GS students participate in Migration Governance ‘summer’ school

During the first week of November, we (3 Global Studies students) were invited to join an international summer school on “Migration Governance at the Local Level” hosted by the University of Applied Sciences of Ludwigsburg, Germany. It was a really great and well-organised week, full of learning, socialising and networking.

It was especially very interesting to apply the theory and critical thinking skills that we acquired in Global Studies.

During the lectures and workshops, taught by academics and professionals from different backgrounds, we saw how the concepts from our studies are used in the ‘real world’. For example, we learnt how the asylum process works in the case of Germany, looking at the role of the different stakeholders involved. Moreover, we listened to the perspectives of representatives of the municipality and of the county, as well as social workers working for local NGOs. We noticed how the different points of view contrasted. On one hand, the municipality and the county provided us with an explanation of how well migration governance and integration plans work at the local level, emphasising how their organisation of multicultural activities is improving integration among migrants and locals. On the other hand, the workers of the NGOs complained about the gaps in the asylum process system, pointing out the lack of access to information and to language training classes. “The whole system is made to fail”, said one of the social workers of AWO, a local NGO that works directly with migrants and asylum-seekers.

We also went on an excursion to Strasbourg to visit the Council of Europe. The visit revealed another perspective, one related to policy-making in migration governance at a higher level.
As you can imagine, there is a huge distance between this supranational institution that deals with discussing migration issues and developing action plans, and those social workers that engage practically and locally in making those plans real and applied. In the middle, there are other institutions that act as mediators, such as the national government. However, we learnt that it is exactly that coordination and communication between different levels that usually constitutes a weak point in the implementation of migration policies.

However, we did not only spend our time listening to lectures. In the free moments, we explored the city with the fellow attendants of the summer school and the local students.
All together, it was an interesting and insightful week, in which we not only acquired a lot of information, but also met fellow migration students from all over the world.

We would like to share some takeaways with you. Firstly, migration is one of the most pressing challenges of our century and, for this reason, it has to be addressed by various institutions at different levels. Secondly, the coordination between those institutions is key in addressing the migration crisis, since lack of coordination leads to weak implementation of policies. Thirdly, local governance can change the world. The local level has the crucial task to apply migration policies, developed at higher levels, in the real world. Don’t underestimate the power of municipalities, local NGOs, and social workers, who know better than anyone the needs of the asylum-seekers as well as the local resources that are available.

Chiara Fresia, Evelien Verbiesen and Yorick Zuidema

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