Text and photos: Maria Sierro Fernandez, language communications officer, GRS
The Migration Policy Lab was held at Aalborg University (Copenhagen) on 18 October 2021. It was co-hosted by GRS and the organization LGBT Asylum, and it was funded by CISU (Civil Society in Development). The aim of the workshop was to invite students from different disciplines and universities to develop innovative strategies that would help to enhance the protection of LGBTQ+ people on the run outside of Europe and present them to a panel of experts.
The event started with a welcoming presentation by Marlene Spanger (Associate Professor at GRS) followed by an introduction from Sigrid Bjerre Andersen (LGBT Asylum). Afterwards, the students had the opportunity of watching an interview with Mohamad Sourity, a Syrian refugee in Denmark who talked about the challenges of being queer outside of Europe. Mohamad Sourity was present at the workshop and the students could ask him questions in order to gain more insights on his personal story as a queer refugee.
The next to present was Rikke Enggaard Olsen, who works at the Global Protection Unit of the Danish Refugee Council (DRC). She discussed the marginalization and risks linked to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) in the context of forced displacement. She also highlighted the current gaps related to the protection of queer refugees, especially in terms of collecting information in order to assess their specific needs in refugee camps and designing more inclusive responses. After this presentation, the students watched a video about the Cameroon-based NGO “Working for our Wellbeing” and a short movie by the director Anne Eline Friis-Rasmussen.
Inspired by all these presentations and discussions, the students started to participate in the core activities of the workshop: choosing areas of intervention and specific challenges to tackle, forming teams to develop a strategy within the chosen area of intervention, building a prototype with different materials in order to think about the specifics of the strategy, and creating a magazine cover that represented a future where the strategy was implemented and succeeded. These were interactive activities that gave participants the opportunity of discussing their ideas, asking questions, and working cooperatively in an informal environment that encouraged creativity and engagement.
Finally, the groups of students presented their magazine covers to the panel of experts, which was composed by Marlene Spanger, Rikke Enggaard Olsen, Michael Alexander Ulfstjerne (GRS), Charlotte Lund (politician from Enhedslisten), Anna Overlund (politician from Socialistik Folkeparti) and Lene Mølgaard Kristensen (Legal Advisor at DRC).
The strategies developed by the participants included a mobile app that could serve as a means of communications between queer migrants and diaspora communities, an LGBT network to establish a local safe space for queer students, the creation of a quota for SOGIESC refugees, an educational program for humanitarian staff working with SOGIESC refugees, and a program with social media influencers that could advocate for the rights of LGBT refugees across the world.
The event finished with the comments from the panel of experts, who were surprised by the proximity of these ideas to projects that are already being put to practice and discussed the nuances added by the students. In the future, the participants of the workshop who wish to continue working on their ideas will be able to do so through monthly meetings organized by LGBT Asylum.