Sociologist tackles immigration angst at global forum


Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley participating in a plenary session at The International Metropolis Conference in The Hague.


Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley challenged international immigration experts at a major gathering in The Hague recently to understand why there is such widespread anxiety about immigration.

He also asked why that anxiety has resulted in support for nationalist and anti-immigration politicians in many places.

He was part of a plenary panel and chair of another panel at The International Metropolis Conference in The Netherlands, where he argued that it was “inadequate to simply put such anxieties down to misinformation or to dismiss them as irrational.”

Anti-immigration sentiment has been a key feature of elections in the United States, the United Kingdom and parts of Europe in the past year or so.

A frequent media commentator on immigration in the New Zealand context, Professor Spoonley was one of three representatives from CaDDANZ (Capturing the Diversity Dividend of Aotearoa/New Zealand) research team, including sociologist Dr Jess Terruhn.

The conference – a major international meeting concerning immigration, with a strong focus on policy debates – brought together politicians, those responsible for policy in a range of countries around the world, university and non-governmental organisation researchers. This year’s theme was Immigration and Global Justice.

Professor Spoonley, Pro Vice-Chancellor for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Dr Terruhn, also took part in an initial workshop on Syrian conflict refugees. “This is an international study involving researchers from Canada, Sweden, the UK, Finland and Australia, and has received funding from the Australian Research Council [$AU 450,000],” Professor Spoonley says.

The International Metropolis Project is the largest international network of researchers, policy makers, and community groups engaged in identifying, understanding, and responding to developments in migration and diversity.

Connecting researchers, key decision-makers, and practitioners around the globe, facilitating the production and effective communication of policy-relevant knowledge amongst different stakeholders since the mid-1990s, the network includes partners in North America, Europe, and Australia, with a growing presence in Africa, Latin America, and the Asia-Pacific region. 

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