Conference "Migrant Organizations – Sovereign Strategies for Sustainable Participation in the Labour Market"

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IQ Project SOUVERÄN – Conference "Migrant Organizations – Sovereign Strategies for Sustainable Participation in the Labour Market" in Kiel City Hall


In mid-November 2019, the IQ project "SOUVERÄN – Migrant self-organization for occupational integration", which was launched this year, held the conference "Migrant Organizations – Sovereign Strategies for the Sustainable Participation in the Labour Market" in Kiel City Hall’s Council Chamber. Kiel City Councillor Christian Zierau and Schleswig-Holstein's State Representative for refugee, asylum and immigration issues, Stefan Schmidt opened the event with moving words of welcome. Both speakers emphasized that a requirement of sustainable integration is that the city of Kiel and all other municipalities, together with their citizens, take a stand against racism and exclusion and promote openness and tolerance.

Martin Link, the Managing Director of the Refugee Council Schleswig-Holstein (Flüchtlingsrat Schleswig-Holstein e.V.), picked up this very point in his lecture on the political situation and development of the labour market for people with a migration background. In his contribution, he addressed the importance of migrant self-organizations in the context of the growing xenophobic and racist sentiment in society. Even though state support exists for migrant organizations, this is primarily aimed at local initiatives for societal and social  participation.

There is however, unfortunately, no focus on migrant self-organizations with their stated goal of achieving a robust basis for integration through sustainable job security in this regard.

Subsequently, Farzaneh Vagdy-Voß introduced the IQ Network Schleswig-Holstein, of which she is the coordinator. The conference participants were given a far-reaching overview of the structures of the integration-through-qualification programme. Among other things, she reported on the Schleswig-Holstein state network's advisory offerings and qualification measures as well as intercultural sensitization offerings for labour market players.

Subsequently, Aurelie Bile Akono, who also works in the IQ Regional Network Schleswig-Holstein's coordination team, offered an insight into the project SOUVERÄN – Migrant self-organization for occupational integration, which began in March 2019. SOUVERÄN is an IQ project by the Refugee Council Schleswig-Holstein. Advice and assistance are offered to people with a migration background on their path to self-organization and on establishing structures and strategies for better participation in the working world. Ms Bile Akono reported that the empowerment project gives advice on the formal processes of setting up a club and financing options, and offers support for submitting applications. The offers are aimed at anyone who is interested from all over Schleswig-Holstein, with a focus on rural regions and women. People with a migration background are given advice and empowered on their path to self-organization and in establishing structures and strategies for sustainable participation in the working world.

A break and a lively exchange among participants were followed by two interesting lectures.

Prof. Dr Vassilis Tsianos from the University of Applied Sciences Kiel spoke, inter alia, on the effects of structural racism on migrant organizations. He described how Greek communities in southern Germany were broken up by the state's misleading persecution in relation to crimes by the NSU (National Socialist Underground). He also talked about the need to open up integration processes for migrants as well as for the population already living in Germany.

Maria Oikonomidou joined us as a further speaker. She works for the IQ Regional Network

Berlin, the Verband für interkulturelle Arbeit (Association for Intercultural Work – VIA) and is project manager of the project "Welcome to Berlin – Empowerment of MO in the context of the structures of a local culture of welcome" as well as spokeswoman of the working group of migrant organizations. Ms Oikonomidou provided a vivid overview of the development and structuring of migrant organizations and the importance of empowerment.