In 2000, the United Nations General Assembly declared 18 December as International Migrants Day1. Since then, this day has been an opportunity to recall that the right to migrate is a human right inherent in all of us, regardless of our national or ethnic origin, gender, religion, language, age or other status. It calls for recognition that mobility is a characteristic of humanity, where human beings are driven by the quest to discover, explore, work, build projects and write a new page of their lives in a new country. However, while the act of migration is motivated by the search for a better future, many do so out of necessity, fleeing persecution, human rights violations, war, violence, disease, poverty, food crisis or a changing environment. We must therefore both recognise the positive contributions that migrants make to our societies and be aware of the challenges they face in realising their full potential and capacities.
The past couple of years have been shaken by multiple humanitarian, environmental and health crises: the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan, extreme heat waves and drought due to climate change, etc. In May 2022, the UN was alarmed that the symbolic milestone of 100 million refugees worldwide had been reached – a figure precipitated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which caused the fastest and one of the largest crises of forced displacement since the Second World War2. As of 6 July 2022, more than 5.6 million Ukrainian refugees were registered in Europe, mostly in Poland, Romania, Moldova, Slovakia and Hungary3.
Thanks to strong multi-stakeholder and multi-level solidarity, the EU reacted rapidly, including through the exceptional activation of the Temporary Protection Directive and other emergency actions such as the “Safe Homes initiative”, which helped Ukrainian exiles to reach safety without causing the collapse of the asylum system. However, if these exceptional solidarity efforts are to be celebrated, we must ensure that reception policy efforts in times of crisis are fair and equal for all uprooted people seeking asylum. It is also essential to recognise and examine the progress made at the local level – the cities, communities, and local civil society actors – who have been at the forefront of efforts and flexibilities to ensure the protection of these new arrivals.
This is particularly the case and experience of the EPIC project, which has seen examples of social innovation emerge, where local partners have demonstrated resilience by cooperating and implementing new solutions to urgent social challenges and needs, such as those generated by unexpected emergency situations. In this video, some of the partners explain what EPIC has meant to navigate these crises and what they hope to achieve by the end of the project.
More concretely, this year, EPIC partners launched local pilot projects, resulting from capacity building activities, to implement new mechanisms to facilitate and stimulate the integration of migrants at the local level in the short and long term. These new services cover a variety of topics and sectors. Some focus on education, whether through multicultural activities in schools in Alcorcon or raising awareness among education staff about the psychological consequences of migration in Gdansk. Others, such as Sisak, Ioannina and Sardinia, are working towards a more inclusive labour market, seeking to improve access to employment. While Brescia promotes social cohesion by raising awareness of good neighbourly relations, other partners seek to improve the social support system, whether by introducing comprehensive social assistance in Portugal or by creating an online platform that provides information about various municipal services that are more accessible to newcomers in Oberhausen.
In 2022, EPIC partners also continued the communication work on migration by launching alternative narrative campaigns aimed at deconstructing harmful narratives, which have emerged in their territories, to foster tolerance, respect and social cohesion. We particularly encourage you to discover the campaign of one of our partners Solidaridad sin Fronteras (SSF), that is launching its alternative narrative campaign for International Migrants Day 2022.
Entitled “#MismoSueño” (#SameDream), the campaign aims to create a counter-narrative to the hate speech that is developing against unaccompanied foreign minors (MENA). The term “MENA” refers to unaccompanied foreign minors, who are in fact migrant children and adolescents under the age of 18, separated from their parents and not cared for by adults. Much of the discourse against children and adolescents is based on a distortion of reality. In the face of divisive hate speeches, accusing these minors of creating insecurity in the neighbourhoods where the centres for unaccompanied minors are located, SSF’s message seeks to focus on what binds us together, our dreams, our hopes, our hobbies, our expectations and thus create more empathy.
#MismoSueño #MigrantsDay #ItTakesACommunity