Gymnasium Altenholz (2015)

A Coherent Response to Migration – Portal Europe

Winner “Public Choice Award” of the YES! 2015

Introduction
“The happy and powerful do not go into exile, and there are no surer guarantees of equality among men than poverty and misfortune.” (Alexis de Tocqueville, “Democracy in America“). This quote is most relevant today. The German government correctly predicted that 800.000 people will have applied for asylum in Germany by the end of 2015, according to the journal “Der Spiegel”. These are four times as many people as in the year before.
If we take a look at the European scale, there were 626.000 asylum applicants in the European Union in 2014. This means that Germany alone will have welcomed around 200.000 more people by the end of 2015 than the whole of the European Union welcomed in 2014.

This stream does not seem to break off in the near future. At the end of 2015, even German troops were sent into the region of crisis to support the fight against the IS along France and the USA. Especially out of the Middle East and the northern African countries the war and conflicts force people to flee towards Europe.

Which perspective are we taking?
Overall the topic suggests a European perspective. If somebody is knocking onto our doors from the outside, we are obviously inside. And it is only from an inside perspective that we are talking about “immigration” instead of “migration”. However, if we are to tackle a problem that has a global, or at least inter-continental scale (including Europe, Africa and West Asia), we have to adapt our perception to the other side as well. Therefore, we have decided quite early on in our project that we have to look at both migrants and hosts alike. This also means that we are not going to talk about “immigration” in
the following, but about “migration” in general.

How can we define “irregular immigration”?
The term “irregular migrants” is used for people staying without the necessary residence permit and without a formal statutory temporary suspension in a country of which they are not citizens. These might be children without a residence permit, unemployed foreign nationals without a residence permit, but also workers in unregistered, partly illegal jobs. Irregular migrants frequently come from countries in which human rights violations or poor
economic conditions cause people to emigrate, from countries with a significantly lower level of income or from countries with established historical or current ties with the receiving country. The same reasons for migrating are found among both irregular and regular migrants: the search for protection from persecution, or fear of returning to an area of war or catastrophe as well as economic circumstances, educational opportunities and family
connections. Typically, young adults are over-proportionally represented among irregular migrants.

What can a coherent response look like?
In order to be able to provide a coherent response, we will examine three different approaches to it in the following: First we are going to have a look at politics, then at science and finally suggest a third, modified approach.

a. Political approach to a “coherent response”
Amongst the general public and politicians, the irregular migration to Europe is associated with a large number of fears:

  • that countries are losing control over their borders,
  • that social systems are overstretched by unauthorized use,
  • that indigenous workers are being pushed out of the labour market, and
  • that criminality is growing.

As a result, solutions from political institutions mostly involve legal restrictions, increasing amounts of money spent on the military and police forces to protect borders, and a general policy of rejection. After much argument, EU leaders agreed to triple the funding of Frontex to some 120 million € in April, according to the BBC.
The problem with this is that European politicians can only agree on a policy of rejection. This obviously cannot help them in a situation where border controls and restrictions do not work any longer. When it comes to a unified supportive approach, it seems increasingly impossible to respond to the challenges with one coherent strategy.

b. A scientific approach to a “coherent response”
We did scientific research on the topic and talked to scientists from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy afterwards. In this discussion, it became clear to us that there is no coherent solution among scientists, yet, and it also seems to be difficult to achieve one in the near future. The reasons for people to leave their home countries are diverse, and since irregular migrants are often not registered in their destination countries, it is difficult to come up with a clear definition of “irregular immigrants” or to count the numbers. So there does not seem to be a foundation on which to build a coherent response in scientific terms, either.
The rejection of both the political and the scientific approach made us realize that we needed to find our own unique coherent response. In addition to the conversation, we have had with Stefan Schmidt, commissioner for refugees, asylum and immigration issues of the Land Schleswig-Holstein, opened our eyes to the fact that a coherent response, at its core, can only be a truly humanitarian one.

Results of the introduction
A coherent response does exist yet, neither in politics nor in science. In our response, we would like to consider both perspectives, the migrants’ and the hosts’, and not only look at the problem from a European point of view. We would like to follow a humanitarian approach by the people for the people (bottom-up). We consider the basic problem of irregular migration and the violent reactions to it to be a lack of information on both sides. We would even go as far as saying: if there was not such an enormous information gap concerning immigration laws, required documents and the difficulties of
finding a job, there would be a significant decrease in the number of irregular migrants.

Consequently, we think a coherent response to irregular migration and it’s daunting consequences should come about in form of a web portal – Portal Europe.

II. Main Part
There are two groups this website is reaching out for and trying to connect: On the one hand, there are potential migrants, and on the other hand, there are potential hosts who can be subdivided into opposing and helping people.

Target group: Migrants
During our research, we found out that the majority of migrants – especially those who resort to irregular immigration – are young men, mainly under the age of 25. Firstly, that is caused by the hope that the young men are more likely to survive the struggles of the journey than other family members. Secondly, they are more likely to earn enough money so that their family can follow them. Therefore, reaching these men is one of our goals. According to our experiences with the Arab Spring or Arabellion we assume that these young men are able to get internet access.
Since the people coming to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean Sea pay up to 4000 € for their life-threatening journey, we have concluded that these people are not among the poorest in their home states. So there is a fair chance that this specific group of migrants might own a computer at home, a smartphone at least might have occasional access through an internet café. For the purpose of information, it already suffices that one family member can provide this to all his family members or to a group of friends. However, our target group is not restricted to this group of young men. We would like to reach potential migrants from a number of countries on a broad scale.

Target group: Hosts
As an information centre, our website is also interesting for host countries, but people in these countries might need information of a different nature. There are two main groups that can be identified: The people strongly opposing immigration to their countries as well as the people who are willing to help migrants. Let us turn to the ones opposing migration first.
Many countries which are having problems with radicals and racists have a low number of diversity of cultures or are trailing behind with integration. For example, the regions in Germany where the most protest against migrants is taking place and where right-winged extremism is the strongest, are statistically also the regions with the smallest number of migrants. We want to reach people from these regions on our website. We try to inform them
in terms of the bitter fate of migrants and to make them sensible for the fact, that migrants are as much human as themselves. We are not only giving information, but are also telling stories through forums, which are supposed to reach those people in host countries, who might not be tangible by facts, but by emotions. In addition to this, the web portal will also provide geographical, political, economic and cultural facts on the home countries of the
migrants.
As to the helpers, they might wish to get some information on the situation in the home countries, on the legislation process in Germany and on events they might want to participate in or offer their help.

Which information should the web portal contain?
Overall, the web portal contains the following information for migrants: • the legal requirements of immigration, as well as instructions on the documents they might have to take with them,

  • their rights and duties upon arrival in the chosen state,
  • links to job institutions such as the “Federal Employment Agency” or search engines for jobs,
  • links to official institutions and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that might be helpful for them,
  • events and people to turn to for help on a regional level.

As we speak about the information the website contains for the hosts, there is no guarantee that we can reach people who strongly oppose immigration with our web portal. However, if there is a spark of interest left, the web portal should provide information on the home
countries of migrants, the often disastrous humanitarian, political or economic situation as well as some cultural or otherwise interesting information in order to fight ignorance.
The other group, the helpers, would obviously benefit from this cultural information, too. In addition to this, they might wish to know about upcoming events or get in touch with migrants through the forum.
In our introduction, we have already mentioned that there is a strong need for a coherent response. It is coherence what is missing when you are looking for information on migrating to Europe online. The websites we have looked at so far contain very important information,
but they only tackle partial aspects of the topic, they are mere fragments of the bigger picture we would like to provide.

Whose support and work will we need to realize our idea?
In order to set up a web portal like this, we need the support of the following groups of people:

  • IT specialists for programming,
  • graphic designers for the layout,
  • law experts from the different European countries to summarize legal requirements so that they can be understood by laypeople,
  • translators to make sure that the information is accessible to as many people in Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa as possible,
  • Web administrators to ensure the web-etiquette in our chat-room and also update information on a regular basis,
  • exterior websites that agree to be linked to this portal, and
  • the European Commission and the Council of the Interior Ministers to acknowledge this portal as central source of information.

We contacted software companies and translation agencies for offers, but most of them never got back to us. This means it is impossible for us at this stage to give you exact numbers of how expensive such a web portal will be. In addition, we will have to rent an external server, which costs about 300 € per month. This server should be stationed somewhere in Germany for reasons of privacy protection and
safety standards such as daily backups and emergency backup generators. The nearest possibility is in Hamburg-Norderstedt. Then we need a company to write the required software and do the programming for us. Depending on the company we hire, the minimum costs for this service are 5000 €.

How can we get the money we need?
a. Crowd Funding
Crowd Funding is a way to show other people your idea and give them the opportunity to invest money in it. There are different kinds of crowdfunding websites. After looking around for a bit, we have found two that might fit our project

  • kickstarter.com
  • betterplace.org

b. Donations
Many websites have a button where you can donate, it does not matter if it is for charity or a YouTube channel or tickets for a concert somebody wants to go to. So it is quite likely that we receive donations for a website that helps migrants.

c. European or government funds
If the European Commission or the Ministers of the Interior acknowledge the importance of this portal, it might be possible to receive funds for this project. This is certainly the most profitable source if our application is successful, but it will also take a long time and require a more detailed planning.
How can we bring our idea to the market?
For Europe, we have five main marketing concepts in mind: Advertisements in the media, getting linked and mentioned by partners, presentations, social networks and social movements comparable to the “ALS-Icebucketchallenge”. Every concept has its pros and cons.
The marketing for migrants who have not reached Europe, yet, turns out to be much more difficult. We have three concepts in mind to reach them: spread the idea through social contacts by handing out flyers in refugee camps, for example, get in contact with migrants still in Europe and support projects for refugees.

III. Reflection
We are of course also aware of flaws or drawbacks that might arise. Due to our time limit, we have not been able to solve all arising problems, yet. Maybe a few self-critical thoughts might show that we are a little more realistic than it might have come across:
Target-Group: We could not find reliable numbers on the question of how many people planning to leave their country actually have access to the internet. We are aware of the fact that regimes, like the ones in Syria and also in Libya, will try everything to prevent people from accessing the Internet, especially because it was a powerful tool for the people during the Arab Spring. We are aware of the fact that we might not be able to reach the people who might need it the most. However, we still hope that these people have a friend or relative who
could help them get access or get to the most important information they need.

Finance: It is impossible for us at this stage to give exact numbers of how expensive such a web portal will be. We can only estimate how much our website Portal Europe might costs to set up.
Nevertheless, we are convinced that this web portal can offer a coherent response to irregular migration. It will to some extent also reduce irregular migration due to the fact that more people will know what is expecting them, what is expected of them and where they can turn to for support of any kind.

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Photo: YES!