We are now in Landshut, Germany at the Participate, Act, Change project last part, the youth exhange between Sweden, Norway and Germany.
This whole thing started at the spring of 2016. At that time we had been active in our own countries helping refugees and arranging “Refugees welcome”-manifestations. We were all in our countries seeing the situation of migration had been going on television. But we also saw the rise of right-wing politics, more and more openly articulated racism, attacks on refugees, the closure of european borders and many more inacceptable things.
We came together and started working on an application to Erasmus+ consisting on two pillars – migration and youth participation. A team wrote the application and six months later the project was granted funding from Erasmus+, woho!
In January 2017 we met in Oslo and started talking about how this youth exchange would look. We saw that the Swedish young greens had made an awesome campaign tour to recruit members with unicorn tattoos. The Norwegian young greens had made a great recovery during some years and developed into a steadily growing organisation with a strong focus on inclusion for new members. German young greens have always been the most connected young green organisation so of course the idea and management of the project was made by them.
The two pillars of this project and why we meet here in Landshut in the end of june is now more than a year since the original idea came into our minds. Today we are 25 people from Grön Ungdom in Sweden, Grönn Ungdom of Norway and Grüne Jugend of Germany coming together in the small city of Landshut in Bayern, southern Germany.
During the week we will go deeper into the European migration policies, sharing best practice on including newcomers into our own organisations, sharing good ways of making campaigns and make new friends! Follow us on the SPUNK the coming days to see what we are doing.
Today’s agenda was all about migration and improving the situation of refugees.
The EU council summit on migration
In the morning, we started with a roleplay: Each of us adapted the role of a representative in the EU council (Macron, Merkel & Co). Prepared with our given position papers, we gave a two-minute statement to clarify where we will stand in the negotiations.
The proposals we mainly talked about were about the strengthening of FRONTEX (European border protection agency), a common fund for immediate help for overtaxed countries and a quota system for the distribution of refugees within the EU. Since options like a common migration law or the establishing of secure pathways for refugees were not even considered, this shows that the main priority for EU member states is the isolation of Europe from unwanted people – from refugees. Despite that, none of the representatives were ashamed to emphasize the high moral values, solidarity and responsibility of the Union that secures peace in Europe since over 60 and even received a peace Nobel Prize for this.
A symbol of how serious the participants took their roles to come as close as possible to their originals.
While the negotiations were ongoing, a coalition consisting of Germany, Austria, France, and others formed that wanted to achieve a consensus on a refugee distribution key depending on GDP (Gross Domestic Product), unemployment rate and population size. This system should replace Dublin III, which, in their eyes, failed as the situation on Lesvos (Greece) and Lampedusa (Italy) suggested. Hungary, the UK, Denmark and Greece were opponents of this idea and came up with less binding ideas to overcome the challenge of migration.
At the end, there were several proposals to strengthen FRONTEX, introduce alternative refugee distribution regulations and immediate-help funds, but none of them reached a 2/3 majority necessary to be accepted by the EU council. Sadly, this result is quite similar to reality since the real representatives of the EU member states cannot find consensus on creating a common migration policy.
Getting an overview
After being thrown in cold water with no preparation on current migration policy at the EU council meeting, we got an overview about the situation since 2015 when more than one million migrants came to Europe over the Mediterranean Sea and the Balkan route. We took a glimpse on statistics that showed, where the refugees came from and where they headed to. Legal documents as the Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the Schengen treaty, Dublin III and also FRONTEX and the EU-Turkey deal on migrants were explained, so we could understand more in detail what happened after Angela Merkel told the world that Germany “can manage this” (“Wir schaffen das”).
Improving migrants’ situation in our home countries
In small groups of three to four people we discussed which challenges migrants have to face in their life when they ended up in their “country of destination”. Then we had to find answers on how to improve their situation: What can be done to overcome language barriers, clash of cultures and how can we foster political engagement? As civil society we have the power to change the reception of the newcomers, seeing them as a chance, not as a threat. To do this, people should be empowered to participate in language partnerships, teach democratic values, help with legal affairs and engage in welcome projects and initiatives. As head of welfare states, the governments have to care for good housing and education so that successful integration is a standard situation, not a win in the lottery.
To get to know more about the home countries of the participants, we organized an intercultural evening, where the participants from Norway, Sweden and Germany had to introduce their home country to the others. Improvised theater, dancing, youtube videos, a quiz, fish for tasting – we had a lot of fun and know a little bit more about the strange traditions and passions of the average Norwegian, Swedish and German people!
There are still six days to come, so stay tuned!
Time passes fast and day three of PAC has already passed. The third day was focused on the second pillar of PAC, Action. Especially seeing the possibilities of participation in action.
The day was started with a session on the topic of structural racism by two people from the german people of colour(P.O.C.) community.
After the first session was it time for the anticipated study visits at the following three different non-governmental organizations.
The first organisation of the day was House International. It was created 40 year ago when a few teachers in Landshut noticed that children with different backgrounds and cultures had problems in school. Since then has they evolved and nowadays can they provide safe areas for people with different backgrounds and cultures, where children get help with homework, legal help and german courses.
Porschestrasse were our second visit of the day. They are a relatively new organisation, 13 years old, that provides housing as well as social work for children that lives in the residential blocks of the industrial area in Landshut that goes by the name Porschestrasse. These are social apartments with an above-average proportion of foreigners. The term „Porschestraße“ has a strongly stigmatizing character, which makes it difficult for those living here to integrate into the „normal“ society. As a result, the children of these families are in a very difficult situation. They need special support, which their parents can not usually give them here. The employees of Porschestrasse tries to give this support by offering weekly group hours in a rented apartment. This gives the children the opportunity to meet and present a „normal“ social environment. They try to do as many things together with the children as they possible can. An example of their work: They saw the need for a safe playground for the children and wanted to encourage creativeness so they started a project where everyone could help design the playground, when the design was completed did they start the process of building it.
Last visit of the day was at the venue where PAC is taking place, the youth home of the Katholischen Jugendsozialwerks Landshut. Their organisation focuses on social work and has many different projects that constantly is changing. This is what they themselves think on the subject:
A puzzle, that’s what social work actually is. There are many different needs and ways to help refugees.
A few of the projects they currently are working on are: Doing social work in families and schools, supporting people in the transition from school to work and train disadvantaged young people as a training company and a therapeutic residential group.
All input of the day induced an interest/ a discussion regarding the definitions of words commonly used when discussing migration and the movement. The day was therefore ended with a workshop with Tiva, where our definitions were formed. Citizen, Migrant, Immigrant, Expat and People of color were few of a wide variety words.
That was all for today folks, stay tuned!