Episode 2: The many faces of migration

In the second episode, we discuss migration, refugee knowledge and European border control with Dr. Magdalena Kmak, the team leader of subproject 3 in EuroStorie. How do we label and categorize refugees and migrants? Who is welcome to Europe and who is excluded, and on what basis? How could we best handle exceptional situations like the COVID-19 pandemic and protect all humans, including those forced to leave their home countries?

Listen to the episode on: Spotify, Breaker, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts and Radio Public.

Episode summary:

Our guest Dr. Magdalena Kmak is the team leader of subproject 3 in EuroStorie. She focuses in her research on law, migration and mobility and the relationship between these. She has an edited book coming out next spring, called “Refugee Scholarship and Refugee Knowledges of Europe”.

According to Kmak, there is a certain kind of knowledge about refugees which is created by institutions, migration officers and other authorities. It is a general idea of who the refugees are, how they look like and how they should behave and those who do not fit into this mold are in the risk of being considered unauthentic or “bogus” asylum seekers. The book shifts the gaze from knowledge about refugees to the knowledge refugees themselves have about Europe.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has shown that despite border closings, people still attempt to come to Europe. It has been argued that European migration policies are too slack, yet even stricter border and migration policies, the securitization of migration, does not stop people from coming, as has been seen.

“It seems like people are not coming because it would be so easy, but perhaps they have serious reasons to leave their homes”, says Kmak. She emphasizes that even if we tend to have a unified idea about refugees, the truth is much more nuanced.

As the pandemic took over the news, the refugee crisis faded from the media almost completely. Kmak takes the example of how Finnish citizens were strongly encouraged to return to Finland from abroad as the pandemic broke out, yet it did not seem to concern the citizens living in the Al-Hol refugee camp in Syria.

“We can see that there are so-called good and bad citizens and some people are more welcome here than others.”

Many countries have closed their borders, yet according to Kmak it would be wise to grant health care to all people residing in a country, in order to prevents the spread of the virus. Although there is a common migration policy in Europe, it is not applied consistently. Kmak believes that collaboration-based practices in Europe would be more beneficial in exceptional situations like pandemics.

References in the episode:

Magdalena Kmak & Elisa Pascucci: "Eurooppalaisen elämäntavan suojeleminen" / Politiikasta.fi 7.11.2019

10 Need-to-know Books by Olga Tokarczuk / Culture.pl 22.1.2020

Daria Krivonos: Ukrainian Farm Workers and Finland's Regular Army of Labour / Raster 30.4.2020


Magdalena Kmak

Dr. Magdalena Kmak is the team leader of subproject 3 at EuroStorie. She is a professor in Public International Law at the Åbo Akademi University. Magdalena received her PhD from the Institute of Law Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences and previously she worked as a researcher and university lecturer in international law at the Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki.

Her research interests encompass new minorities, exile studies and history of migration, public international law, human rights and international and European refugee and migration law.

Bea Bergholm

Bea Bergholm is the host of the podcast. She has a Master's Degree in Social Sciences (social and cultural anthropology) and works as a project planner at the Centre of Excellence in Law, Identity and the European Narratives. She is interested in human rights issues, environmental justice and sustainable development.

Paolo Amorosa

Dr. Paolo Amorosa the host of the EuroStorie podcast. He is a post-doctoral researcher in subproject 1, Law and the Uses of the Past. He has a background in international law, law and religion, and legal theory. His research deals primarily with the history of international law and human rights in the twentieth century.


Episode no: 2
Release date: 5 August 2020
Recording: ArtLab Helsinki
Audio elements: Antonio Lopez Garcia
Banner photo: Unsplash/Jakob Braun
Text: Bea Bergholm
Banner: Tuomas Heikkilä