Workshop examining migration from South Asia to the EU

On the 6th of June, surgeon IRMA’s team  organized a closed research workshop on the migration system from South Asia to the EU. Invited researchers working on Afghan and Pakistani migration to Europe, phimosis had the opportunity to discuss and compare research results with the team members responsible for the respective case studies, drugs namely Dr. Angeliki Dimitriadi and Ms.Michaela Maroufof. Working language was English.

You can download the agenda of the workshop here.

Summary of the workshop:

The workshop was organized in the framework of the IRMA program and sought to facilitate the exchange of information, research results, ideas and practices around the nationalities and themes investigated in the project. With this in mind, invitations were issued to researchers have conducted research either in the countries of interest and/or with the migratory trajectory of the two groups in the EU. The closed workshop took place in Athens on June 6, 2014.

The first session was devoted to migration from Afghanistan to Greece and the EU. The initial results of the field research that took place in Greece and Turkey (transit country for the Afghans) were presented and linked with the first report produced in the framework of IRMA. The issue of asylum was discussed, how it is perceived by the Afghans and especially in relation to the Greek context. At the same time, it was noted that the reduction in arrivals should not be linked solely to the policies of deterrence applied at the Greek-Turkish borders; it is in fact also a result of systematic forced returns of 2nd generation Afghanis, pushed back from Iran and Pakistan to Afghanistan. Afghan migration was discussed in a broader socio-political framework, where migration is not only part of the history of the nation but a common practice reinforced by the existence of transnational networks around Afghanistan (particularly in Iran and Pakistan). Reference was made to remittances and how migration, even in the context of forced displacement can be a strategic choice for the family and / or the individual.

Participants also discussed Afghan immigration in the Netherlands. It was particularly interesting to see that there are common elements with Greece, namely the increase of unaccompanied Afghan minors, and general over-representation of Hazaras compared to other tribes. The transit from Greece was highlighted, reinforced by the negative experiences of Afghans during their stay in the country. Finally participants discussed the importance of Turkey as a transit and destination country for the Afghans. The Afghans are the third largest ethnicity after the Syrians and Iraqis in Turkey. Until recently, there were 5,000 registered asylum claims, and almost 3,000 recognitions (granted by UNHCR). They are, however, one of the least resettled nationalities, especially when compared to Iranians. Especially for the U.S. Afghans are intrinsically linked to the wider problem of terrorism, which has resulted often in refusal to resettle candidates, despite often, insufficient examination of the request. The result is that a significant number end up staying in Turkey, recognized as refugees by UNHCR and yet unable to remain indefinitely in the country (due to the structure of the asylum in Turkey). Instead they remain in a ‘pending’ state, which impacts their access to benefits and protection and often pushes them towards transit.

In conclusion, the first session emphasized the importance of understanding the political and economic and social conditions in the countries of origin and transit, the mixed migration flows departing from Afghanistan consisting of refugees and (recently) economic migrants, the importance of Turkey and Greece as transit countries and the importance of perceiving the Afghans not a victims but as active participants in the migratory process.

The second session of the workshop focused on Pakistani migration. The session kicked off with a short presentation on the background report on Pakistani migration to Greece and the first findings of the project’s field research in Greece and Istanbul.  A presentation on irregular migration in Denmark followed, and the challenge of ‘semi-legality’ faced by Pakistani migrants who are unable to reunite with their family due to certain restrictions. The alternative strategies utilized by migrants in an effort to overcome the obstacles in place, were discussed. The final presentation offered a psychosocial interpretation of the fantasy of return. Although presentation topics were widely diverse, the exchange of feedback and comments during the final part of the session was extremely fruitful. The discussion focused on the use of different strategies that respond to the different policy frameworks and the limitations they pose. Another issue that was discussed was the remittance behavior of migrants and the factors that have an impact on it. Finally, there was extensive debate on return migration and specifically the gap between talking about return and actually doing it, linked also with the fantasy of return.