By Vito Manzari from Martina Franca (TA), Italy (Immigrati Lampedusa) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commonslogo university Tartu

General Information

The joint workshop organised by the COST Action on Disaster Bioethics and the Centre for Ethics (University of Tartu, Estonia) aimed to map the ethical, social and political dimensions of the current refugee crisis in Europe and link these to the Disaster Bioethics overall focus on ethical decision-making in disaster situations. The justification for the workshop lies in the fact that COST brings together EU scholars in ethics and disaster response from almost all EU countries. As of yet there has been no consistent EU response to the fact that regularly thousands of refugees are arriving at the shores of Europe and that some die on their way.

Workshop Description

How does the refugee crisis compare conceptually to the expertise we have on other disaster settings? What guidance do the theoretical approaches give us in the situation when the crisis does not qualify as "sudden onset" but has become a regular occurrence? What does EU mean in this context when there is no common strategy to deal with the problem? Or to ask even more personally - what are the responsibilities of the professionals (ethicists, disaster medicine specialists and others) in the COST action? How can we, from an ethical standpoint frame the dilemmas and dissect the shortcomings in responding to the crisis? It is time for EU scholars with expertise in both ethics and disaster response to come together and suggests ways forward for EU in responding to this crisis that is likely to continue and most probably worsen over time.

The more specific foci of the workshop included:

  • European public discourses on the refugees
  • Ethical dimensions of the current crisis
  • The role of professional ethics and disaster response in the crisis – from charity to duty and beyond
  • Mapping of the national political views on the crisis and the response
  • Refugees in Europe – a global justice view
  • Comparative analysis from disaster medicine – similarities, differences, challenges
  • Historical and economic context of the refugee crisis

The workshop took place in Tartu, Estonia on February 13-14, 2014.


Day 1 - 13 February 2014 (18 participants)

08.30 Opening words by Prof Margit Sutrop, Head of the Centre for Ethics and Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy
08.45 Eva Piirimäe (University of Tartu, Institute of Government and Politics)
Liberal Nationalism and the Duties to the Strangers
09.30 Dónal O’Mathúna (Dublin City University, School of Nursing and Human Sciences)
Why welcome the stranger? Foundations for ethics and refugees (PDF)
10.30 Eero Janson (Estonian Refugee Council)
Mapping the refugee policies in the EU.
13.00 Ayesha Ahmad (University College London) and Emanuele Valenti (Universidad Europea)
Moral, Cultural, and Religious Factors Against Disclosure of Sexual Violence in Disaster Situations (PDF)
13.45 Goran Mijaljica (University of Split School of Medicine and Psychiatric Hospital Ugljan)
Mental health services for asylum seekers in Croatia and the European Union
14.45 Eleni Kalokairinou (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Department of Philosophy and Education)
Developing a fair European refugee policy: thoughts and suggestions of a south European country.
15.30 Kadri Simm (University of Tartu, Institute of Philosophy and Semiotics)
What do theories of global justice say about the refugee problem?

Day 2 - 14 February 2014 (10 participants)

08.30 Johan von Schreeb (Disaster medicine specialist Karolinska Institute, Department of Public Health)
A slow onset disaster? The refugee crisis in EU, what is at stake? How will our actions/in-actions be judged by history?


Open discussion on how to proceed with the topic and future actions.

General questions or comments can be addressed to Kadri Simm at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

By Vito Manzari from Martina Franca (TA), Italy (Immigrati Lampedusa) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons