Date: March 5, 2020, No. 17

How do you protect refugees and migrants effectively?

EU project “Protect”, in cooperation with the University of Stuttgart, examines the impact of the UN global compacts

The United Nations global compacts on migrants and refugees are intended to ease the fate of millions of people and to distribute the burden more fairly among the host countries. Since their adoption in 2018, the agreements have caused heated discussions. The EU project “Protect”, in which the Institute for Social Sciences at the University of Stuttgart is also involved, is now examining for the first time their actual impact. The aim is to provide politicians with strategies to protect people effectively.

The protection of human rights such as international protection is a central goal, particularly, of democracies. In the current political climate, however, this task is increasingly being questioned by the nation states. Against this background, the project “Protect” (The right to international protection: a pendulum between globalization and nativization) is to analyze the consequences of changes in the legal system, in governance, and in public discourse for international refugee protection. The aim is to bring to light the extent to which the agreements are compatible with human rights and with the right to international protection. “Ultimately, the project reveals how and to what extent shifting powers, political processes, and public discourses influence people’s lives,” say the project managers at the University of Stuttgart, Prof. Raphael Heiberger and Sara Schmitt from the Department of Computational Social Science at the Institute for Social Sciences.

For this purpose, the researchers want to develop the conceptual, theoretical, and methodological tools for understanding international protection as a multifaceted phenomenon that affects all levels of political decision-making, i.e. the local, regional, national, and supranational levels. Furthermore, they ask whether, or how, the objectives and content of the agreements are compatible with the right to international protection, and which governance models are best suited to reconcile them with the right to international protection. In addition, public discourses are to be identified that deal with human rights and the right to international protection.

11 universities on three continents are involved

The project, which is funded as part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 program with a total of approximately EUR 3.3 million, is being carried out by 11 universities in Europe, Canada, and South Africa under the leadership of Prof. Hakan Sicakkan at the University of Bergen / Norway. Protect develops a comprehensive interdisciplinary approach from the areas of political theory, law, and multilevel governance in order to be able to view units of investigation at supranational, national, regional, and individual level. Legal, institutional, attitude-related, and media data are empirically collected in a country comparison.

In doing so, the Department of Computational Social Science at the Institute for Social Sciences at the University of Stuttgart takes on all the tasks of statistical data processing and analysis. It is also involved in the analysis of media data in order to research into the public discourse at the citizen level and at the level of media analysis.

Prof. Raphael Heiberger, Sara Schmitt, University of Stuttgart, Institute for Social Sciences, Department of Computational Social Science, phone: +49 (0)711/685 81001, email:,

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Andrea Mayer-Grenu

Scientific Consultant, Research Publications

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