Last Thursday, Professor Alison Phipps gave a public lecture at Flinders co-hosted by the Southgate Institute and the University of South Australia Hawke EU Centre for Mobilities, Migrations and Cultural Transformations. Professor Phipps is Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies at the University of Glasgow and the first UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration Through Languages and the Arts. She is also the Co-Convener of the Glasgow Refugee, Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNET).
Drawing on a vast experience in the area and her own poetry, Professor Phipps spoke about the negative impacts on health and wellbeing of detention for asylum seekers drawing on European and Australian perspectives. She gave an impassioned account of asylum seekers in often extremely long periods in detention with very difficult conditions, and how devastating this was for health and wellbeing. She recounted the stories of 3 different asylum seekers who had been in detention in the UK system, including one man who was forcibly deported and killed shortly after arriving back in his home country. Professor Phipps also warned the increasing numbers of people outside formal detention systems are being co-opted in the monitoring of asylum seekers including academics who she said had become ‘academic border guards’ in being required to report on their students to immigration authorities (see https://gramnet.wordpress.com/2016/02/13/the-academic-border-guard/ for her poem about this).
Professor Phipps outlined a range of actions taken by academics and activists to help protect the health and wellbeing of asylum seekers in the UK. This included the #timeforatimelimit campaign which is fighting indefinite detention, the detention visitors scheme, and the Bail Observation Project which aims to scrutinise the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal by encouraging volunteers to attend its bail hearings to publicise concerns and to propose improvements.
Later that afternoon Professor Phipps worked with a small group of academics and also asylum seekers who were assisting with research, to consider the ways that research at Flinders could best work to protect the health and wellbeing of asylum seekers and refugees.