Rome Campus Graduate Students Focus on Immigration Issues

Group of students standing in front of Immigrant Lives Matter sign
November 30, 2018

Students enrolled in the Master of Arts program in Government and Politics in St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences explored a variety of topics involving immigration this past summer on the Rome, Italy, campus.

“It was an exciting summer of learning,” said Azzedine Layachi, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Government and Politics, who taught the courses, Migration Politics and Policy, and Seminar on International Law: Refugee and Migration Law in Contemporary Europe. “The group had quite a robust and busy schedule—all in the interest of our students.”

In Migration Politics and Policy, students researched, analyzed, and assessed migration trends and policies and the effect of those policies on origin and host states. The course fostered a holistic perspective on migration patterns and policies through a multidimensional approach that included the role of international governmental organizations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), as well as the treatment of illegal economic migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.

The Seminar on International Law: Refugee and Migration Law in Contemporary Europe introduced students to various approaches to international law, particularly refugee law. Students learned to interpret and explain refugee events and policies with the help of legal and theoretical frameworks, contrast and evaluate different approaches to refugee law, assess the nature of refugee policy-making processes, and evaluate different perspectives and develop their own.

“The two courses could not be offered in a better place and at a better moment,” said Dr. Layachi. “Italy has been engaged in quite a debate on migrants and refugees. The students were able to take advantage of the location to do field work research on their topics while meeting academics, activists, and refugees in Italy.”

Guest speakers for the two courses included Roland Schilling, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Representative for Southern Europe; Djene Dosso, a refugee from the Ivory Coast, who shared details of her dangerous trip from West Africa to Italy and the precariousness of waiting for the Italian government to determine her final status; Ahmed Massud, a refugee from Somalia who is now a consultant for the World Food Programme Emergencies and Transitions Team and the European Asylum Support Office; Nacéra Benali, a journalist for the daily Algerian newspaper El Watan; Maria Ponce de Leon, Ph.D., an Italian teacher and volunteer in Rome and Tunis, Tunisia, who witnessed the Arab Spring and Libyan refugee crisis; and Lauren Lozano ’15G, a program alumna, who has been working with NGOs on various projects to protect female refugees around the world.

In addition to the guest speakers, students visited locations in Rome to meet refugees and learn more about their experiences. Dr. Layachi took students to the Rome Mosque, the largest in Europe, to help acquaint them with the Islamic community in Rome, which consists of many migrants from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

Dr. Layachi
Azzedine Layachi, Ph.D.

Students enjoyed a dinner in the Rome campus courtyard catered by Hummustown, an organization that helps refugees in Rome gain economic independence by providing them with food service jobs. Jeffrey W. Fagen, Ph.D., Dean, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Fred P. Cocozzelli, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Government and Politics, also attended the dinner.

In the Christian community of Sant’Egidio, Claudio Betti, Ph.D., Acting Director, CUA-ACU Rome Campus, and Deputy Secretary General and Director for Special Operation for the Sant'Egidio Community, gave a tour and a presentation on what the organization does for refugees and migrants in Italy and around the world. He also spoke of the difficulties of dealing with government policies and the rising anti-immigrant sentiment among the general population in Italy.

Based on their studies in Rome, four students submitted paper proposals to the annual meeting of the Northeastern Political Science Association in Montreal, Canada. Robert A. Kaminaris, Mohamed Khalil Larhrib, Melissa Robbins, and Zamir Shabani presented a panel, “Migration Policy in the Western Mediterranean Region: International Obligations, Political Conundrum and the Fate of the Migrants,” with Dr. Layachi on November 8.

“Taking the two immigration courses with Dr. Layachi was one of the best decisions I have made,” said Melissa. “Living in Rome for a month studying immigration policies and international law was an unforgettable experience. I am forever grateful to Dr. Layachi for his ability to push students beyond what they believe they are capable of achieving.”