“We want to take a stance”

Facts instead of prejudices and assumptions: How a new federal institute seeks to contribute to the successful integration of migrants.

Migration researcher Naika Foroutan
Migration researcher Naika Foroutan dpa

Integration and immigration are among the big issues of the day. Founded in 2017 in Berlin, the German Center for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM) is intended to help find better answers to pressing social questions. Four questions and answers on the federal institute’s tasks.

What does the German Center for Integration and Migration Research stand for?

There is often a lack of scientific data and assessments in public and political debates. Personal impressions, speculations and emotions often define the discussion. This is where the work of DeZIM kicks in. The initiative is driven by the worlds of academia and politics and seeks to use existing structures and advance them. “It is high time that migration and integration research systematically bundled all forces, not least in order to better do justice to the current challenges facing society. We want to research the issues of the day and take a stance,” emphasises sociologist Frank Kalter and migration researcher Naika Foroutan, who are the joint directors of DeZIM.

How is DeZIM structured?

DeZIM is based on two pillars, research and political consultancy. The DeZIM institute is a research facility in Berlin financed by the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ). It provides support for the ministry and prepares scholarly knowledge on issues such as migration movements or conflicts in the society into which the migrants are to be integrated in such a way that it can be relied on in social debates.

The DeZIM research community includes renowned migration and integration researchers in Berlin, Osnabrück, Bielefeld, Duisburg-Essen and Mannheim, for example. The task of the network is to develop new research angles and set up a shared data infrastructure.

What topics does DeZIM address?

The range of research projects is highly diverse. It extends from studies on the integration of older migrants of both genders and surveys on the life plans of young people with a migratory background through to analyses of processes of radicalisation. And the DeZIM researchers’ focus also goes beyond Germany, to include the situation and consequences of migration in the migrants’ countries of origin and in transit countries.

How can research counter increasing nationalism and ostracisation?

“We want to bring together different positions, methods, and research issues and contribute to placing the discussion on a more objective footing,” explains founding director and migration researcher Foroutan. And she emphasises that “people want to be taken seriously. That also includes assuming they can handle complex topics rather than sidestepping things and accepting simple answers if only because these seem satisfactory at first sight. And the same applies to democracy. It needs to be explained and re-learned constantly as it is forever advancing. Which is why we must evolve our methods and theories, too.”

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