Catch and Release: Examining Colonial Practices in Migration and Education Initiatives| By Bintou Diallo

On the 19th of September the United Nations held a summit in New York to discuss the large movements of refugees and migrants from the ‘global south’ to the ‘global north.’ The UN General Assembly says that the summit takes a humane and coordinated approach, one that allows countries to work together in managing the influx of refugees and migrants to the ‘global north.’

According to the Slovak Spectator, Foreign Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák spoke in this same tone by asking for countries to band together in confronting challenges related to migration. As pointed out by Melissa Siegel from the United Nations University, the summit, although creating a collaborative forum, resulted in a dialogue about helping them, those coming from the ‘global south,’ through border control rather “than facilitating opportunities for migration.”

There is a focus on catching and releasing those that migrate to countries such as Slovakia. Slovakia has pledged to give 550 scholarships to refugees by 2021. This pledge is explained as being an investment in refugees who will later graduate from schools in Slovakia.  It is presumed that after graduating, they will return to “their homelands and help restore them.” The approach that is being taken is to regulate the number of migrants and refugees that come into a country as well as developing those who remain, in the case of Slovakia, into agents of change.

With such an approach, what are the positionalities and identities of children such as the one pictured that makes this possible? Why does Minister Miroslav Lajčák think that the education a child refugee receives in Slovakia will result in him/her becoming a global citizen later in life? This type of thinking portrays the continuing ideologies of the ‘global north’ about development being a process or way of organizing and motivating societies to change using people from their communities (McMichael, 1996).


UNHCR/ Mark Henley

We can look at education during colonialism when colonial schools were used to prepare the colonized for leadership in their society. In this case, education is being used from one state to apply leadership to another state without taking into account that children like the one pictured may not have the necessary intercultural skills to apply in their ‘homeland(s).’ There is an assumption that children will still view the country they migrated from as their homeland. This assumption does not take into account the socialization that occurs within education that may or may not limit Lajčák’s conclusion from coming to fruition.

Therefore, it is important to look at these traces of colonial thought and identity development in the implementation of policies when dealing with the free flow or lack thereof of people. This in essence will be a humane and coordinated approach to take. An even more necessary one when using education to accomplish development initiatives that are situated as ways of helping people in need but only accomplish one’s own initiatives of making migration less of a problem for countries in the ‘global north.’


  • McMichael, P.(1996). The rise of the development project. Development and social change: A global perspective. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.
  • Refugees to get education in Slovakia. (2016, September 21). The Slovak Spectator. Retrieved from
  • Siegel, M. (2016, September 22). Why its time to get serious about migration and development. United Nations University. Retrieved from
  • UN News Centre. (2016, September 25). Refugees and migrants. Retrieved from




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