Work priorities

Migrants, Refugees, Asylum Seekers

Everyday, people around the world are left with no choice but to flee their homes. War, indiscriminate violence, persecution, as well as extreme poverty, famine, and climate disaster force people from their homes. Yet the journey towards safety is often life threatening in itself. Upon arrival, migrants and refugees are increasingly viewed as threats to be stopped. Once they are settling in and start building a new life, many face daily racism, xenophobia, exploitation and discrimination in the countries where they had sought out safety, freedom and protection.


It is crucial to change mindsets— to move beyond the fearmongering permeating today’s political discourse—and to highlight the ways in which migration is not a danger, but a phenomenon that can reduce inequalities and connect diverse societies. We must replace our scarcity mindset with one of abundance in order to radically change our paradigm in dealing with migration and asylum.


Ensuring protection and promoting safeguards for migrants and refugees by identifying and responding to human rights challenges, ensuring access to law and justice for all, fostering democratic participation and enhancing inclusion of refuges and migrants (human rights and democracy), are key policy words in addressing the situation.

Human Rights and Discrimination

Symbiosis work is rooted in the principle of non-discrimination. Respect for human rights demands inclusion, demands that everyone gets a say, and demands that those in power protect people from threats to their security. People living in poverty are often trapped because they are excluded from the rest of society, denied a say, and threatened with violence and insecurity. Housing, health and education are key rights.

Freedom of Expression

Freedom of expression is crucial in ensuring a functional democracy.  It underpins other fundamental rights, such as the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and association.


We believe a free press reporting on the issues that shape our lives is a key building block of any rights-respecting society. With limited exceptions, freedom of expression applies to ideas of all kinds—any restrictions on freedom of expression must be provided by law, protect certain public interests or the rights of others, and be clearly necessary for that purpose.


We believe that information is power, and that the internet has the potential decentralize power from government and corporate capture by providing unrestricted access to information. Freedom of (digital) expression thus cannot depend on wealth, privilege and place in society.

Democratic Citizenship

Citizenship is a complex and multi-dimensional reality which needs to be set in its political and historical context. Democratic citizenship refers to the active participation by individuals in the system of rights and responsibilities which is the lot of citizens in democratic societies.


The most common current understanding of citizenship relates to a legal relationship between the individual and the state. Most people in the world are legal citizens of one or another nation state, and this entitles them to certain privileges or rights. Being a citizen also imposes certain duties in terms of what the state expects from individuals under its jurisdiction. Thus, citizens are supposed to fulfil certain obligations to their state and in return they may expect protection of their vital interests.


Yet, the concept of citizenship has far more layers of meaning than legal citizenship. Nowadays “citizenship” is much more than a legal construction and relates – amongst other things – to one’s personal sense of belonging, for instance the sense of belonging to a community which you can shape and influence directly.


Further, traditions and approaches to citizenship vary throughout history and across the world according to different countries, histories, societies, cultures and ideologies, resulting in many different understandings of the concept of citizenship.


While we largely understand climate change through the impacts it will have on our natural world, it is the devastation that it is causing and will continue to cause for humanity that makes it an urgent human rights issue. Climate extremes and variability are threatening the livelihoods, food security, health and wellbeing of millions of people worldwide, with those living in marginalised settings and in fragile and conflict-affected states disproportionately affected.

Social Rights, Inclusion and Justice

Human rights, rule of law and democracy, which cannot be realised without the respect for social rights. Processes that prevent individuals, groups or communities from accessing the rights, opportunities and resources that are normally available to members of society exclude them from society; responsible for social exclusion are often structural forces, such as laws, public policies, institutional practices, organizational behaviours, and prevailing ideologies, values and beliefs.


The European Social Charter is a Council of Europe human rights treaty. ‘Social cohesion’ is the political concept considered essential for the fulfilment of its core values: human rights, democracy and the rule of law. In 2005, the Council of Europe defined social cohesion as ‘society’s ability to secure the long-term well-being of all its members, including equitable access to available resources, respect for human dignity with due regard for diversity, personal and collective autonomy and responsible participation’ (CoE, 2005: 23). Social justice means equal rights and equitable opportunities for all.


Gender affects everyone in complex, subtle and overt ways. The terms sex, gender, gender identity and sexuality have different meanings, but are often confused. Millions of people are discriminated, stigmatised and even victims of violence because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.


Gender refers to the socially constructed set of expectations, behaviours and activities of persons attributed to them on the basis of their perceived sex. Social expectations regarding any given set of gender roles depend on a particular socio-economic, political and cultural context and are affected by other factors including race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation and age. Gender roles are learned and vary widely within and between different human societies and change over time.


Discrimination based on sex, gender identity and sexual orientation is widespread across the world. It especially limits the extent to which women and LGBTQI people are able to participate in society. Significant barriers to full and equal participation exist in education, employment and political and public decision making.