Care and the immigrant crisis

A few days ago Norwegians elected their new parliament. In this article Per Nortvedt of the University of Oslo, reflects on why these elections should have led to a different immigration policy.

Just and fair: care and the immigration crisis
By Per Nortvedt, University of Oslo

At the funeral of Emmanuel Levinas in 1995, Jacques Derrida gave a speech on the importance of welcoming the Other. He called this an “ethics of hospitality”, of including and respecting otherness, that is the other person in his or her diversity and individuality. The ongoing refugee crisis in Europe with Italy and Greece as gatekeepers for the “Selfish North” (Germany and Sweden as exceptions) pictures an ethics, not of hospitality, but of exclusion. The Norwegian election for the new parliament on September 11, showed us a nation, the so called happiest and second wealthiest on the globe, that showed no interest at all in the Syrian and North African refugee crisis . The only mantra that was uttered during the election campaign by the dominant political parties (social democrats and right wing parties) was the need for a strict and so called just asylum policy in the future to come.

Norway has become extremely rich, due to gas and oil production, contributing to the upcoming climate crisis that will create millions of refugees in the future. Almost no refugees are coming in to Norway these days, while Italy and Greece are packed with them. What is fair and just in such a situation? Should not the wealthy western nations which over the years have contributed immensely to the upcoming refugee crisis, destabilized Libya and Irak (which lead up to the Syrian war and the creation of IS), take their burden and welcome the poor and suffering people from other nations?

What would be a just care ethical policy in such a context of climate and migration? What would be a care ethical policy that includes concern for those far away who suffer most, and the concerns for our compatriots, including citizens that suffer, while also caring for future generations? This is an immense ethical challenge, but it has to be addressed, if we are to avoid future climate wars, genocides and exclusion of other nationals in the future. One could perhaps start with the suggestion from a minor leftist party in Norway, now getting one person elected to the parliament, of taking in 20000 refugees to Norway per year over the coming years.
Norway has the financial resources, the infrastructure – what is lacking is political will. We took responsibility with the Bosnian refugees in the 1990´s, we could do it again.
Succeeding in such a solidarity policy would be paying back some of our political and economical debt to the poor nations and their people. And it would set an example (a care ethical one) for future European policies and give us valuable experiences for future crisis that would else show biblical proportions
Against this political background, an ethics of care must sketch out what caring means on a global scale. Thus an ethics of hospitality and care comes to life.

Oslo September 13th, 2017

Per Nortvedt is professor in medical ethics, Center for medical ethics , University of Oslo
He studies into the foundation of ethics in nursing and medicine, including care ethics and ethics of proximity. Of particular interest is the relationship between moral sensitivity and clinical knowledge. His other main interest is to study value choices and dilemmas in clinical priorities in nursing and medicine. The question concerning partiality and impartiality in health care priorities is of particular interest in this regard. In addition he has an interest in the role of parents and family in deciding for children and noncompetent patients. This includes the role of advanced directives and proxy decisions in health care. Keyword here is shared decisionmaking. Recently  he has also been working on the relationship between empathy and morality, an in particular the question of moral corruption and evil; when principles and empathy breaks down and professions become involved in evildoing.

About the author: Webteam

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