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Guest professor reflects on most significant time in migration research

2016-09-13

The “most interesting and most worrisome time” is how Professor Joaquin Arango described today’s migration and asylum situation as he embarked on his guest role with the Malmö Institute for Studies of Migration, Diversity and Welfare (MIM).

Professor Joaquin ArangoJoaquin Arango is a Professor of Sociology at Complutense University of Madrid, but will be spending the next month with the Malmö University research centre as the Guest Professor in Memory of Willy Brandt.

“In the present moment the importance of the subject has grown incredibly, it is in the fore of attention in Europe and in most countries it is a major issue in all the elections which take place.

Significant changes

“This is the most interesting and most worrisome time during my studies because a very important thing which is happening is the extreme politicisation of the matter. This is probably the most major change which has taken place in the migration landscape in the last 30 or 40 years. 

"It goes beyond the field of migration, 20 or 30 years ago it was important, but you could say it was as important as health, education, the environment, it was a sectorial subject, but now it is more than that, it is in the centre of the political arena, it decides elections and is very much related to the rise of the extreme right."

The professor has spent some 40 years working in the fields of migration, diversity and migration policy. He praised MIM for the work it carries out, adding that it is internationally renowned and a point of reference among academics. 

Research centre is respected internationally

“It is an exceptionally valued and respected place, I think MIM is a dynamic institute and very open to working with people from different countries. It is a specialised institute, it has resources and it attracts students and post-docs.

“It makes sense to have a place like MIM here in Malmö, it is an asset that this city is so accepting of refugees. I come here for academic reasons, but of course that makes it more interesting and it is important for that reason to have a specialised institute like MIM in this city,” he said.

The fact that MIM looks beyond the immediate nature of the current wave of migration was also praised by the professor. 

“Migration and diversity have realities which are not tragic, or dramatic, but concern everyday life and deserve to be taken care of. We have these dramatic events, but on the other hand we have millions of people who have relatively ordinary lives which deserve to be studied: effects on social mobility and social structure. MIM do both. They are not only geared to the political aspect of it, immigration and diversity are multi-dimensional."

When asked about the future, the professor remarked, “someone once said forecasting is difficult, especially forecasting the future!”.

No end to the problem in sight

“It is affecting party systems, polarising the electorate. The concern about immigration has been growing, there are more people who think it is a problem. Many people who were concerned about immigration before, now have a movement or a party to rally behind – these parties have capitalised on those feelings and anxieties. 

“We are observing things which we did not consider ten years ago, unfortunately I do not see an end to this trend, on the contrary I think that this will affect politics and the balance of society and, to some extent, cohesion. “ 

Text: Adrian Grist

Last updated by Adrian Grist