The main objective of our YouCount case, carried out in the Basque Country (Spain) in the province of Gipuzkoa, is to identify the keys to inclusion and exclusion of unaccompanied migrant minors. Together with these young people, we collect their desires, problems, needs and experiences. In addition to these young researchers and us academic researchers from the area of Social Work at the University of Deusto and Orkestra, the Basque Institute of Competitiveness, other social agents such as the social entities of Zabalduz and Loiola Etxea, Gipuzkoa Provincial Council, City Council of Donostia/San Sebastián, Basque Government and the media also participate in the project.
To provide readers with some context, unaccompanied migrant minors in our territory face a lot of challenges. Young migrants who arrived when they were minors struggle with emancipation once they have reached the age of 18 and have to leave the child protection system. In addition, the State and Public Administrations fail to comply with the regularization of their administrative status. Young migrants also live with the fear of being attacked (whether physical, verbal and/or psychological) due to the racist and xenophobic drift that society has taken, which leads to the blame and criminalization of this group.
Regarding the work process, the Spanish YouCount project is built around monthly work sessions in which different vital aspects of young migrants are discussed. In these sessions, we always hold a short theoretical lesson, accompanied by thematic and practical dynamics adapted to each subject. In order to make the space egalitarian and informal, power relations are taken into account and a small catering service is offered (e.g. coffee, tea, omelets). From time to time, we convene a Living lab together with our social partners mentioned above.
Throughout the research process, which started in September 2021, we have not only obtained gratifying results but also learned from our mistakes. Among the results, we can identify a sense of belonging to the YouCount project that many of the young participants have developed. The young researchers have learned from and built science through their own life experiences. Other lessons we have learned through trial and error are related to communication and recruitment.
Looking towards the future, we consider bringing the two groups (Zabalduz and Loiola Etxea) together in a Living Lab in September 2022, where everything we have worked on so far will be presented. This session will be an opportunity to have direct access to all the stakeholders. We are looking forward to continuing our work together with the young migrant researchers and social agents involved in YouCount!
Asier Zafra, University of Deusto