The Holy See and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance reflect on the past to inform future refugee policy

January 8, 2017 Agencies
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16-17 February 2017 the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), in cooperation with the Holy See, will hold a conference for public policy-makers from EuropeNorth America and the Middle East, media representatives and representatives of NGOs and civil society organisations at the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome focusing on refugee policies from 1933 to the present day.

Pope Francis has made compassion and generosity to refugees a hallmark of his papacy, referring to Europe’s migrant crisis as “the greatest humanitarian crisis, after the Second World War.”

At a time when the current situation of refugees in Europe and the Middle East continues to dominate the news and the political arena, this conference brings together experts in Holocaust history and contemporary policy-makers to reflect on the past with a view to concretely informing positive, ethically responsible, and rational policy-making today. The outcome of the conference will be a concrete set of recommendations for international policy-makers.

Speakers include Mons. Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, Secretariat of State of the Holy See, Ms. Kristina Touzenis, Head of the International Migration Law Unit, International Organization for Migration, and Mr. Stefan Lehne, Carnegie Foundation, Brussels. The draft programme and further information on speakers is available on the website of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

The IHRA Chair, Ambassador Mihnea Constantinescu, said: “We are honoured to be holding this conference with the Holy See and our cooperation should send a strong signal to the international community that we have both a moral and a historical responsibility to address the present-day situation facing refugees. The IHRA knows all too well the consequences of the international community failing to act. The current refugee situation is the litmus test for international solidarity.”

Dr Veerle Vanden Daelen, part of the team organizing the conference, said: “When considering what we, as experts and educators on Holocaust history, could do to take action in the current refugee situation, we realised our strength lies in our expertise. Policy-makers and people working on the ground with refugees have little to no time to read anthologies on the refugee policies of the 1930s, but we can make our knowledge on successful and failed refugee policies from the past visible and accessible to organizations and governments dealing with this issue today.”

The conference “Refugee Policies from 1933 until Today:  Challenges and Responsibilities” is organized by Advisor to the IHRA, Professor Steven Katz, Co-Head of the Austrian Delegation to the IHRA, Ambassador Michael Baier, Dr Robert Williams, Deputy Director of International Affairs at United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (US Delegation to the IHRA) and Dr Veerle Vanden Daelen, adjunct general director and curator of Kazerne Dossin (Belgian Delegation to the IHRA). The conference hashtag will be #seekingprotection.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance unites governments and experts to shape and advance Holocaust education, remembrance and research world-wide, to speak out on Holocaust related issues including antisemitism, and to uphold the commitments of the 2000 Stockholm Declaration. The IHRA has 31 Member Countrieseleven Observer Countries, and seven international partner organisations.

Due to limited capacity, attendance at the conference is by invitation only. If you represent an NGO or civil society organization working on refugee issues, please send a request to attend with your name, position and organization name to  by no later than 15 January 2017. Your attendance is not assured until you have received a confirmation email from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

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