1: The contribution of social work research to promote migration and asylum policies in Europe

Social work, both as a profession and as an academic discipline, is – at least theoretically – in a privileged position to capture the nuances of migration, given that social workers are present during the different stages of migration and asylum processes as well as at academic, practitioner and policy-making levels. However, the mere presence of social workers in the field is not necessarily a synonym of commitment and/or social transformation, as practitioners and academics may just replicate, unquestioningly, the guidelines dictated by governments and/or funding institutions or – quite the opposite – foster a critical perspective in their daily routines.

In this chapter, we reflect on the possibilities of social work research to influence migration policies, and more specifically, EU migration policies. To this end, we look at the past to get inspired by social work pioneers, but also to the future by reflecting on what is needed to raise awareness about issues that can be challenging for social work research from a critical perspective. We also reflect on the roles that academia, public institutions and organisations play by enabling or blocking this kind of research. Last but not least, we explore to what extent social work (and social work research) is present at decision-making levels.

We anticipate that social work research plays a very limited role in influencing migration policies and that it could play a much greater role in case some changes were operationalised. This chapter aims, thus, to highlight the root causes of this lack of influence and stimulate reflection that encompasses academia, organisations, institutions and individuals in making sure research is more influential in the future.

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