Module 5: Refugees in Contemporary Europe

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EU refugee and border policies, national refugee protection systems as well as EU refugee protection measures, and human rights challenges


This learning module involves group work, dialogue and discussions about the relation between national and EU asylum and migration policies, the consequences these measures have on the situation of refugees and the effectiveness of human rights protection for refugees as well as the influence these protection measures have on refugees and their situation.


The activity has the aim to demonstrate and make the participants learn about different perspectives, positions and responsibilities regarding the situation of refugees outside and inside the borders of Europe in relation to the role of human rights protection.


Group size: up to 7 persons
Time frame: 2-3 hours
Material: Short texts reflecting different perspectives and points of view with regard to the issue, such as public press, NGOs’ positions, contemporary witness reports, European Council´s position etc. The group work requires pens, big flipcharts.

Preparation for trainers

To get information about the topic and to get more confident with all the terms and definitions (e.g. irregular refugee, border, border management etc.) use the glossary.
Furthermore please make use of our Human Rights Conventions section to find information material about the central conventions regarding the protection of refugees and migrants.


The activity is divided into three parts. The first part takes approx. 60 min.. This time is needed for individual reading, preparing a short summary as well as the exchange of and discussion about the read texts and their positions in the working group. The second part takes approx. 45 min. and includes the development of a creative way of presentation: The leitmotif is the human rights protection system in view of its current policies and practises. In part three each group is supposed to present their results in front of the whole group in 15 to 20 min..

Part I: Reading and discussing the texts

Each participant reads the assigned text and prepares a short summary (bullet points). The main work in this first part consists of the exchange of themes, positions or arguments of all read texts within the working group. Central questions for the following discussion are: Are the policies and practices in Europe in line with international human rights responsibilities? Do you think, that erecting ever higher barriers around Europe is a solution to the refugee issue? The groups should justify their results. (60 min.)

Part II: Creative preparation of the presentation

The groups are asked to develop creative ideas and concepts for the presentation of their results regarding the different perspectives, problematic positions and the role of human rights protection in the context of refugee-related issues. Presentations could be in the form of a pro and contra discussion, fact sheet, flyer, reportage, round table discussion etc. (45 min.)

Part III: Presentation

The groups should decide who presents the results (up to 3 group members). It is important, that they also present the discussion progress within their group. Each presentation should not exceed 15 min.. After the presentations there should be space for discussing and comparing the results of each group.

Selected Texts

The basis of this learning module are the following texts, which you can find in the pdf-document on the left side of the website.

TEXT 1: Buffeted in the Borderland. Ukraine: Migrants and Asylum Seekers Tortured, Mistreated, 2010
TEXT 2: The European Union clarifies what it means by refugee and subsidiary protection, 2010
TEXT 3: A 'new deal' is needed on refugees, 2010
TEXT 4: Statement of “Tomas”, a 24-year-old Eritrean, 2009
TEXT 5: Fortress Europe's Expulsion Machine, 2010
TEXT 6: Human rights challenges of migration in Europe, 2011


Depending on the target group the number of texts can vary. For an advanced training more up-to-date texts could be downloaded from the Internet. In this way the trainer can create a mixture of texts that is adequate for the respective learning group. Following links may be helpful in the search of further texts:

· European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE): see esp. “Access to Europe” and “Asylum in the EU”
· European Commissioner for Human Rights
· United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
· Human Rights Watch (HRW)
· European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)
· Amnesty International (ai)

Developed by Anne von Oswald, Network Migration in Europe e.V., 2011