journeys I could only dimly envisage. They’d travelled across continents, through war zones, leaving behind family, friends, treasured possessions, hopes and dreams. Here they were now, standing in a puddle, with only the clothes on their back and a dream of safety and a better life in the UK.

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The migrant camp at Calais. ©Adam Woodall

What was it that kept them here, waiting for fate to finally smile on them? In conversations throughout the UK, whether it be in pubs, coffee shops, on Twitter or in the media, there are many views on this: they were there to ‘take our jobs’, to ‘exploit our benefits’ or, more benignly, to be re-united with family members who were already legally in the UK.

Whatever truth there may be in these views, it is only one part of the story of why these individuals find themselves in a cold, wet, miserable migrant camp in Western Europe. There is context, stretching back a decade or more, to the situation they find themselves in – and a significant factor in the narrative of the migrants is their own local environmental crisis. The story of these people goes way back to their birthplace. To a time when they too would look out of their window from their comfortable and dry home, feeling happy, safe and content.

For some of them the view they looked out upon would be very different from mine. In my mind’s eye, I see them looking out upon a rural landscape, in a wide Syrian valley. There are fields beyond their village, some with crops, some with animals grazing. The weather is hot, there are children playing and the elders are sitting out on shaded verandas.

This is 2006, and something is starting which will change their lives forever. What is starting is an extreme and long-term drought, which in some areas of Syria led to 75 per cent of households* suffering total crop failure. Imagine your local Asda, Sainsbury, Tesco and Morrison’s shutting down, leaving only the occasional corner shop open, and all employment opportunities drying up at the same time. Would you stick around? Or would you move to where there might be some food?

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A chart showing the increased frequency of drought in the Mediterranean area (Hoerling, M, J Eischeid, J Perlwitz, X Quan, T Zhang, and P Pegion (2012) ‘On the Increased Frequency of Mediterranean Drought’ in J. Climate, 25, 2146–2161; first shown on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website in 2011). Reds and oranges highlight lands around the Mediterranean that experienced significantly drier winters during 1971–2010 than the comparison period of 1902–2010.

For these people, the first step of this journey was having to admit to themselves that living in the place where they had grown up, as had generations before them, was no longer viable. So they moved to a Syrian city where food was more readily available. This unfortunately proved to be out of the frying pan of long-term drought and into the fire of a failing state, with threat multipliers – such as ISIS, the corrupt Assad regime, refugees from the Iraq conflict – all conspiring to light the touch paper of violent protest and then blowing up into a full-scale civil war.


An aerial view of the Za’atri refugee camp in Jordan, whose population was estimated at 83,000 in March 2015. Estimates for the population of the migrant camp in Calais are between 3,500 and 5,500 people.

So they move again, this time to Turkey, where they join millions of other Syrians in refugee camps. Here they hear of how things are better in Europe, so they decide to use some of their savings to make the risky Mediterranean crossing to Greece. Arriving in Greece, they find out that a family member is in the UK, and so they decide to trek across the continent to get there.

Ten years after the drought starts in Syria, here they are standing in a puddle in Calais, being looked at by me. My story ends with me getting back on a ferry and into my own bed before midnight. Their stories continue to be clear as the mud in that puddle.



* This figure is taken from Erian W, B Kaplan and O Babah (2010) Drought Vulnerability in the Arab Region: Special Case Study, Syria, p.15, para 3. Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction.


Adam Woodhall works with individuals and organisations to help them be environmentally, socially and financially sustainable. He is the author of the book Empower Change and is particularly focused on engaging people to change behaviours. Adam has also just launched a ‘sustainable’ comedy career. His Twitter feed is @adamwoodhall

The first mass migration from outside Europe

Mihir Bose, one of our distinguished friends, argues in this guest blog that Europe will need to think outside the box if it is to cope with the most unique migrant crisis in its history – and he looks back to 1971 and the painful birth of Bangladesh for a telling point of comparison. 

The migrant crisis that has engulfed Europe has seen a whole range of responses, from Angela Merkel’s August Wilkommenskultur – although that is fraying a bit now that summer has turned to winter – to the stated willingness of those on the European far right to let the refugee boats sink in the Mediterranean. One thing everyone in Europe is agreed on, however: this is the worst migration crisis the continent has seen since the end of the Second World War.


Anti-racism protesters rally in August in Dresden, stronghold of the anti-Islam PEGIDA movement. Activists demonstrate in solidarity with migrants, in a show of defiance against far-right extremists who have mounted protests against the influx of migrants to Germany. (AFP/Robert Michael)

In terms of size and scale it certainly is, but the fundamental nature of this migration is very different. Europe has never experienced migration of this nature, or at least not for over a thousand years, and we need to understand how different this migration is, because failure to do so has distorted the migration debate and is the reason why Europe is yet to develop a humane, viable, migration policy.

What makes this migration crisis different is that it is seeing people coming to Europe from other continents – Asia and Africa – whereas the Second World War refugee crisis was a purely European migration. At that time one of the biggest movements was 10 million Germans fleeing from the German provinces east of the Oder–Neisse line and from Czechoslovakia and Hungary to the western part of Germany then controlled by the three victorious Allies: Britain, France and the United States. This movement of the Volksdeutsche, ethnic Germans, marked the end of a forward-to-east, backwards-to-west movement which had been going on for almost a decade. These Germans had been living in Eastern Europe since about the 13th century. Hitler’s Nazi regime evacuated them to Germany between 1939 and 1940, only for them to be resettled, after Hitler had conquered Poland, in the newly conquered land – before they were forced back west, once again, after Poland was liberated by Soviet forces. The other movements of people were also Europeans – Poles, Ukrainians and Latvians – moving from one part of Europe to another.

A handful of survivors from the 150 refugees who left Lodz in Poland two months earlier headed for Berlin. They are following railway lines on the outskirts of Berlin in the hope of being picked up by a British train. (Photo by Fred Ramage/Getty Images)

In 1945, a handful of survivors remain of the 150 refugees who left Lodz in Poland two months earlier, headed for Berlin. They follow railway lines in the hope of being picked up by a British train. © Fred Ramage

There was also the migration of many thousands of Jews, survivors of the Holocaust, for whom Europe had become a slaughterhouse. This was an intercontinental movement – but it was Europeans moving to Asia, not the other way round, which is the current position. In that sense this was part of the migration from Europe, involving millions of people, that had been going on for almost four centuries as the Europeans built their vast colonial empires and populated various continents. Indeed, even after the Jewish state was created in Palestine, this European migration to other lands carried on for two – almost three – decades after the war. This period saw Australia, under its White Australia policy, welcoming many Europeans and in the process making Melbourne the biggest Greek city after Athens and Thessaloniki. In Britain this was known as the £10 Pom policy: for £10 the British could migrate to Australia, provided they were white. This would see some famous migrants, including fast bowler Harold Larwood – who had so terrorised Australian batsman on the bodyline tour of 1932–33 that it had nearly led to Australia quitting the British Empire. Unhappy in England, he was now welcomed under the £10 policy and lived there for the rest of his life. And it is worth recalling that the iconic post-war film, Brief Encounter, made in 1945, concerning an affair between a married woman and a doctor, ends with the doctor emigrating to South Africa. The fact is Europeans were still leaving this continent in vast numbers after the war, and continued to do so for many decades.

Today’s migration not only reverses that flow but brings people with very different religions and cultures to Europe. For all the differences between Germans and Poles, it cannot be argued that they match the differences in culture and religion between modern Europeans and the refugees from Syria and other parts of Asia and Africa. In that sense, Europe has not seen such migration for over a thousand years, when, as historians tell us, the arrival of Islam in the Indian subcontinent triggered a westward movement of people from that part of the world, resulting in the formation of the gypsy communities in the west.


In the reign of Muhammad Ghor (1149–1206), Muslims extended their reach into what we now call India. This is a painting depicting a scene from that era.

The other big difference between the migration we are seeing now and that following the Second World War is that in 1945 the movement of people began only after Europe was once again at peace. The migration we are coping with currently is coming even as the war in Syria still rages, with not only no conclusion in sight but no agreement as to what that solution might be. In that sense, what we are facing is more like what happened in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. Indeed, the similarities between Syria and events in east Pakistan are so striking that it is surprising western policy makers or opinion formers have not commented on them so far.

Today the Bangladesh genocide of 1971 is little remembered, although it was almost as horrendous as that of Rwanda. Let us recall it, because it may provide some lessons for Syria.

Like Syria, which was artificially constructed after the First World War, the Pakistan that emerged as a result of the British withdrawal from India in 1947 was a somewhat unnatural state. It was meant to be a home for the Muslims of the subcontinent but culturally there were vast differences between the Punjabi Muslims of West Pakistan and the Bengali Muslims in the east. As the events of 1971 proved, religion could not overcome these cultural differences – and matters were not helped by the fact that the two halves were separated by 1,000 miles of Indian territory, which made no secret that it did not want Pakistan to exist at all.

In 1970 the Avami League, dominated by the Bengalis in East Pakistan, won the country’s first truly democratic election. The outraged Punjabis of West Pakistan, who had ruled the country since its birth in 1947, unleashed a brutal crackdown, killing a quarter of a million Bengalis – maybe as many as a million – with 10 million refugees fleeing to neighbouring India, and thousands of women being raped. There was also a ferocious ethnic cleansing of the minority Hindu population of East Pakistan.


Refugees fleeing East Pakistan (shortly to become Bangladesh) into India at the time of the war of independence, 1970.

The Museum of Independence in Dhaka, which has evidence of Pakistani brutality, is one of the most chilling museums I have ever been to. As this blog is being written, Bangladesh is holding war crimes trials for those of its citizens who helped the Pakistanis in their genocidal activities – 45 years after the events in question took place there is no closure, and the trials hugely anger Pakistan, which refuses to accept what happened and still presents the break-up of Pakistan as the result of Indian machinations.

India’s intervention in the final month of the nine-month conflict was triggered by a Pakistani attack on its territory, though some have suggested that it might also have been influenced by the cost of supporting so many refugees from East Pakistan. Within weeks of its involvement, the war was over and most, if not all, of the 10 million refugees that had flooded into India at the start of the war went back to the newly created Bangladesh.


An Independence Day celebration held at the Museum of Independence in Dhaka.

Despite the scale of the 1971 migration crisis, one crucial difference between it and today’s Syrian-derived crisis is that the East Pakistani refugees had much in common with their Indian counterparts in west Bengal. In today’s migration crisis, there is no neighbouring country that can play the role India did then: Jordan, which has borne the burden of the refugees, is incapable of such a role; and Egypt, with which Syria had a union when President Nasser ruled Egypt and which, as the greatest Arab country, would have been ideally suited to play the role of India in this crisis, is so consumed by its own problems that it cannot even conceive such a thing.

So what does all this amount to? It means there can and will not be an easy solution to the Syrian crisis that lies at the root of Europe’s migration problem – and to go on drawing parallels with the Second World War refugee crisis means ignoring how much more complex this crisis is. We must also consider that for all the humanitarian motives of western statesmen, most notably Merkel, integrating very different communities is never easy. Even after 1,000 years the gypsy community remains a very distinct community in Europe, often distrusted, if not hated, by the majority community in many European lands – and one that Hitler tried to destroy.

This does not mean the refugee crisis cannot be solved – but it needs to be tackled along very different lines, or we are building false scenarios, with potentially worrying knock-on effects. As the security forces in France and Belgium come to grips with the dreadful terrorist attack on Paris, one of the most chilling discoveries has been that a passport of a Syrian refugee was found near the body of a dead suicide bomber. Although this was later discovered to be a fake, the inevitable conclusion people rushed to was that ISIS jihadists were infiltrating the refugees pouring into Europe and that therefore all such refugees were suspect and must be kept out. There is no proof that the Paris bombers were Syrian refugees – not even one of them – but it is a temping conclusion to jump to given how little we have considered the unique nature of this refugee crisis and how it requires Europe to think of solutions that are outside the box. It should not be beyond Europe’s powers to devise such solutions, but it cannot be done if we go on comparing this to the refugee crisis after the Second World War merely because the numbers are the same.




Mihir Bose is a journalist and author, and a distinguished friend of the Migration Museum Project. His latest book, From Midnight to Glorious Morning: A Look at India Since 1947, will be published in the new year by Vikas. You can read more about him on his website and follow him on Twitter@mihirbose