OXFORD: The inaugural Omar Azfar Lecture on Social Justice was held on Tuesday at Balliol College, University of Oxford.

The Master of Balliol, Sir Drummond Bone, inaugurated the first of an annual lecture series in memory of the late economist Omar Azfar, who matriculated at Balliol College in 1987.

Sir Bone thanked Mr Azfar’s family for supporting the new lecture series. The session was also addressed by Dr Mursaleena Islam who spoke about Mr Azfar’s work on social justice.

Professor Christina Boswell from the University of Edinburgh delivered the main address which was titled “Justice by Numbers? Public Policy and the Rights of Immigrants”. Her lecture drew largely on her own research on social justice, particularly on matters relating to reliance by the UK government on numerical targets for policy on immigration.

She argued that quantitative targets distorted the policy process in significant ways, with damaging implications for moral deliberation and for distributive justice.

She said that following former prime minister Tony Blair’s pledge to cut asylum applications to Britain by half within a six-month period, an oversimplified and narrow public debate over the grant of asylum had resulted in adverse consequences with respect to social justice.

As a result, deeper underlying issues, such as an indifference to the causes of steep rise in asylum applications, had been neglected.

Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2015

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