Leitch discusses Germany’s migrant initiative

December 15, 2017
Dr. Daniel Leitch with Sarmina Stuman, an advocate for Afghan asylum seekers in Germany

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – Receiving an interview request from a Russian radio station certainly was not what Dr. Daniel Leitch, assistant director/associate professor in the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s School of Education, expected when he woke up and checked his email the morning of Dec. 4.

That morning, in an email message, Andrew Yushin, a producer at Radio Sputnik World Service, based in Moscow, Russia, informed Leitch that he had read articles about his work with Syrian refugees and wondered if he would be interested in sharing his professional opinion about the German Interior Ministry’s new initiative, which offers up to 3,000 euros to rejected asylum seekers to return to their home countries before March.

The new initiative is designed to reduce the number of Afghan, Syrian and North African migrants who have been denied refugee status. The program, which will last until the end of February 2018, is being implemented in conjunction with another German Interior Ministry program that provides aid to migrants who have decided to return to their home countries voluntarily.

Leitch agreed to the interview, titled “Tough Choices for Refugees,” and on Dec. 5, spoke with Radio Sputnik World Service about a variety of topics related to the initiative, including the plight of migrant families with children, the choices available to migrants who have been refused asylum in Germany and the process of deportation.

“I’ve had a longstanding interest in Russian history, culture, language and society, but I never anticipated having the opportunity to provide an interview for a Moscow-based radio station,” said Leitch. “I was happy to share my direct experiences with the listening audience. During the interview, I vividly remembered meeting with families from Afghanistan. It struck me that this is not about money but about families worried about their children’s futures.”

During the interview, Leitch noted that the new program does not affect the Syrian refugees he encountered in the Hessen Province because they have already, for the most part, met the United Nations High Council for Refugees’ standards and have been granted asylum and refugee status. He said the new program primarily affects migrants from Afghanistan and northern Africa who cannot prove that they meet the standards.

During the summers of 1993-2000, Leitch traveled extensively to Russia and worked on a variety of projects designed to aid orphans and incarcerated youth.

One of the higher profile projects he was involved in during that time was forging a lead role in a Russian and American partnership to create an Independent Living Skills Center in Muraviovka, a village in eastern Russia. The purpose of the center was to teach Russian orphans – there were an estimated 2 million orphans in the country at the time – the skills they desperately needed to cope with life after they left the orphanages. Leitch’s work with the center was featured in a Sept. 24, 2000 Wisconsin State Journal article, “Giving Youth a Fighting Chance.” Read more about his work with the center online.

Leitch’s interest in helping migrants and refugees began in 2006, when he began to research the challenges facing the children of migrant workers in rural and urban China. His commitment to understanding those trying to escape poverty and persecution continued in the following years.

From August 2016-February 2017, Leitch worked as a volunteer with the Helping Hands Refugee Program in Vierheim, Germany, aiding Syrian refugees in Darmstadt, Germany. Read more about his work with Syrian refugees online at http://bit.ly/2A5u5Vz and http://bit.ly/2B1cxh5.

During the same period, Leitch taught at the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences and became acquainted with the Afghan refugee community through the efforts of Sarmina Stuman, one of his students. Stuman, an advocate and activist with the Afghan Refugee Movement, invited Leitch to attend Afghan community education meetings and the Open Café for Refugees. Read more about Stuman’s work with the Afghan Refugees Movement online.
 
Radio Sputnik World Service has regional editorial offices in Washington, D.C.; Cairo, Egypt; Beijing, China; London, England; and Edinburgh, Scotland. Its listenership includes 80 cities around the world and 30 languages.

To listen to the interview online, visit: https://soundcloud.com/radiosputnik/its-a-tough-choice-for-refugees-dr-daniel-leitch.

Written by: Laurie A. Hamer, University Relations Specialist, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191, hamerl@uwplatt.edu

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