Delia Stefenel is an academic and researcher in the field of migration studies. She holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Bucharest with a thesis on the cultural models in conflictual communication. She has taught at universities from Romanian, Germany, and Greece. In her publications, she researches primarily the topic of Romanians’ migrants in Greece, including their difficulties in adapting to the Greek society, as well as patterns of cultural communication. She is the co-founder of the European Social Impact Institute (http://esi-institute.eu/), an organization based in Romania which aims to provide consultancy, engage in research and to conduct activities meant to stimulate social change in communities in need.
You are an international migration researcher. How did you come to study migration?
My concern for the study of migration comes from my biographical background. I lived in Greece for ten years. There, I started to do the first research among the Romanian migrants, of the first generation, who lived in the Greek metropolitan area. At “Contemporary Balkans”, a cultural society for Romanians in Greece and even for Greeks who lived or had something in common with Romania, I set up a laboratory of sociology of migration, together with Monica Săvulescu Voudouri, from whom I learned how field research is done in the study of migration. There, we collected data related to the adaptation of Romanians in Greece, ethnic jobs, transnationalism, who they are, how they came to Greece (sometimes clandestinely), what they feel, what they do, or what Romanians would like to do in Greece. I have met special people among them, with life stories full of emotion. Some of them allowed me to record their stories and carry them on, with others I still keep in touch today, scattered in different parts of the world, on the second or even third migration.
How do you think the 2015 refugee crisis was managed in the European Union and in Romania?
If we look at official statistics (UNHCR), every two seconds a person is forced to migrate due to conflict or violence. The large influx of refugees to European countries has been unprecedented in recent decades, which on the one hand has generated chaos, tension, fear, overcrowded campuses in transit countries, but on the other hand, has led to a raising awareness of the host communities towards each other and to an adjustment of migration policies and asylum procedures.
How complicated is the process of integrating immigrants in Romania, especially those from the Middle East, who have a different religion?
Integration, by its very definition, is a two-way process: on the one hand, it involves maintaining the culture of the migrant/refugee, and on the other hand, maintaining contact with members of the majority society. Efforts are needed on both sides to facilitate knowledge and the acceptance of cultural diversity in communities with a heterogeneous cultural background, where a longer-term favorable cohabitation is sought, to the detriment of marginalization or assimilation.
What resources do you think immigrants/refugees need to successfully integrate into Romanian society?
The capitalization of the resources needed for the migrants/refugees to better integrate depends to a large extent on their status and residence plans. Romania remains a transit country for many refugees, who are either subject to international regulations (e.g., the Dublin Regulation), or transit through Romania, using the Balkan or Black Sea route, or decide to settle permanently here. The resources can vary from the necessary resources in the reception centers, covering the basic needs, medical, psychological, legal assistance, cultural mediation, to resources and educational integration programs, on the labor market and in the community.
Can you tell us about your civic involvement in projects related to immigrants and refugees?
Over the years I have participated in projects with and for immigrants/refugees. But the experience that struck me the most was a working visit to the refugee centers on the island of Lesbos, Greece. At the time of my visit, in 2019, there were 13.000 residents in a capacity of 3.000, only on the Moria campus. The refugees were in a continuous state of survival, waiting for their case to be resolved. The staff at the reception centers and the organizations active on campus were trying their best to meet the needs of the newcomers, which were completely different from ours.
Translated by Fawzia G. Rehejeh