Visit From Humanity In Action Fellows Spark Debate About Rights And The Future Of Immigration

By Johan Greve Petersen

With two dozens Humanity In Action fellows arriving at the Danish Immigration Museum Thursday morning, the day was deemed to be of extraordinary character and enthusiasm. Humanity In Action, is an organisation developing educational programs for university students, focussing on human rights, policy and international relations.

At the museum, the fellows received a tour of the museum, followed by an introductory presentation on migration issues by the Sahra-Josephine Hjorth, as well as a presentation, giving insight into her own research concerning the emancipation of Turkish women and female descendants of Turkish migrants living in Denmark. Though the focus of the presentation was Denmark, the theoretical foundations are applicable in transnational migration studies, and were thus related to the fellows’ own backgrounds as American, Bulgarian, Indian citizens etc.

The presentations thus equally provided the basis for an open floor debate, in which questions of provoking nature were posed to the fellows, asking the fellows to firstly be for or against, agree or disagree with the statement or question by raising a red or green card. Consequently, this allowed the gathering to observe whether disagreement existed or not, and furthermore develop arguments for or against the given case. With much focus on immigration arguably being of economic proportions, we, in contra, discussed the cultural impact of migration, considering migrants not only as immigrants, but also as emigrants. We discussed the idea of universal breakdown of borders, leading to questions of open borders already being the reality for the worlds rich, the global aristocracy. This lead to issues concerning the impact of having a point system in order to gain residency permits, needing to have a minimum of 10,000 USD on ones account in order to apply in Denmark etc. Can this be considered as ethnocentric discrimination or is it perhaps to avoid the end of the welfare system? Are we observing immigration to be the end of labour unions, and is migration in fact contributing to the national economy or not?

Through these debates, I would argue that the fellows undergo aspects of mimetism; continual processes of reflexive mirroring, the imagining of self and others in given contexts. This process is of interest for many migration scholars, and rightfully so. It speaks to the disestablishment of set categories of migrants, as ethnic, religious, gendered, national, cultural and economic agents. The reflexive mirroring questions the fluid understanding, and perhaps transcends constrictive analysis of migrants as conceptual beings, rather than diverse individuals.

The key word of the fellowship is ‘action’. Action is what differentiates this gathering from other seminars and political debates. The point is not merely to debate issues, but to learn skills and acquire the means to impact communities in a reflexive and honest way. Action is however an arbitrary concept, and how days like this be translated to real impact is impossible to asses. It is nevertheless my belief that opinions were tried and nuanced, and perhaps this relativity is what fosters  meaningful action.