Just under 300 experts from Germany and abroad discussed the challenges of European migration policy at the virtual Annual Conference of the European Migration Network (EMN) held on 29 October.
"Towards effective asylum and migration management – Innovative approaches and implementation in practice" was the title of the EMN’s Annual Conference, which was hosted virtually this year due to the COVID 19 pandemic. A special studio was set up for this purpose at the headquarters of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) in Nuremberg, as was the case for the first major virtual event held within the context of the EU Council Presidency.
Roughly 300 attendees from EU institutions, Member States, international organisations, civil society and academic institutions, as well as distinguished speakers from the political arena, practitioners and academics, dialled in to attend the conference. The aim of the virtual conference was to discuss common challenges and practical approaches to effective asylum and migration management.
BAMF Vice President Andrea Schumacher opened the conference, and in her speech highlighted the importance attaching to innovation and digital data exchange in migration and international affairs. In this context, the Vice President praised the close, excellent cooperation between the National EMN Contact Point at the BAMF and the European Commission.
In his speech, Stephan Mayer, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, acknowledged the work of the EMN and the contribution towards high-quality data analysis on migration that had been made by the Network within the European Union. He targetedly addressed the challenges posed by the COVID 19 pandemic, which had created a greater need for more flexible processes, thereby fostering innovation and sustainable development in migration management.
The high-level speakers who had been invited also included the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, who held a keynote speech on the EU’s New Pact on Asylum and Migration, as well as Eva Akerman Börje from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), who spoke about innovation and change processes in migration policy at global level.
Constructive and intensive exchange in three panels
The conference provided an opportunity to discuss practical strategies for effective asylum and migration management in three panels.
- Panel I focused on knowledge and information management in a migration context. The framework conditions were discussed which are required in order to ensure that high-quality knowledge on migration is exchanged, harmonised and made easily accessible across borders. The panel was hosted by Katrin Hirseland, Head of the Directorate-General for Research at the Federal Office. The panellists were Ward Lutin, Head of the Asylum Knowledge Centre at the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), Dessislava Choumelova, Head of Unit "Demography, Migration & Governance" at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, and Jean-Christophe Dumont, Head of the OECD’s International Migration Division.
- Panel II discussed the significance, challenges and innovations of data management in the asylum procedure. It was hosted by Janne Grote, research associate at the German National EMN Contact Point, together with Simona Spinelli, Vice Prefect at the Italian Ministry of the Interior, Hanne Beirens, Director of the Migration Policy Institute Europe, and Roar Iost, process advisor at the Norwegian Immigration Directorate.
- The discussion in Panel III particularly focused on the question of how the private/community-financed reception of persons entitled to international protection can be made crisis proof in view of the COVID 19 pandemic. Lena Riemer, Senior Protection Assistant at UNHCR Germany, debated with Eibhlin Byrne, Director of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, BAMF Vice President Andrea Schumacher, and Giulio di Blasi, Europe Director of the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative. They also looked at different community sponsorship programmes.
All in all, the EMN Annual Conference offered all the attendees who dialled in an opportunity to play an active role in the discussions and to exchange professional information and to network, for example in the chat.