Borders of Fear Meetup: Facing Invisible Borders

Facing invisible borders, every year thousands of people from developing countries apply for a visa to western countries and face an often tedious visa application process. They worry about whether they have the right documents or whether a typo might put their application directly into the reject pile and anxiously await a response. At best, successfully getting a visa is a completely mystifying process. At worst, after doing all the hard work, their visa gets denied.

Are the strict regulations governing access to the consulate and the complicated application process strategically designed to induce fear? If so, why?

The Borders of Fear Meetup: Facing Invisible Borders was organized by the Disruption Network Lab and held on October 28, 2020 from 19:00-22:00 at ACUD Macht Neu in Berlin’s Mitte district. It was hosted by Thomas C. Kalunge of the #MigrantMediaNetwork. Thomas sought to answer questions related to the journey of a potential migrant to Germany using design thinking.

Migrantmedianetwork provides young Africans with reliable information and training on migration issues and social media, in order to help others make informed decisions and be aware of safer migration options to Europe.

The German & European community was of particular focus in this #MMN meetup, with 13 Germans and other European citizens of the German community taking part in the event that welcomed 25 participants overall. Thomas began the evening by presenting on how a design thinking methodology could help us gain a deeper knowledge of the situation. He then took participants on a hypothetical journey that detailed the steps an individual coming from a developing country would have to take in order to apply for a visa to come to Germany as a migrant. In walking participants through this visa application process, he was able to make the invisible border visible, showing all of the hurdles that exist along the way.

As of July 2020, the German passport was ranked as the 3rd strongest passport in the world: German passport holders can travel to about 189 countries without a visa. The problems surrounding visa applications was therefore new to Germans, or citizens of the European Union, and highlighted the inequity faced by others whose citizenship does not bestow upon them these privileges.
The evening event was designed to be experiential in nature and covered the following topics:

Role Play: Visa Application Process
All participants were briefed and asked to arrange their documents in order and proceed to the gate for security control before they proceeded to the consulate.
Consulate setup: There were three consulates onsite ready to process the visa application forms of the participants. The participants went through two security checks: all required documents were checked, and electronic gadgets were left at the gate by the security checkpoint.

5 out of 20 participants were granted a visa, leaving 15 participants without visa. Participants were rejected based on the following criteria:

  • Failure to answer odd questions
  • Failure to submit required documents
  • No reason given

Through role playing participants were able to in a small way experience the nature of the visa application process in developing countries.

After this, the group discussed and sought answers and solutions to these questions:

  • What are the challenges that potential migrants face in the migration process, especially for those from developing countries?
  • Why do some of the migrants choose to not even try to apply for a visa and instead take the irregular (backdoor) path, even in cases where the backdoor path costs more money than the regular path?
  • Are the strict regulations governing access the consulate and the complicated application process strategically designed to induce fear? If so, why?

Discussing policy and public dialogue
In the past, the German government has called for public dialogue and suggestions for how to make the visa application process more humane. Yet at the same time, more border security was put in place and they have begun to strategically grant fewer visa. This led to demonstrations in front of embassies in developing countries and drastically increased irregular (backdoor) migration.

Based on this information and the role play, participants where divided into three groups to brainstorm and discuss these questions:

  • Have you applied for visa before?
  • How was your application?
  • What made it difficult or easy for you?
  • How did this process make you feel?
  • Do you see any fault in the process?
  • How can this process be made more effective?
  • What could be changed about the process?

The workshop was designed to foster discussion and allow participants to gain a better understanding of the hurdles that stand in the way of applying for a visa and using the prescribed path to migration. These goals were met. Participants came up with ideas and solutions they were ready and willing to share with the German government in the context of the public dialogue surrounding migration and the visa application process.
Ideas garnered from the discussions:

  • Provide clear information on the official websites
  • Websites need to be functional and user-friendly
  • There should be offline info-centers
  • Provide clear information on the reason for a rejection
  • More funding to have sufficient & well-trained staff
  • Greater transparency of the process
  • Decentralized Consulates / Agencies for more accessibility
  • Ban discriminating & intimidating behavior on the part of agency or staff

Another group argued that the process should be free and would be more fair if the following were implemented:

  • Personnel should be well-informed / educated in order to provide accurate answers
  • The process should be anonymous
  • Provide a clear checklist of requirements/ documents (available online and offline at the consulate)
  • Forbid questions related to socio-economic status
  • Provide visa assistance through simple language forms and someone who does a pre-check for accuracy and typos
  • Examining the root causes of problems more extensively
  • Stop media fear mongering
  • Digitalize the visa process (automation could decrease risk of prejudice / racism in interviews)
  • Reduce “ultra security” in application centers.

Written by Benedictus Agbelom

Borders of Fear Meetup: Facing Invisible Borders

Wednesday 28 October, 19:00 – 22:00 at ACUD Macht Neu, Veteranenstr 21, 10119 Berlin

Part of the DNL Activation programme
Cost: free admission · Language: English

Registration: The number of participants is limited to 15. Booking is essential.
Please get your ticket here

Warming up to our 21st conference BORDERS OF FEAR: Migration, Security & Control, (27-29 November 2020, Studio 1, Kunstraum Kreuzberg / Bethanien), we invite you to join us for an evening with Thomas Kalunge of the Migrant Media Network – an immersion into the journey of a potential migrant to Germany using design thinking.

The Migrant Media Network (#MMN) is a project by the r0g_agency for open culture & critical transformation that provides young Africans with reliable information and training on migration issues and social media to make informed decisions and be aware of safer migration options to Europe. #MMN promotes youth entrepreneurship at home as a way to build economic and social resilience, encouraging youth to create their own opportunities and work within their communities.

Program – starting from 19:00:

  • Introduction to the conference Borders of Fear: Migration, Security & Control

  • Introduction to the Migrant Media Network

  • Immersive journey: facing invisible borders

  • Drinks and networking

Every year thousands of people from developing countries apply for a visa to western countries, often facing a tedious visa application process: worrying whether they have the right documents, whether a typo might have put their application directly into the reject pile, or just anxiously awaiting a response. At worst, getting a visa successfully is completely mystifying. And what if after doing all the hard work your visa gets denied? The anxiety and fear of rejection are made even worse by locations where the embassy are located especially in developing countries like Ghana and Kenya. The security surrounding the facilities look designed to induce fear. The question then here is who really fears who?

On the contrary, as of July 2020, the German passport was ranked as the 3rd strongest passport in the world: German passport holders can travel to about 189 countries without a visa. The problems of visa application will be therefore new for many German, or European, passport holders.

In this meetup, Thomas C. Kalunge will, after an introduction to the Migrant Media Network project, invite you to immerse yourself via the design thinking process into the experiences of potential migrants. This journey will help you understand the process of applying for visa coming from a developing country, and make the invisible border visible. Are the the strict regulation to access the consulate and the complicated application process strategically designed to induce fear? If so why?


  • The meetup is free of admission and the number of seats is limited to 15. Booking is essential. You can reserve a spot here


Thomas G. Kalunge (Strategy advisor/Agile Project Management, r0g_agency) is Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship Scientist and practitioner (MSc) as well as a certified design thinking expert. With the User-centered approach, Thomas’s work focuses on Agile project management, Innovation Management, and diaspora involvement in transformative development in host and countries of origin. Currently, Thomas leads the project Migrant Media Network #MMN. This project uses digital online and offline tools to ensure factual information on migration decisions and to provide a discussion forum to defuse the often one-sided picture of migration perpetuated mostly by human smugglers. He also works with r0g_agency on program and strategy development for various projects and programs in Africa

Funded by: Senatsverwaltung für Kultur Und Europa (Senate Department for Culture and Europa, Berlin), Bundeszentrale Für Politische Bildung, the Reva and David Logan Foundation (Grant Provided by Neo Philanthropy), the Guerrilla Foundation, Checkpoint Charlie Foundation. Supported [in Part] by a Grant From the Foundation Open Society Institute in Cooperation with the OSIFE of the Open Society Foundations. Part of Re-Imagine Europe co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.

#MMN_Migrant Media Network Public Presentation

December 18, 2019

Reported by Sara Shedden Casanovas

Migrant Media Network 2019 ended with a public presentation of the project, at the Haus der Statistik on December 13th. #MMN trainee and political scientist at the University of Bayreuth, Fortune Agbele, opened the event with a keynote talk. She highlighted the need for policy-makers and politicians to apply multiple and evidence-based sustainable solutions to tackle global migration, going beyond the current one-sided interventions, which are largely focused on building barriers to impede the entry of migrant Africans to Europe.

In this regard, she applauded how the Migrant Media Network is approaching the global migration issue: “The project, which has so far been piloted in Ghana, does not only seek to create an awareness of the dangers that come to taking the irregular route to Europe but also seeks to highlight the opportunities in the home countries. And of particular relevance to the social media boom, it seeks to provide young Africans with reliable information not only on safer options to migrate to Europe but also on the need to scrutinize some of the false images shared on social media about life in Europe.”

After the keynote talk, the initiators of #MMN showcased the different information resources and open technologies that have been co-created with members of the Ghanaian diaspora based in Berlin, during a series of workshops that took place in Berlin at the beginning of the project. These include the raspberry Pi powered HyracBox offline server, a migrant information and entrepreneurship oriented USSD system, along with a comprehensive hard copy and digital #MMN Field Guide for trainers and community leaders.

The event closed with a panel discussion with the returned trainers, in which they reported about their experiences in running social media skills, migration and entrepreneurship workshops in their home communities in Ghana and talked about their personal stories as migrants in Germany. The trainers shared with the audience a surprising impact their workshops had on most participating school boys and girls during their time in Ghana. Whereas at the beginning of the training most participants considered migrating to Europe or the US in the near future -some were already in contact with a travel agent-, the figures reversed after the workshops. Most youth became critical about migrating to Europe irregularly and many considered taking a new path in life as social entrepreneurs in their home towns.

“Participants became much aware of the dangers of irregular migration routes and associated risks on getting documentation in Germany. They also identified alternative economic activities to migrating to Germany such as small-scale farming, fishing, livestock rearing and petty trade, among others, and were interested in how to access the needed funds to start-up in their local communities.” reported trainer Cosmas Combat.

With this valuable insight, Migrant Media Network 2020 will have the potential to enhance these impact by supporting young people in Ghana access the skills, information, mentoring and resources they need in the long term to turn their ideas into businesses, to be job-creators instead of job-seekers, and to empower the younger generations with a ‘making culture’.Posted in AfricaInitiativesOpen KnowledgeOpen Technology and tagged #defyhatenow Field GuideMigrationMMN

#MMN_Migrant Media Network 2019


DECEMBER 13, 2019
11am – 3pm

Werkstatt – Haus der Statistik Berlin Mitte
Karl-Marx-Allee 1
10178 Berlin

engaging diaspora communities in social media awareness e& open tech innovation to foster informed migration choices

introduction by: Fortune Agbele – Political Science Researcher, University of Bayreuth

Please join our team of Berlin and regional based Ghanaian trainers reporting from their experiences in running community based social media skills & migration workshops in their home communities in Ghana. Linking online resources with mobile offline and regional telecommunications systems, including the Raspberry Pi powered HyracBox offline server, a migrant information and entrepreneurship oriented USSD system, #MMN is also developing a comprehensive print anddigital Field Guide for trainers and community leaders.

#MMN – Migrant Media Network is a project by Berlin-based r0g_agency for open culture & critical transformation gGmbH to develop reliable public information and training on social media skills to foster informed and safe choices regarding migration issues.

Workshop: Migrant Media Network 2020

August 17th – 21st-, 2020
ZKU Berlin, Germany

5 day immersive hands – on workshops

Contribute to changing the perception of life in Europe and help mitigate the low awareness of the manifold dangers linked to irregular migration. 

Workshop: Migrant Media Network (Ghana)

4-day Workshop on Social Media Sensitization and Migration in Berlin

WHEN: July 17-18 and 22-23, 2019

WHERE: r0g_agency for Open Culture and Critical Transformation, Knobelsdorffstraße 22, 14059 Berlin

CONTACT: Thomas Gitonga Kalunge,, +491772426390

Aim: Training Ghanaian diaspora in Germany to become trainers on social media sensitization in the areas of regular and irregular migration. 

Phase 1 – Participants will learn about engaging responsibly with social media and be equipped with basic training skills on how to organize workshops on social media sensitization in Ghana. 

Phase 2 – Four of the trained participants will be supported with materials and guidelines to conduct social media sensitization training workshops in their region of origin in Ghana around the ethical use of social media, irregular vs regular migration and tackling human traffickers’ deceptions. 

Why you should participate: 

  • Be part of a pioneer group of Ghanaian trainers 
  • Become a certified trainer on social media sensitization
  • Help mitigate the lies of human traffickers
  • Tell your own success stories on migration
  • Co-create print and offline/online digital materials on topics around migration and social media 

Food and beverages will be provided during the workshop.

open:fora – Migrant Media Network Café

the open cultural street meet
open culture office – Berlin, Germany

Diasporas are viewed as important agents of economic and social development in countries of origin, but governments often lack knowledge or capacity for engaging them effectively at scale.  By exploring what roles the governments of the host countries vs the countries of origin play, or should play, we look to establish methodologies that help counter both the pressures of flight and conflict.