lighting, Diplomacy

[WebDebate] Humanising immigration

05 March 2019 -


Event description

Immigration gives rise to strong emotions. It is explained by conflicting narratives. And it is polarising people and political parties into positions that are either irreconcilable (Trump’s wall), irreversible (Brexit) or unsustainable (Lebanon). With over 68 million refugees worldwide, how can one resolve the problem of immigration? Above all, how can diplomacy humanise immigration so that those conveniently impersonal words, “the problem of immigration”, become more real, more immediate and more compelling to each one of us?


Narratives provide the organising structure of this web debate on “Humanising Immigration.”

Dr Atef Ahmed considers some of the conflicting narratives that characterise the discourse on immigration. He explores some of the following questions: Us versus them – how can images, narratives, and back-stories inform us and change our perception? Are immigrants a threat or an asset and what are the actual risks for host countries in terms of terrorism, jobs, culture, language, and religion that the ‘security-threat’ narrative promotes? Is the information we have a fact or fiction and what role do national statistical offices play? How can we be more inclusive and less divisive?

Mr Barry Tomalin considers the compelling narratives of both Humanitarian and Public Diplomacy. He explores the role of humanitarian diplomacy in immigration and examines its advantages and its limits, in particular, to what extent does humanitarian diplomacy contribute to a receptor nation’s ‘soft power’ image?

Dr Biljana Scott digs up some of the entrenched and often misleading narratives that underpin the debate on immigration: the appeal to fear, to purity, to false causation and the slippery slope fallacy are just some of the logical fallacies that ‘speak for us’. However, since understanding the views of others is fundamental both to this debate and to the practice of diplomacy, she emphasises the legitimacy of different perspectives and the need for acknowledgment and accommodation. This leads her to consider how creative narratives have responded to immigration, from political satire to theatre and literature, and to ask: how can diplomacy be more creative in humanising immigration?

Our Speakers

medium Atef Ahmed

Dr Atef Ahmed (Freelancer Educational Consultant, Cairo, Egypt)

Dr Ahmed has more than 27 years experience in the field of teaching, teachers’ education programs, civic education, civil society organizations, and youth development. He holds a Ph.D. in educational technology from Cairo University and played a pivotal role in the Digital Education Enhancement Project (DEEP) in Egypt, where he oversaw the setup and day-to-day running of the UK government-funded program. Dr Ahmed is a Diplo alumnus and attended the Internet Governance in the MENA Region course in 2016.

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Dr Biljana Scott (Senior Fellow, DiploFoundation)

Dr Scott was trained as a linguist (BA in Chinese, M.Phil and D.Phil in Linguistics, University of Oxford). She is a Senior Lecturer in Language and Diplomacy at DiploFoundation and an associate of the Chinese Institute at Oxford University. She workshops internationally on political rhetoric, diplomatic language and public speaking. Her current focus is on combining force & grace, implicit communication, and intercultural communication.

medium Barry Tomalin

Barry Tomalin, MA (Lecturer at the London Academy of Diplomacy, Glasgow Caledonian University (London), the London School of Economics, Birkbeck College, University of London, and Peoples Friendship University of Russia)

Mr Tomalin is a lecturer and writer specialising in intercultural communication, cultural diplomacy and soft power. He lectures on internationalisation, communication, and cultures and is the author of many books, country monographs and articles on international business communication, including ‘World Business Cultures – a Handbook’ and ‘Cross-Cultural Communication, Theory and Practice.’ He is also an international business consultant advising companies and international organisations on how to engage culturally to ensure successful agreements (both private and public-private partnerships) and export promotion. A former BBC World Service producer and presenter, Barry has worked in over 60 countries worldwide.

Join us online on 5 March at 12:00 UTC / 13:00 CET.

About our WebDebates

The WebDebates on the future of diplomacy are live streamed on the first Tuesday of every month. They are organised by Diplo within the framework of the International Forum on Diplomatic Training (IFDT). Learn more about our series of WebDebates.

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