2 months ago, I hopped on a plane across the Atlantic and began my summer internship at the University Institute of Studies on Migration at Universidad Pontificia Comillas. Established in 1994, the institute is filled with researchers and professors in many disciplines including: economics, actuarial sciences, sociology, social anthropology, pedagogy, law, social work, political science, and theology. I am, of course, working with a professor of law, helping fulfill her research obligations as well as personal research pursuits.
I jumped at this opportunity, because I was interested in learning more about immigration law in another part of the world. Not only that, but I wanted to see what problems present themselves elsewhere, and how governments choose to deal with these. I think one of the biggest problems that the EU and Spain have is making sure that everyone is on the same page. If a law is passed in the EU, then each country is supposed to change their laws to make sure they are in agree with EU laws. This doesn’t always happen, or happens very slowly which causes inequality in the law across the union. The goal is that no matter what country an immigrant (especially a refugee) finds themselves in, they will receive the same treatment. Others issues present themselves in relation to the Schengen and Dublin Agreements.
The Schengen Agreement allows for freedom of movement for goods, services, capital, and people in the nations that are a part of it. This means that once a migrant reaches a territory in the Schengen Zone they are allowed to freely move within the 26 countries. Those who have migrated irregularly (ei without papers) won’t have the same freedoms to move around, because they don’t have permission to be in the EU. But once permission is granted, they can go wherever they please in the EU.
Here’s a quick video explaining it better than me:
Because of these open borders between countries managing asylum applications can become tricky. Don’t worry! There is a regulation that tries to help with that. The Dublin Regulation, which has been revised twice since its inception and is in the process of being revised once again, helps control which member states have the responsibility to review asylum applications and tries to spread them out all over the Union so more desirable nations aren’t overwhelmed. The main improvements that Dublin IV will bring are a more efficient and uniform in determining which member state is responsible for the asylum application, policies that reduce abuses to the system, and a stronger look at the applicant’s best interests as well as prioritizing unaccompanied minors. Along with this, there is the Common European Asylum System developed in 1999, to make a more consistent application process for asylum seekers across the EU.
Spain has two unique things about it that make immigration regulation more complex. First, they have a ton of coastline, which receives migrants in boats from time to time. Second, they have two small pieces of land that share a boarder with Morocco. Melilla and Cueta have a total of 18.5 km, approximately 11.5 miles, where many refugees and formally internally displaced persons jump the fence to find safety on European soil. During the refugee crisis, Spain was hit as hard as Greece and Italy because of their proximity.
Besides this knowledge I have gained, being in an academic setting, I have been to two different conferences. The first one was for researchers in the field from across Europe. It was interesting to hear what they are investigating, and what things they think are the most important to EU. The other conference was for PhD and Master’s candidates to help them with their thesis ideas. Once of the most interesting sessions was about gender and how to add intersectionality to your research, even if you are focusing on a very specific population. That same day was also a presentation about stereotypes and biases, and encouraged people to be aware and make sure these things do not cloud their research.
I have learned a lot this summer and I hope to use it in the future to think about improvements to the US immigration system. I’ve also had more experience on the policy side of things, and so I will continue to grow and develop until I land either a job working directly with people or possibly a more policy oriented job.
As one of my last tasks, I was asked to write a paragraph about being an intern to help attract future interns. Here is what I wrote:
Located in the Center of Madrid, near many shops, restaurants, and transportation the University Institute of Studies on Migration at Universidad Pontificia Comillas was started in 1994. Today, they provide research on immigration to many organizations and journals, including the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union. As an intern, you will be able to learn about the European Immigration System, how the Refugee Crisis of 2015 is still causing problems to be solved, and about Spain’s unique position in EU in respect to immigration. The office is filled with friendly faces who will help you as needed with almost anything. You will be provided with a workspace and computer to assist the researchers in a variety of capacities.
By the time you are reading this, I will be on vacation! Hope all is well with you wherever you are in the world.
All data taken from CIA World Factbook, European Commission on Migration and Home Affairs and of course the IUEM Website.