“How we treat migrants now will have effects for years to come”: MEPs call for a long-term approach to design effective migration and integration policies in Europe
BRUSSELS, 26 April 20263 – Members of European Parliament Irena Joveva, Magdalena Adamowicz and Valter Flego, together with representatives from the European Commission and academia, called for regulators to consider the long-term effects of migration policies on future generations at a policy roundtable titled “The Migratory Experience: Adopting a three-generational perspective”, part of the final event of the four-year research project Identity on the Line (I-ON).
Members of the European Parliament agreed that inefficient integration and asylum policies contribute to growing prejudice and fueling discrimination against minorities. “Migration, of one kind or another, irrevocably leads to the questioning of one’s own identity and the search for an answer to the question: Who am I? said Irena Joveva, Member of the European Parliament. “However,” she added, “European governments are increasingly talking about multiculturalism as a negative phenomenon that supposedly leads to economic inequality, social fragmentation and loss of cultural identity.”
Identity-building is at the centre of the Identity on the Line (I-ON) project, a large-scale cooperation among six cultural history museums and one university in seven countries in Europe. Earlier in the day, the project leads presented their results and findings in front of an audience from educational, cultural, and political institutions. Through more than 160 in-depth interviews with migrants and their families, I-ON aimed to explore the lasting effects of migratory movements on the process of identity-building for at least three generations. The research was conducted in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Lithuania, Slovenia, and Croatia, and studied migration processes that had not been properly addressed publicly until now.
The policy roundtable that took place in the European Parliament in Brussels was an opportunity to present the project’s findings and recommendations for policymakers: a booklet of proposals for long-term solutions to tackle issues that are too often treated with short-term urgency (see annex). Among others, they include initiatives to raise awareness of the long-term consequences of trauma and silence for individuals, families, and societies. They also address how to diminish the stereotyping of migrants and all forms of ‘othering’ in public discourse.
The recommendations were warmly welcomed by Magdalena Adamowicz, Member of the European Parliament and widow of late Pawel Adamowicz, former mayor of Gdańsk, Poland. She recollected the toxic public debate and the polarisation of public discourse that surrounded the murder of her late husband, who had contributed to making Gdańsk an open and welcoming place for immigrants. “After the murder of my husband, I asked myself – why so much hate?” she stated. “I would like to continue passing his message that being open, being curious of other experiences makes us richer – not only as a society but also economically. Research shows that the more diverse the society, the richer it becomes.”
The project findings have been developed over the past four years, but remain relevant more than ever today. Since the start of Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine in February 2022, Europe has received the largest number of people fleeing war since World War II. This has put further pressure on political discussions around migration, which increasingly rely on a ‘fortress Europe’ approach.
Kathrin Pabst, Project Leader of Identity on the Line, invited policymakers to carefully think about how we integrate migrants today. She stated: “Our project observed that if migrants are not treated with respect, the feelings of being an outsider are often passed down to their children and grandchildren. We risk building communities which foster diversion instead of inclusion, and this is counterproductive if sustainable societies are the goal. We have to act now.”
This sense of urgency was echoed by Wiebke Sievers, Senior Researcher on migration at the Austrian Academy of Science. “What we do to migrants today will have effects in the years to come,” she said. “But change is possible.”
The I-ON project is an example of how museums can contribute to creating a space for unheard voices, facilitating access to information on sensitive historical events and personal experiences, and creating an arena for participation and intercultural dialogue.
The project was praised by Walter Zampieri, Head of Unit at the European Education and Culture Executive Agency. “The European Commission supports a number of projects on cultural heritage, but this is different,” he said. “Heritage is about people – not just buildings or objects – and it carries meaning and values. Identity on the Line is a project about people that highlights the importance of passing down meaning and values to future generations. And it did that at a European level.”
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Maria Paula Grundetjern
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Identity on the Line
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