International Youth Exchange ‘Communication for Integration’ KA1 Youth Mobility Project financed by Leargas under the European Union Program Erasmus+. Participating countries: Ireland, Lithuania, Italy, Hungary, Greece and Turkey. Location: Lithuania, August 1st-1oth 2017 #Com4Int
Integration. It shouldn’t just be a word which is dotted in policy documents. Integration is an idea which must be held up and actively encouraged at local, regional and an international level and recognised for the value it can add to an increasingly diverse and multicultural social landscape. Upon ﬁnding yourself in a new country or alien environment, two forces begin to exist in ﬂux. A battle between retaining your cultural identity and the pressure from your new surroundings to conform. For many immigrants, integration represents the secure middle ground between being ostracised for refusing to alter the way you express your identity and being utterly assimilated into society, losing a part of your identity. Integration means structuring services, communities and attitudes in a way which recognises diversity as an asset, not a liability. An Erasmus project was the ideal way to creatively explore the idea of integration. Bringing together the perspectives of young people from multiple backgrounds and countries with diverse views and experiences of migration.
“The exchange phase of this project was designed to aid the national groups in exploring the issues around and solutions to migration concerns by allowing participants to compare and contrast national perceptions and reactions to refugees as well as allowing personal experiences to be shared as a learning opportunity. The exchange also sought to facilitate national groups working with other nations to create action plans for local actions for change.
The exchange had the beneﬁt of broadening the scope of the dissemination of the ﬁnal projects as well as creating a strategy for communication and a working network between participating organisations. In summary, Communication 4 Integration is a project, led by individuals with a personal stake in successful integration, which wants to use international partners to help to creatively create localised change and disseminate that change across the European network formed.
Six national groups were involved in this project; Ireland, Lithuania, Italy, Greece, Hungary and Turkey. As a result of many national groups selecting participants with a personal interest in integration, there were many more nationalities represented in the participants; South Sudan, Ghana, Afghanistan, United Kingdom and the Czech Republic.
Our isolated, riverfront and picturesque venue helped create a focused and comfortable environment for our exchange. It has been a pleasure to work with the driven youth leaders on this project and partnerships created on this project will hopefully be rekindled for further projects. I hope that readers of this report can learn from our reﬂections on our experience and use our learning to assist the creation of future exchanges”- Aiste Slajute, Eurobug Director
“During a previous Eurobug Erasmus+ exchange, the idea for this project came to me as I reﬂected on the experiences of the sizeable migrant community in rural Ireland and my own part in this process of resettlement. I wanted a way to equip myself and others in migrant communities and the general population with the skills and tools to create an impact at a local level. To ease the process of integration and to understand it more myself.” – Emanuel Tacima Samuel, Irish Group Leader
Six national groups were involved in this project; Ireland, Lithuania, Italy, Greece, Hungary and Turkey. As a result of national groups selecting participants with a personal interest and experience of migrant integration, there were many more nationalities and cultures represented in the participants than countries ofﬁcially involved; amongst them South Sudan, Ghana, Afghanistan, the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic. The array of perspectives these participants brought and offered was one of the projects strongest points.
The organisations which participated were selected on the basis of their work on integration, immigration or migration or their capacity and willingness to do so.
Group Leaders: Kelvin Akpaloo, Emmanuel Tacima Samuel
Perspective on Integration: Ireland, as an island nation, experiences little direct exposure to the immigration situation in central, eastern, Mediterranean and countries within the Schengen area. As a result Ireland has had a small number of refugees and Asylum seekers compared to the majority of the EU, with the most of the accepted refugees being a part of the European Union resettlement quota. The effect of the above elements, Ireland has little weight being thrown on either side of the refugee debate.
Group Leader: Laura Alčiauskaite
Perspective on immigration: Lithuania is seen a step, not a long term destination for many with refugee or asylum status in the country. As a country experiencing a slow economic decline and a country with a right leaning government and nationalist tendencies, the general attitudes and political response to refugees has been one performed out of obligation to the European Union.
Group Leader: Giuseppe Quattrone
Perspective on Immigration: As a country with an expansive border on the Mediterranean, Italy has a difﬁcult time controlling its borders. As a consequence Italy has very few documented migrants and swathes of undocumented refugees. Italy receives a higher proportion of refugees from North Africa than the middle eastern due to its location.
Group Leader: Michalis Chatzimimikos
Perspective on Immigration: Greece has experienced intense waves of refugees reaching its shores. Regionally it is referred to as the gateway to Europe. As it’s territory is dispersed across many islands, it’s borders are difﬁcult to control.
Group Leader: Anna Takács
Perspective on Immigration: The Hungarian government of recent years has taken a hard line on refugees and asylum seekers. The parliament has approved a law enabling all asylum seekers in the country to be detained and forced back into neighbouring Serbia. Viktor Orban, the Prime Minister, claimed migrants were keeping his country “under siege” and has already ordered the reinforcement of fences along Hungary’s southern border and claimed refugees are a threat to Europe’s Christian identity and culture.
Group Leader: Erhan Zelluh
Perspective on Immigration: The number of refugees in Turkey has reached over 3.4 million, making Turkey the host country with the largest refugee population in the world. The European Union and its Members States are funding the “EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey” which provides €3 billion to address the needs of refugees and host communities through humanitarian and development assistance in 2016 and 2017. About 90% of Syrian refugees in Turkey remain outside of camp settings with limited access to basic services. The European Commission is providing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable refugees, particularly to those living outside of camps.
The main aim of this international youth exchange was to support the successful integration of young refugees and migrants through raising awareness and active youth participation.
Our speciﬁc objectives were:
• To provide safe space and welcoming environment for young people to engage in inter-cultural dialogue;
• To equip young people with communication and leaderships skills, so they can become an active change makes in their local communities;
• To create visual and audio messages (videos, music, spoke word pieces, photos etc.) which raises awareness of refugee and migrant youth issues, supports inclusion, cultural diversity and solidarity;
• To guide young people through creating personal ‘step by step’ plans for helping young refugees and migrants in their communities.
As a result of taking part in the international youth exchange ‘Communication 4 Integration’ participants gained knowledge about:
• What it can mean to live as a refugee or as a migrant;
• Refugee youth situation in participating countries;
• The ways that young people can support integration of refugee and migrant youth in their communities;
• Different cultures and participating countries;
• Social media platforms and No Hate Speech Movement;
• Erasmus+ program (youth exchanges and also EVS).
Participants also gained skills of: active listening; verbal and non-verbal communication; public speaking; leadership; facilitation; making presentations; planning and preparation of personal action-plans; using social media to raise awareness; creative self-expression; critical discussion and decision making, reaching agreements with peers; using English language to express themselves; reﬂecting on personal learning.
As participants’ awareness and understanding of different cultures, countries and democracy practices were raised, so were attitudes towards the inclusion of minorities. Using the skills participants gained during the project, they will become active change makers in their local communities and advocates for young refugees and migrants. Furthermore, through personal development, participants will improve their employ-ability and their sense of European citizenship and European identity.
Youth Exchange consisted of a number of non-formal education activities using various methodologies along with expert presentations, working groups, workshops, training modules, networking activities, feedback sessions and intercultural events. In the morning, the topics and workshops of the day were presented and discussed with inputs from group leaders and facilitators. In the evenings, participants were able to reﬂect on their learning and experiences in their national groups. Group leaders met daily to reﬂect and plan the coming days and activities
This is a link to online_magazine_com4intrpt for detailed activity summary, additional information and more interviews with participants.
“A young boy watched me dance for a while, then reached out and took my hand and took me to the volleyball pitch and asked us to play with him. We made him captain and he chose me to be in his team ﬁrst. After the game he asked if we could dance again, we did and soon other joined us. We played music on a small speaker we had brought, he begged me to play despacito and was so happy when I did. I brought out some stickers from the No Hate Speech Movement and gave him a sticker, he immediately gave it to his friend. He then asked for more and more, giving them all to his ﬁends and then ﬁnally himself. I played football and danced with him until we had to leave. He said ‘nice to meet you, bye’ and then asked if he could see me again. I said ‘yes, of course’ even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to. I couldn’t face to disappoint this boy who had been so light all afternoon, reﬂecting I feel my answer was wrong, but I still don’t know if I could have said no.” -Kelvin, Ireland
“Thanks to this youth exchange, I feel like a brand new person. Such an experience is beyond words for me. I was in Karsakiskis with many unique people from different places and backgrounds. But the harmony we created there was so powerful for me. It made me think that if we are to be respectful and caring for each other, like we were in Karsakiskis, world can be a heaven for people. Ok, it isn’t a matter of changing the world, but changing oneself has an impressive effect on others, at least we can say this. The workshops, activities we did there, they triggered my creativity and the products that we had in a very little time taught me never to lose hope in humanity. The visit to refugee center in Rukla, it means a lot to me because i saw how important it was for the people to be able to talk to us, to tell about their lives that war has changed and their hard times in different countries. They were searching for safety and a life that is proper for human beings. Maybe our visit didn’t change the situation in the world but it meant a lot to them and also for us. I regained my belief in activism and regained my power to resist against injustices. It was possible thanks to this youth exchange, to my friends in Karsakiskis. One by one, i love everyone and miss them so much. Now i promise myself to keep that spirit in my daily life, in my neighborhood. Thank you for everything!”-Tansu, Turkey
“I have to say many thanks for this program. It was the best experience in an exchange program; a nice group, the best director, the process of the event itself. Programs like this are a good opportunity and make it easier for us to learn about each other and our different cultures. We also have the time to understand the people we are with. I had great times with a lot friends as we showed one another our cultures and we learned from each other. I was one of the refugees in this program and I was happy because I had close contact with another volunteer, and for sure this helped more to know more about them”- Mahdi, Afghanistan/ Hungary