The  workshop Comparative Research on Refugee ‘Crisis’, targeting to debate the refugee crisis (and its different discourses and approaches) from an interdisciplinary perspective, was organized by Vasiliki Tsagkroni, Amanda Paz Alencar and Bernadette Kester (September 29, 2017). The event was co-sponsored by the Erasmus Research Center for Media, Communication and Culture (ERMeCC) and The Netherlands – Flanders Communication Association (NeFCA).

1. Objective

The main purpose of this workshop conference was to bring together academic experts and practitioners, from different disciplines and backgrounds to explore areas surrounded the topic and reframe the refugee crisis and integration debate. The workshop sought to explore interdisciplinary issues and methodologies around refugee resettlement in Europe as a great opportunity to link all the disciplines that contribute to an in-depth understanding of the refugee crisis and its political, economic, social and cultural consequences for European societies.

2. Keynote lectures and scholarly contributions 

The workshop gathered contributions from Scholars working in the fields of media studies, cultural studies, migration studies, political science and communication sciences, as well as experts and professionals in the field of migration practice.

  • The workshop programme was opened with the keynote lecture by Dr. Koen Leurs, Assistant Professor at Utrecht University. In his lecture, Koen took the notion of social imaginaries as a theoretical toolkit to account for the contradictory digital migration imaginaries that shape and impact upon contemporary transnational migration. Koen considered the mobilization by different actors in relation to digital practices in the context of the refugee crisis at the Mediterranean Sea.
  • The two first panel sessions addressed the role of mobile phones and digital games in the process of integration, resettlement and representation of refugees in their host societies. Results from studies focusing on how persuasive games can be used to boost intercultural interactions between Dutch and refugee children, and for increasing empathy for refugees were presented in the first panel. At the same time, the ways in which mobile phones can enhance refugees’ agency as well as be used as a platform for ‘positive’ coverage of refugee stories have been extensively discussed in the first panel session.
  • The second series of panel sessions included research on news discourses and framing of the refugee crisis at the Mediterranean Sea. The studies presented in the first parallel session addressed critical media discourse perspectives on the naming and categorization of refugee labels in the news, with potential implications for the representation of displaced people. The second session engaged with the role of migration news in the emergence of the hostile media effect and in the integration of refugees in diverse European contexts.
  • In the afternoon panel sessions, we shifted a focus on media uses and effects by refugees and other integration actors to communication strategies in asylum seekers’ centers in Europe and the ongoing emergencies in the Mediterranean. Empirical studies addressing the new roles played by migrant organizations and stakeholders in refugee integration processes have also been presented in the same panel.
  • Moreover, a (re-active) brainstorming session has been included in the programme in order to provide opportunities for engagement between academics and practitioners to discuss potential solutions and approaches to news coverage of the refugee crisis and integration.
  • The final session of the workshop included the keynote lecture by Dr. Dimitris Skleparis, a research fellow from Glasgow University. In recognition of the complex and multifaceted nature of the Syrian refugee crisis and in an attempt to overcome the limitations of existing research, Dimitris presented an interdisciplinary comparative case study approach that draws on educational sociology, philosophy and political behaviour. In his study presented, Dimitris explored the relevance and utility of these disciplines in identifying and deconstructing young refugees’ lived experiences, skills, education, training needs, aspirations, as well as their transition and integration into new learning and training situations.

3. Follow-up of the workshop and potential collaborations

The workshop resulted in an attractive environment for potential collaborations between scholars and practitioners in the framework of ongoing scientific and applied social projects. In addition, the organizers are currently negotiating a special issue in a relevant media and communication scientific journal.