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HORIZON-project investigates the performance capacity of the European asylum system

The European commission funds a two-year research project at the Junior Professorship Humangeographie Ostmitteleuropas at the Chemnitz University of Technology – twelve countries are involved

The “long summer of migration” in 2015 and the subsequent “Crisis of European Asylum Policies”, are determining issues in the public discourse with far-reaching consequences for the opinion-forming process on national level and for the European integration process. While the reception of refugees is a non-negotiable humanitarian duty, questions regarding the fair and humanitarian division of asylum seekers to the member states, the harmonization of asylum procedures, and concrete practices of dealing with asylum seekers during and after the asylum procedure are still open.

Jun.-Prof. Birgit Glorius, head of the Junior Professorship Humangeographie Ostmitteleuropa (Human Geography of East-Central Europe) at the Chemnitz University of Technology, commits herself as European migration specialist to this topic for years and is an internationally renowned expert in the field of migration and integration. As lead partner of a consortium consisting of twelve scientific and policy-advisory institutions from eleven EU countries and Turkey, she managed to place a funding request within the “HORIZON 2020” framework program of the European Commission which is now after positive evaluation prepared for the kick-off. Funded with a total budget of approx. 2 million euros, the multi-disciplinary research team has the opportunity to evaluate the Common European Asylum System and to conceptualize possibilities for improvement. The conceptual approach of the intended research is based on the term of harmonization which does not mean a normative meaning but rather combines a variety of different meanings and practices. While in legal terms, harmonization has been explained as an approximation process towards minimum standards, harmonization in political terms rather focuses on policy convergence, of which the harmonization of legal regimes is only one among many mechanisms of convergence.

Based on this terminological conception the project CEASEVAL (Evaluation of the Common European Asylum System under Pressure and Recommendations for further Development) will carry out a comprehensive evaluation of the Common European Asylum System in a two-year research process, investigating regulation patterns and concrete practices regarding the reception of asylum seekers and the handling of their asylum request. The project aims at various objectives: Firstly, a new theoretical frame for the process of the Common European Asylum System’s “multilevel governance” will be developed and empirically tested; secondly, a critical evaluation of the Common European Asylum System will be carried out and discrepancies between EU standards of refugee reception and national legislations and their implementation will be identified and analyzed. Another aim is the elaboration of elaborate new policies by constructing different alternatives of implementing a common European Asylum System, subsequently resulting in a valid assessment which degree of harmonization (with regard to legislation and implementation) and solidarity is possible and necessary.

Tin their evaluation report, the European Commission emphasized the multidimensionality of the research approach as especially innovative as well as the empirical framework which not only focuses on the EU and national level, but especially turns towards local context which is the level where reception processes actually take place and asylum decisions have to be implemented. This involves a multi-methodological approach consisting of data collection, personal interviews with migrants, expert interviews, focus groups, and the analysis of public discourses on the local level. Public discourses are assumed to have an influence on the action orientation and specific practices of varied actors and is thus crucial for understanding varieties of reception and integration. Another innovative element of the project is the elicitation of expert assessments of so-called third countries such as Libya or the Lebanon, with regard to the respective potential influence on the Common European Asylum System.

The successful acquisition of this collaborative European research project, enhances the excellence and visibility of the Chemnitz University of Technology in a politically and socially highly charged topic. (Author. Jun.-Prof. Birgit Glorius, head of the Professorship Humangeographie Ostmitteleuropa)

Matthias Fejes

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