Media Advisory: Refugees, migrants the focus of events in memory of Alison Des Forges

Refugees boarding public transit.

Experts from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International will be among presenters at symposium

Release Date: April 7, 2016 This content is archived.

Alison Des Forges.

Alison Des Forges.

The event honors the memory and achievements of historian, human rights activist and Buffalo native Alison L. Des Forges, who was one of the world’s leading experts on the genocide in Rwanda.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The massive flow of refugees and other migrants into Europe has caught the world’s attention in recent months, with over 1 million people streaming across the continent’s borders just last year.

To enhance our understanding of the historical roots and global dimensions of this crisis, experts from leading human rights organizations will convene on April 14 at the University at Buffalo for an international symposium on refugees, migrants, human trafficking and slavery.

Presenters will range from Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, to Evelyn Chumbow, a survivor of and activist against human trafficking.

The event, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, April 14, will take place in 120 Clemens Hall on UB’s North Campus.

It is free and open to the public.

Speakers will seek to uncover the sources of the contemporary explosion of human trafficking and forced migration from Africa and the Middle East to Europe, and to explore solutions. Furthermore, the event will discuss the conditions that permit the persistence of slavery in our times, and focus on how people can act to alleviate those conditions.

The event honors the memory and achievements of the internationally known historian, human rights activist and Buffalo native, Alison L. Des Forges, PhD, who was one of the world’s leading experts on the genocide in Rwanda prior to her death in a plane crash in 2009.

The symposium will be followed by a scholarship dinner and discussion from 6:30-9:30 p.m. April 14 at the Jacobs Executive Development Center at 672 Delaware Ave., Buffalo. Proceeds support an endowment that funds Alison L. Des Forges Memorial Scholarships for Buffalo Public Schools graduates demonstrating a strong interest in pursuing studies at UB related to human rights and social justice.

Reservations are required for the dinner, which costs $100 per seat. Interested persons should please contact Kathleen Curtis at 716-645-2077 or

The symposium will include the following presentations:

  • Drivers of Displacement: How War, Repression, Terror and Neglect led to Europe's Refugee Catastrophe
    Joe Stork, Deputy Director, Middle East and North Africa, Human Rights Watch

  • Understanding Migration from Sub-Saharan Africa to Europe: Might Efforts to Stem the Flow Work?
    Karen Jacobsen, Acting Director, Feinstein International Center, Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy, and Associate Research Professor, Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Tufts University

  • Refugees Welcome? How Europe's Incoherent Policy, Scapegoating, and Exploitation of Terrorism Have Failed Refugees
    Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on criminal justice, counter-terrorism and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

  • Fighting Slavery from the Grassroots Up
    Karen Stauss, Director of Programs, Free the Slaves

  • From Cameroon to the U.S. and From Slavery to Freedom
    Evelyn Chumbow, Survivor of and Activist against Human Trafficking

For a complete schedule of events, visit

Sponsors include the Alison L. Des Forges Memorial Committee, UB Asian Studies Program, UB Community for Global Health Equity, UB Departments of Comparative Literature, History and Political Science, UB Humanities Institute, UB Department of Philosophy Samuel P. Capen Chair, UB Office of the Vice Provost for International Education and UB School of Social Work.

About Alison Des Forges:

Alison Des Forges worked as a volunteer to improve public education in Buffalo and was Senior Advisor to the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch at the time of her death in 2009 in the crash of Continental flight 3407. She was one of the world’s leading experts on Rwanda and served as expert witness in 11 trials at the United Nations International Criminal Court for Rwanda. Her award-winning book, “Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda,” is a landmark account of the 1994 genocide that has been translated into German, French, and Kinyarwanda. Her tireless efforts to awaken the international community to the horrors of that event earned her a MacArthur Fellowship in 1999.

Media Contact Information

Charlotte Hsu is a former staff writer in University Communications. To contact UB's media relations staff, email or visit our list of current university media contacts.