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Final Report Summary - AMORE (Awareness and Migration: Organizations for bi-national family Rights Empowerment)

The project AMORE has studied what happens to bi-national families after marrying and until obtaining a long-term residence permit or a common EU citizenship in three European countries (Italy, France, and Belgium) with a focus on local practices in three cities Brussels (Belgium), Strasbourg (France) and Italy (Turin).
A multidisciplinary set of methodologies was employed for the fieldwork: ethnography and participant observations in associations defending binational families’ rights; collection of “récits de vie” of ten binational families formed by at least a Moroccan partner and in-depth interviews with at least two members of associations (activists and employees, both social workers and lawyers) and other informal groups concerning by the defence of binational families and migrants’ rights in each city. The associations included in the project are the following : Ciré asbl, Association pour les droits des étrangers, Objectif, Mouvement contre le racisme, l'antisémitisme et la xénophobie MRAX, Le Foyer asbl, Objectif, Centre Familial Belgo-Immigré Saint-Gilles, Arab Women Solidarity Belgique, Ella Vzw (in Brussels); SOS Femmes Solidarité, La Cimade, Femme d’Ici et d’Ailleurs, L’Etage, the Family Planning (in Strasbourg) and Caritas Migrantes, ACLI, CGIL migrants and the Associazione di Studi Giuridici sull’immigrazione (in Turin). At the European level, members of Migration Policy Group, Confederation of Family Organisation in the European Union (Coface), Commission des Episcopates de la Communauté Européenne (Comece) and Caritas International - groups that monitor the situation and act/react on family migration law’s changes - have been met and interviewed. To better frame the topic studied, ten policemen in charge of controlling and dealing with bi-national unions and six state agents have been interviewed too. Furthermore, the project has partially been implemented as a collaborative action research: activities and actions planned and organized by groups of associations and by informal groups during the period covered by AMORE have been used as case studies. Thus, the researcher has enhanced the research action potential of AMORE through the collaborative and reflexive participation in the following four activities:
- group Reflex’action of the association Objectif in Brussels. The group aims to change some discriminative and differential practices during the process of citizenship request and concession in the municipalities of Brussels Capital;
- group Espouses Sans Papiers en Resistance (Esper). The informal groups has been created in Brussels few years before the beginning of AMORE as a spontaneous movement of women that have had lost their residence permits issued for family reason after having suffered from family violence. Nowadays, a new platform of associations (Mrax, Ciré, Awsa-be, Enar and Centre de Prévention des Violences Conjugales et Familiales + AMORE project) is supporting the original group. The platform of support to ESPER is organizing activities to raise awareness on double violence (administrative violence and family violence). For instance, a campaign of training for social workers and a special tool to reach the public opinion have been created thanks to the funds of the Institut pour l'égalité des femmes et des hommes in Brussels (and in Region Wallonia). A day of workshop to present the tool created was hold in November 2015. A program of three kind of trainings (legal, social and general) for social workers, professionals and interested people has been created. The trainings are on-going;
- informal group Amoureuxvospapiers (Brussels). The group was created to inform binational couples and address them to competent lawyers and associations. The activities of the group are on-going. The group is born under the impulsion of some women involved in binational unions;
- local group of Les Amoureux au Ban Public Strasbourg. The group is collaborating with the municipality of Strasbourg and its urban area to transfer best practices through Civil Register offices. The group is mobilizing binational couples in Strasbourg and in Alsace region (France);
- activities of the European Conference of Binational and Bicultural Relations (ECB), a network of binational family associations from Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Italy and Denmark. They organise regular annual meeting to discuss, compare and reflect on the situation of binational unions in Euroepan member states (i.e.: mid-term conference in Barcelona, 10 October 2014; the annual conference in Copenhagen, 20-21 June 2015). On 1-2 October 2016, the annual conference of ECB is helding with the collaboration of AMORE project and of the Amoureux au Ban Public in Paris.
According to the exchanges with academics and researchers met during the project implementation, the European comparison and the study of civil society associations' activities represent innovative perspectives in the field of the researches on family migration policies and bi-nationality. Especially, the role of association as “third sector” and “third force” is pivotal in the analysis of migration policies implementation nowadays.
AMORE's overall objective has been achieved through five specific objectives:
SO1- Draw a detailed picture of the evolution of migration legal frameworks in the 2000s and before and collect of statistics on the concession of residence permits and citizenship to TCNs in bi-national families in the three countries and cities interested by the project
SO2- Collect, record and analyse the experiences of bi-national families in their dealing with public officers and institutional agents thanks to the method of “biographical policies’ evaluation”
SO3- Analyse the activities and actions of civil society associations and other informal groups in defending binational family rights and observing the participation of the members of bi-national families and couples in some of these activities
SO4- Translate scientific findings into practical recommendations for all the actors involved
SO5- Study policies about bi-national families and cooperative capacity building among multiple social actors.
These specific objectives correspond to the five work packages of AMORE and were organised in ten specific tasks listed here below:
WP1: Figures, Law and Literature
Task 1: Description of the trends in the concession of residence permits and citizenship to bi-national families with at least a Moroccan spouse in Belgium, France, Italy and Morocco. Reliable statistics about the effects of binational family migration policies and, especially, those concerning some categories of couples and some aspects of the administrative controls, are not available in the countries chosen. After having asked specific disaggregated data and/or having received refusals, I have opted for monitoring the variable of my interest in the databases of the three national statistic and demographic institutes in order to analyse the use of the available data and figures in the discourse of policy makers, media, associations and local state agents.
Task 2: Analysis of the evolution of migration laws in Belgium, France and Italy and of bi-lateral treaties with Morocco over a period of twenty years (the end of 1990s until now) considering the previous evolutions in migration laws since the beginning of the 1900s.
Task 3: In October 2014, the researcher organised in collaboration with the host institution the workshop-conference “Migration, amour et État: un ménage à trois?” at the Université Libre de Brussels to discuss with academic experts and social actors of some problems encountered by bi-national families after marrying in Belgium, France, Italy and, more widely, in Europe. The communications presented during the workshop are published in a special number of the Revue de l'Institut de Sociologie (ed. by Laura Odasso and Andrea Rea)
WP2: Biographical Research and Migration Policies Evaluation
Task 4: Identification of adequate sample of bi-national families and collection of biographical experiences
Task 5: Interviews of “significant others” involved in bi-national families' administrative practices.
WP3: Participants and Civil Society Observation
Task 6: Observation of bi-national families' participation in Civil Society actions.
Task 7: Focus groups with Civil Society activists and professionals (one in each city interested by the project)
WP4: Translation: From Fieldwork to Scientific Findings
Task 8: Identification of adequate criteria for concrete improvement of legal and administrative procedures
WP5: Transparency and Outreach
Task 9: Final seminar: Bi-national Family day. Task 10: Contacts with European and national authorities
The final day is presenting the outcomes of AMORE and it is hold on January 20th, 2017 for reasons relating to the organisation and the agenda of the parties involved. The final day has been fixed in January to permit the presentation of AMORE outcomes and the participation of eight researchers chosen in Europe to communicate the outcomes of their current researches that are highly connected to AMORE but that are conducted in other European countries. The day will be focus on legal consciousness and cause lawyering as intended both by couples and civil society's members. These two topics are the main paths that the researcher is following to deepen AMORE outcomes. The Final day will be addressed to researchers, members of civil society, state agents and stakeholders, namely European and national authorities. Meanwhile, some papers and a book written during AMORE are expected to be published for the end of 2016 or early beginning of 2017. Nevertheless, AMORE and its intermediate findings have been presented at 13 conferences worldwide. A number of papers have been written: a working paper for the Marie Curie project INTEGRIM, four papers for peer reviewed journals (three other articles are under evaluation), two papers for reviews that are not fully considered as peer reviewed and two book chapters. During AMORE, the book, drawn from the PhD dissertation of the researcher, has been completed. It is forthcoming in October 2016 by Presses Universitaires des Rennes with the title “Mixités conjugales. Discédit, résistance et créativités dans les familles avec un partenaire arabe”. Furthermore, the researcher is co-editing a number of the Revue de l’Institut de Sociologie with Andrea Rea, supervisor of the project AMORE, and has co-edited with Gabriele Proglio the book "Border Lampedusa - Subjectivity, Visibility and Memory in Stories of Sea and Land" forthcoming by Palgrave in 2016.
The final results of AMORE have a high potential impact and use for the next researches on family migration. In particular, the study civil society is rare in public policies studies. Nevertheless, it allows understanding the role of the associations in the implementation of those policies concerning family and migration. The analysis of binational family narrative experiences of state encounters permits to test the use of the approach of "biographical policies (and their implementation) evaluation" in the situations of interaction between binational families and the State (with its administrative and legal bodies). These situations in which the State enacts its power interest binational families but also a wide range of state agents that are employed into the system of control of migration by marriage or by other family reasons. This way, thanks to the approach chosen by AMORE, it is possible to ameliorate the comprehension of the implementation system of family migration policies considering both the people targeted by these policies and a third sector (i.e.: the associations) that has acquired a more and more important role in the interaction between family and administrations. The adoption of a multidisciplinary approach for AMORE allows a detailed and fully understanding of the impact of the variation of political and administrative factors on binational family’s lives. The European comparison has helped to critically observe how migration policies are still considered an internal issue, even in a European context that tries to harmonize migration policies and to sanction national practices if they are against European human rights. Furthermore, during AMORE, the attempt to create a model of action-research has aimed to empower bottom-up participative actions and to understand the development of citizenship awareness and its impact on the implementation of public policies. This attempt participates in a wider collaborative model of research that aims to combine academic analysis of the administrative and social dynamics linked to family migration and associative daily experiences on the field. A collaborative and co-creative method permits to enhance both the role of academia and of the civil society. Their mutual support may help to ameliorate their images and roles as valuable interlocutors between institutions and individuals (both citizens and semi-citizens).

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