Brussels launch of “Political Participation of Refugees: Bridging the Gaps”

24 May 2018
10:00 - 13:00
European Institute for Asian Studies
26 Rue de la Loi
1000 Brussels

The world is witnessing an unprecedented rise in the number of refugees and asylum seekers, with the global refugee population reaching an estimated 22.5 million in 2017 compared to 10.4 million in 2011. Refugees potentially impact politics in both their host and origin countries, as they often maintain strong transnational links with their homelands, while at the same time, they become part of the host society.

Recognizing the dual role of refugees as political actors, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), with support from the Robert Bosch Stiftung, has gathered comparative knowledge on the various formal and non-formal mechanisms for the political participation of refugees in their host and origin countries. The results of this study are presented in the Report titled, “Political participation of refugees: bridging the gaps”. The Report is based on case studies carried out through interviews and focus groups discussions with refugees and key practitioners in eight countries hosting high numbers of refugees and asylum seekers: Germany, Kenya, Lebanon, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda and the UK. It also offers cross-country insights into the experiences of refugee communities who originate from the five largest source countries: Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria.

This event will feature a presentation of the Report, followed by a panel discussion which will cover issues related to access to citizenship and electoral rights for refugees, as well as other mechanisms of political participation such as consultative bodies, civil society organizations and grassroots initiatives. It will also discuss the role of refugees in political life of their countries of origin with a focus on out-of-country voting, diaspora networks and transnational political activism.


Welcoming and Opening Remarks

  • Axel Goethals, CEO, European Institute for Asian Studies (EIAS)
  • H.E. Dr Kaire Munionganda Mbuende, Ambassador of Namibia to the European Union and Local Chair of the Council of International IDEA Member States

Keynote Address

  • Cornelia Ernst, Member of the European Parliament and Co-President of the European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI)

Presentation of the Report “Political participation of refugees: bridging the gaps

  • Armend Bekaj, Senior Programme Officer
  • Lina Antara, Project Manager Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Democracy, International IDEA

Panel discussion: Political participation of refugees in host and origin countries


  • Andrew Bradley, Director and Head of Office, Office of International IDEA to the European Union


  • Catherine Woollard, Secretary General, European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE)
  • Paolo Fontani, Director, UNESCO Liaison Office in Brussels and UNESCO Representative to the European institutions
  • Emine Bozkurt, Member of International IDEA’s Board of Advisers and former Member of the European Parliament (2004-2014)

Closing remarks

  • Andrew Bradley, Director and Head of Office, Office of International IDEA to the European Union
Partner Organizations/collaborators: 
Robert Bosch Stiftung

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