According to Eurostat, 2.7 million immigrants entered the EU from non-EU-27 countries in 2019 and half of them were under 29. These numbers are currently sky-rocketing in light of the war in Ukraine and the European migration crisis it has provoked. A migrant, as defined by the UN, is someone who changes their country willingly, while refugees (included in this project as a category of migrants), are outside their countries for fear of persecution or conflict. Both groups are treated by this project.
International youth migration, in particular, can open up new opportunities, a path to higher education, personal development and the acquisition of skills beneficial to home and host countries. However, for many young people, especially young women and those in irregular situations, the migration and/or refugee process entails particular challenges and implies vulnerabilities: discrimination based on gender, migration status, ethnicity or religion; poor working conditions; lack of access to basic social services and social protection and barriers to education.
The UN recognises youth migrants as central to achieving sustainable economic and social development: They are generally resourceful, resilient, adaptable to new environments and possess relevant skills and qualifications. Equality of treatment and opportunity allows migrants to contribute as productive members of communities and economies. According to the Global Migration Group, a conducive policy environment can tap into young migrants’ energy, propensity to innovate and ICT skills.
To create this, policy makers must listen to young migrants and cooperate closely with civil society organisations. Youth collective advocacy is, hence, critical. Organisations like JEF link national chapters across Europe to empower youth on social inclusion issues, while VYRE represents the voice of refugee youth in particular, in instances like the Council of Europe. However, these organisations often operate with limited resources and are in need of development and networking opportunities to expand their representativeness and sharpen their public advocacy towards different EU bodies. In particular, more work must be done to empower these types of organisations to produce creative audio-visual campaigns, which tell the stories and visualise the needs of migrant youth, so as enhance public awareness.
In 2019 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted the Recommendation CM/Rec(2019)4 to member states on supporting young refugees in transition to adulthood. In this recommendation, the Committee of Ministers recommended that the governments of member states guarantee the availability of additional temporary support for young refugees after the age of 18, enabling them to access their rights. The Recommendation also acknowledges the important role played by youth work and non-formal education in supporting the inclusion of young refugees, and in developing competences in active citizenship and democratic participation.
MYCOMM directly responds to CoE priorities, and to that of the European Commission, notably for that of European Youth Together and the Erasmus+ call for Capacity building in the Field of Youth. Erasmus+ has the objective to support “international cooperation and policy dialogue in the field of youth and non-formal learning, as a driver of sustainable socio-economic development and well-being of youth organisations and young people”. In this spirit, MYCOMM will ultimately expand and strengthen an EU network for migrant and refugee youth advocacy, linking and building upon existing networks and developing the human resources capacity in communications, social media and audio-visual techniques. The methodology is predicated on youth organisation practice exchange, networking and capacity building. It directly contributes to the EU Youth Goals 3 and 4: ‘Inclusive Societies’, ‘Information and Constructive Dialogue’.