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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

The dangerous journey: UF professors discuss refugee crisis

As Europe struggles to find an answer to the dilemma of what to do with the hundreds of thousands of people pouring into its countries, Gainesville residents and students came together Wednesday night to discuss what many are calling a refugee crisis.

To a room of about 50, UF professors discussed the facts of the migration and why refugees and migrants are making the dangerous journey toward Europe.

"For the first time since the Cold War... Europe is actually facing a large influx of refugees from outside its region," said Maria Stoilkova, who holds a joint position with the UF Center for European Studies and the Department of Anthropology at UF.

The Center for European Studies hosted the panel in Pugh Hall on Wednesday to inform students about the refugee crisis. Four UF professors sat on the panel to discuss refugees who have fled Syria since 2011 due to its bloody civil war. While many refugees — especially Syrians — are in Middle Eastern countries, the professors focused on Europe’s response to refugees seeking safety and opportunity.

They specifically focused on what they called a mixed response from Europeans, with some welcoming the refugees with open arms and others showing hesitation and hostility, worrying about overpopulation and the consequences of welcoming so many refugees and migrants into their countries.

Alin Ceobanu, assistant professor appointed with both the Department of Sociology and the Center for European Studies, said the hostility toward refugees stems from xenophobia shared among Europeans and the rise of right populist parties.

"You’re going to find that Europeans generally speaking do not accept those perceived as outsiders with open arms," Ceobanu said.

Furthermore, Europeans are divided over whether the thousands pouring in are refugees fleeing war or migrants seeking economic opportunities.

"Throughout the crisis there’s been another debate edged on whether Europe faces a refugee or migrant crisis," Stoilkova said.

Yet for students wondering what they can do about the crisis, Ceobanu said the options are limited beyond donating to aid organizations helping the refugees and migrants.

"Those immigrants or those refugees are human beings and they deserve the respect any one of us should be entitled to receive," he said.

Gedaliah Dreyfuss, 19, said students should be informed about the crisis.

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"There’s a responsibility, I think… to understand what goes on around you, so what goes on at UF, what goes on in Florida, in the United States and what’s going on abroad," the UF geography freshman said.

Contact Hunter Williamson at and follow him on Twitter @hunterewilliam

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