Young scholars and activists from Europe and Africa discuss migration and democracy

On 19 September 2022, the Centre for Migration, Diversity and Justice at the VUB-Brussels School of Governance organised its maiden youth debate panel, featuring young scholars and activists from Europe and Africa to share their viewpoints on migration and democracy. This event is part of an ongoing initiative to promote as well as strengthen discourse on EU-Africa relations. Thus gave birth to the "Forum for Democratization and EU Relations on Africa" (FDERA). The theme of the event was migration and democracy: "European and African Perspectives on Migration and Democracy." The Executive Director, Mr. Anthony Antoine, gave the welcoming remarks on behalf of the BSoG, as did Prof. Dr. Florian Trauner, who profiled the guest speaker and panelists. The event was moderated by Dr. Jimmy Hendry Nzally, now a postdoctoral fellow and chair of the FDERA.

The panel debate was opened with a keynote speech by Ms. Haddy Jeng, Chargé d’Affaires Ad Interim at The Gambia Embassy in Brussels and Mission to the European Union. Further insightful contributions came from Wandie M. Chivaura "How to position vis-à-vis controversial agreements such as the UK-Rwanda deal to transfer asylum seekers to the African state? And how does it apply or contravene international laws?", Sophie Blandin "Citing the recent Melilla case on the EU's externalization strategies: Should the EU be responsible for rights violations in third countries?", Koat Diw Gach "What do African activists and migration scholars suggest regarding the cooperation with the EU on migration issues in general?", Diana Andrei  "What is the EU Civil Society perspective on the EU-Africa Migration Cooperation?", and Johnny Velcy "The Haitian Case Study on the Migration Crisis: To what extent democracy (or the lack thereof) and migration relate to one another?"

Although the topic has long been capturing headlines, the voices of African experts all too often do not receive enough attention. The forum underscores the importance of having a balanced debate from both European and African perspectives. The panel debate offered different viewpoints on how closely migration and democracy (or lack thereof) are related. The panelists had the opportunity to discuss their opinions regarding the EU's externalisation initiatives as well as controversial agreements such as the UK-Rwanda deal to transfer asylum seekers to the African state. As a result, the panel discussion's conclusion focused on the recommendations that African activists and migration specialists have for working with the EU on immigration-related issues:

  • In the cases of Melilla in Morocco and Spain, advocating for a more compassionate approach rather than a "securitization" approach led to deaths and blatant human rights violations.
  • The EU should uphold human rights principles rather than endorsing autocrats, as in the contentious UK-Rwanda relationship. 
  • Even with the help of development aid, cooperation is preferred over imposing rules and restrictions. 
  • Additionally, pathologizing narratives about migration, particularly those that focus on the global south, need to be contested. 
  • In order to achieve balance and include the opinions of young people from the north and the south in the discussion of migration and democracy, it is also important to support and promote platforms like FDERA.