Panel 1

Reinforcing borders and images of the “other” in light of COVID-19:
New gateways for discrimination against “refugee children” in education

November 11, 2020
16:00 – 18:00 (Germany) / 17:00 – 19:00 (Greece) / 18:00 – 20:00 (Turkey)

The ways in which the rights of marginalized and racialized groups are currently being addressed have proven particularly ambivalent. On the one hand, manifestations of structural racism are denounced and discussed in the context of the murder of George Floyd among a wider public. On the other hand, nationalist understandings of solidarity are being inscribed into the political responses to COVID-19 promoting structural discrimination against numerous social groups. This becomes particularly evident in the case of those children living in camps on the Greek islands of Chios, Samos, and Lesbos, which are deprived of access to their right to education. At the same time, increasing anti-immigrant sentiments and political discourses have been strengthened in light of the pandemic in migration societies such as Turkey, Germany, and Greece, which might open additional gateways for discrimination of “immigrant students” in these societies and their education systems.

In this panel we discuss how the mentioned discursive dynamics and resulting policies reinforce societal and educational inequalities and impact children’s right to education and non-discrimination. We further ask how governments can ensure that all children are able to learn in an environment that is safe and free of fear and take more responsibility in protecting children and their families from (racist) discrimination on the national and international levels.


Deniz Yükseker

has been a professor and the chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Istanbul Aydın University since 2015. She received her PhD in Sociology from Binghamton University in 2000 and previously taught in the Department of Political Science at Bilkent University (2000–2001), Department of Sociology  at the Johns Hopkins University (2001–2003), and the Department of Sociology at Koç University (2003-2015). Her research and publications span the fields of the informal economy between the former Soviet Union and Turkey, forced displacement of Kurds, African migration to Turkey, history of migration studies in Turkey, women’s education, political economy of the hazelnut value chain, and the working conditions of service providers working with Syrian refugees.


Ayhan Kaya

is a professor of political science and the Jean Monnet Chair of European Politics of Interculturalism at the Department of International Relations, Istanbul Bilgi University; Director of the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence; and a member of the Science Academy, Turkey. He is currently a European Research Council Advanced Grant holder (ERC AdG, 2019–2024). He received his PhD and MA degrees at the University of Warwick, England. He specializes in European identities; Euro-Turks in Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands; Circassian diaspora in Turkey; the construction and articulation of modern transnational identities; refugee studies in Turkey; conventional and nonconventional forms of political participation in Turkey; and the rise of populist movements in the EU. His most recent book manuscript is titled “Populism and Heritage in Europe: Lost in Diversity and Unity” (London: Routledge, 2019). His most recent edited volume is “Memory in European Populism” (London: Routledge, 2019, with Chiara de Cesari). His other books include “Turkish Origin Migrants and their Descendants: Hyphenated Identities in Transnational Space” (Palgrave, 2018), “Europeanization and Tolerance in Turkey” (London: Palgrave, 2013), and “Islam, Migration and Integration: The Age of Securitization” (London: Palgrave, 2012). Ayhan will speak on “Exclusionary effects of recent border closures and nationalist notions of solidarity on refugee children and their families.”

Liz Fekete

is the director of the Institute of Race Relations and head of its European Research Programme. She has worked at the IRR since 1982. She writes and speaks extensively on aspects of contemporary racism and fascism, refugee rights, EU counter-radicalization and anti-terrorism policies, and Islamophobia across Europe. She is the author of A suitable enemy: racism, migration and Islamophobia in Europe” (Pluto Press, 2009) and Europe’s Fault Lines: racism and the rise of the Right” (Verso, 2018). Liz was part of the CARF Collective and an expert witness at the Basso Permanent People’s Tribunal on asylum and the World Tribunal on Iraq. She is currently an associate of the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London and the Border Crossing Observatory at Monash University, Australia. Liz will speak on “Intersectional dimensions of racism in the aftermath of COVID-19.”

Zekria Farzad

is a human rights activist born in Kabul, Afghanistan. He currently lives in Athens, together with his wife and five children, after living one year in the Moria refugee camp. Zerkia graduated in journalism and is the chairman of Farda e Ziba” (Beautiful Tomorrow) magazine, which is published once a month in Kabul. Apart from that he has established many other social and educational institutions in and outside Afghanistan. His latest work is establishing “Wave of hope for the future” – a project in which refugees organize themselves to offer education to the children who are forced to live in camps. Zekria will speak on Education in the midst of an emergency: Approaches and current challenges on the political and societal levels.”

Mohammed Jouni

is a social worker at “BBZ” – an advice and care center for young refugees and migrants in Berlin. After Mohammed lived with a Duldung (tolerated status) in Germany for years, he founded the “Youths without borders” initiative in 2005 together with a group of self-affected people. The initiative campaigns for refugees’ and asylum seekers’ right to stay in Germany and against the structural discrimination of young people, especially with regard to access to education. In addition to his activism at “Youths without borders,” Mohammed is a board member of “BumF,” the Federal Association of Unaccompanied Refugee Minors and a volunteer school sponsor as part of the project “School without Racism – School with Courage” at the Paulo Freire Vocational School in Berlin. As an empowerment trainer, Mohammed coordinated the author collective for the book “Between Barriers, Dreams and Self-Organization – Experiences of Young Refugees.” He will speak on Voices of ‘refugees’ against structural discrimination in education in the context of changing political and societal discourses.”


María do Mar Castro Varela

is a professor of pedagogy and social work at the Alice Salomon University in Berlin with a focus on Gender and Queer Studies. She holds a double degree in psychology and pedagogy and a PhD in political science. Her research interests, in addition to Gender and Queer Studies, are postcolonial theory, critical migration studies, and critical education. In 2014 she was a visiting fellow at the Institute for International Law and the Humanities in Melbourne, Australia, and in 2015/16 she was granted a senior fellowship at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) in Vienna. María do Mar is the founder of the “bildungsLab” in Berlin and Citizen Ambassador of the Free Rohingya Coalition (FRC). She is the author of “Untimely Utopias. Migrant Women between Learned Hope and Self-Invention”; “Postcolonial Theory. A Critical Introduction” (with Nikita Dhawan); “The demonization of Others” (ed. with Paul Mecheril) [all published in German].

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