Irregular Migrations: More Creative and Forward Thinking, Empathy and Political Courage Needed!

Marko Savković

21. February 2014

Irregular Migrations: More Creative and Forward Thinking, Empathy and Political Courage Needed!

Day One, Friday, 21 February

Coming straight from the citizens protest against various acts of violence that have happened in Nish in the past months, Serbia’s Ombudsman, Mr. Sasa Jankovic, could perhaps only direct sobering words at today’s political elites. His message, direct and clear, that one (young and aspiring politician) has to ask him/herself who belongs in his/hers company and start reaffirming the ethics and values of integrity and social empathy, before the rising tide of protests turns against all political options and makes implementing change even harder – deeply resonated with our participants.

 

Next up were our special guests, members of the award-winning Debate Club of Belgrade Faculty of Political Science who, modelled after the British parliamentary debate, offered their arguments in favor and against the controversial thesis how migrants can be “sold” to other countries willing to accept them, all in order to ease the pressure on labor markets of more developed countries. A big round of applause went to Selena Torlakovic, Helena Ivanov, Stefan Siridzanski and Djordje Jovicevic.

 
Day Two, Saturday, 22 February
 

On Saturday morning, 22 February, Deputy Director of the Directorate for Policy Planning in the Council of Europe, Mr. Michael Remmert sketched out the “infrastructure” of irregular migrations originating from Western Balkans. His three main points: on cash benefits being provided to asylum seekers in Western Europe, role of diaspora as a “support network” and travel agencies operating all but ilegally were further elaborated in the ensuing discussion, with seasonal employment as a potential corrective measure.  

Despina Syrri opened up the “case study Greece” debate with a moving photo of Somali migrants in Djibouti trying to catch phone signal from their country of origin, which won the World Press Award in 2014.

Grigoris Tsioukas then guided us through the evolution of migration issues in Greece since 1990. One of the most striking pieces of data in his presentation was that “there are no official and reliable data on ilegally staying foreigners (third country nationals) in Greece at this moment” and that conservative estimates run around 300,000. Ioannis Papageorgiou followed with how the original system of asylum in Greece had collapsed, highlighting the inter-connection and effects it had on the EU.

In the ensuing discussion with participants, which encompassed issues from European hipocrisy to youth unemployment, Mr. Papageorgiou, an academic with years of experience working with irregular migrants, sent a message of his own to RAD generation 2014: don’t wait for others (the EU) to solve the problem-prepare (don’t make the same mistake); use pre-acession funding wisely; and finally, adapt to the fact that all our societies are going to become multicultural. Despina Syrri added a few words of her own, how we have to stop seeing this only as a problem and start seeing opportunities – work on inter-cultural skills, and improve or re-invent both education and employment policy.

Dražen Maravić, our 2013 alumni, spoke on what kind of knowledge and skill set is expected from next generation of political leadership. An interview with Dražen will soon be featured at our RAD Talks section.

And finally, day two of our program in Nish was closed with Ms. Brikena Balli’s presentation on labor migration and impact on the areas of origin.

Day Three, Sunday, 23 February

Day three of our program in Nish was entirely devoted to understanding mixed migration (flows). Vladimir Petronijevic, Group 484 Executive Director, explained how people move through the region: where are the entry points and which the most likely routes are by using the statistics made available by EU’s FRONTEX agency. With Despina Syrri’s interventions, we could all draw a map of movements, and see how they have changed in the past three years. Miroslava Jelacic, Group 484′s Legal Analyst, on the practical example of migration profiles showed us that countries in the region have no accurate statistics – meaning they are not really thinking forward and preparing for what will come.

First part of Vladimir and Miroslava’s presentation was closed with debating the political context surrounding the migration debate in Western European countries who are leading members of the European Union. We then proceeded with Miroslava’s case study of (failings of) asylum system in Serbia. Through statistics, media reports and photographs, Miroslava painted a hardly flattering picture on the state of mind and debate; reminded us all of the living conditions people in transit (persons who are trying to reach Western Europe through the Balkans route) experience, while Vladimir asked the audience what is their take on migrations policies now.

RAD class of 2014 visits Beograd-mala. Pictured here: Ferhad Saiti speaking.

Finally, last part of RAD program for day three was organized in cooperation with Roma community leaders in Nish – Osman Balic, Ferhad Saiti and Turkijan Redzepi. In three groups, our participants visited the “Beograd-mala”, largest Roma settlement in Nish. What they saw and heard was heart-moving and thought-provoking. We will finish the seminar on Monday morning by conversing with these same leaders.