Intercultural Dialogue in Europe
2005 in Rieti, Italy
conference in Rieti, Italy...
groups: The danger of Words...
and lectures in the plenary
3.1 Asylum and protection of refugees
- the situation in the host country, Italy
by Renaud Cachia - Associazione
Rieti Immigrant-Provincia (ARI), Italy
3.2 Asylum and protection of refugees
- Another focus, similar problems
by Pede Saya - Platform for International
Co-operation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM)
3.3 Antisemitism and islamophobia
- a time for reflection
by Bashy Quraishy - Ethnic Debate
Forum, Denmark / ENAR
4 Thematic and
action planning working groups:
4.1 Refugees, migrants and 'Fortress
4.3 Multiple discrimination
4.4 Antisemitism and islamophobia:
Building a dialogue
4.5 Media, communication and project
4.6 Football against racism
presentations and discussions
Successful projects supporting refugees - Examples from East
5.1 Support for Unaccompanied Minor
by Adimka Uzozie - SAMAH-Found. for Unaccompanied Minor Refugees
5.2 Universal Embassy: Example of
a project supporting undocumented in Belgium
by Caroline Noel - Universal Embassy, Belgium
5.3 Adding a new dimension to the
asylum system: Professionalization
by Andreea Badilica - Romanian National Council for Refugees,
presentations and discussions
Antiracist co-operation East-West
6.1 East-West cooperation in antifascist
& antiracist work of YHRM
by Anastasia Nikitina - Youth Human Rights Movement, Russia
6.2 Chechen-Irish cooperation
by Eoin Pattison - Front Line-International Foundation for Protection
of Human Rights Defenders, IRL
7 Open forum
and social parts of the program
9 Participants word
at the end...
10 Thanks to...
11 UNITED for Intercultural Action
1 A conference in Rieti, Italy ...
The struggle to
look for a better life has forced many people, predominantly
from some African Countries and the Eastern Block, to migrate
or to seek asylum in European Countries. However, the recent
restrictive EU policies have caused great difficulties for the
integration of these people. The UNITED Conference "Dissolving
Barriers - Intercultural Dialogue in Europe" (4-8 May 2005,
Rieti, Italy) was aimed at looking deeper into this issue. More
than 80 participants representing NGO's from all over Europe
met in Rieti, Italy, for 4 days to exchange ideas, experiences
and strategies on matters like Fortress Europe, Islamophobia,
Rieti is a small Italian town located in the heart of Italy,
but for 5 days it felt the very heart of Europe. The hosting
organization, ARI onlus (Associazione Rieti Immigrant-Provincia),
is a non-profit organization founded in Rieti in 1995 with the
purpose to create a place where immigrants and Italians could
live in peace, and respect each other. ARI onlus daily provides
immigrants and refugees with assistance, defends their rights,
and fights against any kind of racism and discrimination. Since
its creation, the ARI onlus has run many projects and activities
with a special attention to the situation of refugees and asylum
seekers. In 2001, it even took part in a national program of
the Ministry of Internal Affairs called "The National System
of Protection for Asylum Seekers and Refugees".
The UNITED Conference, as an important appointment for the construction
of a peaceful future, drew the attention of the local authorities
and was officially addressed by representatives of both the Municipality
of Rieti (social affairs) and the local government, whose representatives
welcomed the initiative and congratulated the organizers for
their efforts to raise awareness in the public on sensitive topics,
so important for the civil development of Europe. The local media
(newspapers, radios, websites and television) also took an active
part in the conference, granting a great coverage of the event.
Breaking the ice...
The conference started with some informal "ice-breaking"
activities and in particular with the drawing of "human
maps". Indeed, it was not easy to know who was from where
among the 80 participants coming from 35 different countries!
The Finnish IPG member Pirjo asked the participants to form groups
according to the duration of their journey to reach the conference.
Surprisingly, some participants had only travelled 35 minutes,
while some others had even travelled two days. The participants
were then asked whether they felt as belonging to the majority
or to a minority group in their home-countries. Some of them
didn't consider themselves as members of neither the majority
nor a minority. Some joined the "minority" group since
they had been victims of discrimination, and others the "majority"
group because they felt as being part of the "ruling"
group. The activity took place outside in a very relaxed atmosphere
and was a great success because it really allowed participants
to know each other a bit more before the conference officially
groups: The danger of words...
When we make use
of words, do we really mean the same things as our communication
partner? Language is constantly changing and is very much connected
to the socio-cultural and political background. In this sense,
words can be dangerous and cause conflict. Participants were
very conscious about this. Some terms that closely connected
to the topics of the conference - racism, fascism, antisemitism,
interculturalism, multiculturalism and refugee amongst others
- were therefore pointed out by the organisers to be discussed
within smaller groups.
3 Presentations and lectures in the plenary...
Testimony of the reality...
Before setting the main themes of the conference within a theoretical
framework, one of the participants, asylum seeker himself, offered
a short introduction. Collins described his way to Europe (on
a boat), his first experiences in a new country (Italy), the
fortress he faced, the barriers he has to overcome every single
day. Not only was his testimony touching, but it also showed
the other participants that behind any asylum case there is a
AND PROTECTION OF REFUGEES -
The situation in Italy, the host country of the conference
by Renaud Cachia - Associazione Rieti Immigrant-Provincia
The situation of refugees in Europe is particularly indicative
of the difficulty faced in conceiving and constructing a future
made of "integration" for all without the exclusion
of certain layers of society. The general restrictive trend of
policies (national and communitarian) against refugees, and more
in general against migrants, is symptomatic of this. The conference
therefore started with a lecture on the situation of refugees
in the hosting country presented by a ARI member who works in
a reception centre for asylum seekers and refugees.
The Italian situation has to be considered both in the European
context, characterized by serious identity problems as a consequence
of globalization, and in its local facets. The general precariousness
and the socio-economical crisis have important consequences on
the public approach to the phenomenon. The Italian public general
opinion is that an irreversible flood of refugees threats the
integrity of Italian society. A simple analysis of the figures
demonstrates the contrary: according to the official statistics
of the UNHCR, the countries hosting most of the world refugees
are developing countries. Italy hosts one of the lowest rates
of refugees in Europe (0,12 asylum claims for 1000 inhabitants,
compared to an average of 0,6 for 1000 inhabitants in the rest
of Europe). However, policies are getting stricter and stricter,
following the communitarian trend.
Italy is the only European country lacking a specific law for
the protection of refugees. The Italian Government passed the
2002 "Bossi-Fini" law, which defines the new procedure
for asylum claims. However, only a few parts of it have been
enforced. The actual procedure overlaps the former one, thus
causing dramatic practical difficulties for asylum seekers and
refugees. The conditions of reception and the procedure followed
to examine asylum claims don't guarantee the respect of human
rights. The new law foresees administrative and/or preventive
detention of asylum seekers. Moreover, the right to appeal to
a denied asylum claim merely exists in theory: the government
expels asylum seekers immediately after their claim has been
rejected, even when they appeal for a review of the decision.
Some participants formulated questions on the practical application
of the procedures, since the Italian situation seems to be characterised
by the huge gap existing between theory and practice.
The lecturer was also inquired about the attitude of the public
authorities when the violations of the national and international
standards for the protection of refugees' rights were pointed
out. The Italian public authorities often do not take into consideration
the international standards, since the mechanisms controlling
and sanctioning violations throughout Europe proved to be very
AND PROTECTION OF REFUGEES - Another focus, similar problems...
by Pede Saya - Platform for International Co-operation on
Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) / Stichting Mondiale Samenleving
From the specific situation of Italy, the discussion shifted
to the lecture presented by Pede Saya, the representative of
both PICUM - Platform for International Co-operation on Undocumented
Migrants and the Dutch NGO - Global Society Foundation (SMS).
There are hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants in Europe
today. The lecturer spotlighted the situation of The Netherlands
and introduced its organisation. SMS is a national network of
about 150 organisations of refugees and migrants in Holland,
working for the empowerment of migrants through the support of
migrant networks. Founded as an initiative of 3 organisations
(Albanian, Afghani and Ethiopian) in 2002, it aims at promoting
socio-economical welfare and supports the integration of refugees/migrants
in The Netherlands.
The lecturer also presented the new Dutch law on immigration
(new alien law, 2000), implemented in 2001, which is very restrictive
and discourages refugees to come to The Netherlands. The number
of asylum seekers, refugees and unaccompanied minors has been
decreasing since it got very difficult to get the status of refugee.
A low percentage of migrants obtain permit to stay. The law forces
undocumented people to repatriate on their own responsibility,
thus creating a category of undocumented migrants - "UM"
- getting back to invisibility.
The second organization, PICUM, acts for promoting respect for
human rights of undocumented migrants within Europe. Their activities
mainly focus on gathering and distributing information on law
and practice regarding the basic social rights of undocumented
migrants. Another focus is to strengthen networking among organisations
dealing with undocumented migrants in Europe, in order to get
a broader membership platform, as well as to publish material
such as books of solidarity to provide assistance and health
care for undocumented migrant workers in Europe.
AND ISLAMOPHOBIA - A time for reflection
by Bashy Quraishy - Ethnic Debate Forum (Denmark) / ENAR
Bashy Quraishy, the representative of both Ethnic Debate Forum
from Denmark and ENAR, started by externalising the joy he felt
being surrounded by young people with so much expertise and knowledge
in the field of antiracism and antisemitism. Bashy delivered
the presentation called "Antisemitism & Islamophobia
- a time for reflection for Jewish and Muslim Communities in
Europe", which was followed with high interest since it
brought up a very urgent topic - the increase of both phenomena
in contemporary European society. Bashy Quraishy, expert in this
topic from both the academic and the activist point of view,
pointed out that a time has come for both Jewish and Muslim Communities
to reflect and talk about peace, to help each other and to create
an atmosphere of understanding. He started by defining the terms
"antisemitism" and "islamophobia", using
diverse historical and theoretical connotations. Then he focused
on the similarities existing between the two religions and used
many examples from history to picture out the situation of the
victims of both islamophobia and antisemitism. Of course, the
issue of the Middle-East territorial conflict also came up, as
a concrete example on how antisemitism is spread among a tiny
minority of Muslims who live in Europe.
"A Muslim-Jewish dialogue is paramount" concluded Bashy,
giving the positive example of the soon-to-start "Muslim-Jewish
Dialogue Forum in Europe" and explaining the goals and working
methods of such an initiative.
and action planning working groups
The thematic working
groups were organised to give to participants a concrete opportunity
to focus and discuss in depth various topics of the conference
and to share their experiences. They included participants from
various countries with a fair geographical distribution (East
and West European countries). The working group structure followed
three different stages - from "identification of the problems"
to "sharing good practices" and further "developing
strategies". The participants usually engaged themselves
in topics in which they were experts or which followed direction
of the daily work of their organisation.
The additional working group session "Action Planning"
was the concrete finalisation of the discussions and permitted
the participants to effectively plan the implementation of the
conclusions once back in their countries. They also represented
a good platform of exchange of ideas for the annual UNITED campaigns,
giving inspiration and motivation to join the activities.
The results of each working group were reported with intercultural
and interactive methods to all participants during the plenary
MIGRANTS AND FORTRESS EUROPE
"We cannot host anymore refugees and migrants": this
is a typical expression pronounced by governments and policy
makers in Europe. It appears clear that there is a general attempt
to reduce the total number of refugees and migrants. The participants
of this working group agreed on the fact that refugees and migrants
generally face huge problems to get into the "Fortress Europe"
and often die in dramatic circumstances even before reaching
the continent. The efforts of the EU member states to harmonise
legislations are limited to the struggle against "illegal
immigration" and there is still no clear and harmonized
policy for the asylum claims, for instance. Thus practices of
receiving and managing the stay of refugees and migrants (freedom
of movement or detention, for instance) vary from one country
to another. The fundamental rights of refugees and migrants are
daily violated in Europe. Some specific communitarian policies,
as the Schengen Treaty, further deteriorate the situation of
migrants and refugees, particularly because of the terrible consequences
of their enforcement (freedom of movement is, for instance, a
prerogative of only certain layers of society).
There is a general confusion on the different conditions of migrants
and refugees, a shared worrying for, and a general "criminalisation"
of both categories.
The conclusions reached by the working group were in perfect
tuning with the initiative introduced by UNITED on the campaign
"No more deaths on Fortress Europe". Since 1993 UNITED
has monitored the deadly results of the building of 'Fortress
Europe' by making a list of the refugees and migrants, who had
died in their attempt of entering the 'Fortress' or as a result
of Europe's immigration policies. More than 6200 deaths have
been documented up to now. UNITED collects data on where, when
and under which circumstances the refugees died.
The WG suggested, as an improvement to the list, that appendix
listing "missing people" be created.
Campaigning in support of refugees
This working group, which followed the theme introduced by
the WG, identified different kinds of actions it was important
to take, such as taking over the stereotype about refugees and
migrants, making the Death List circulate more by presenting
it in schools, by creating a catchy web site for it, or by forwarding
it to air companies which are involved in deportations. Of course,
the most popular suggestion was to lobby local, national and
European politicians and to increase the role of the media in
the circulation of the Death List.
The group started from the assumption that international networking
in fighting fascism and racism is a necessity. The fascist groups
are building international connections and we are losing in the
field international solidarity where we should be stronger.
The participants highlighted two main tendencies in the antifascism
movement, i.e. a phase of analysis and monitoring and a phase
of action. Participants also felt the lack of a network that
fulfills both of these goals. For instance, Eastern European
organizations need to feel that they are not alone and are part
of the larger antifascist movement. International cooperation
gives them a sense of common legacy and solidarity. Organizations
from the West look for sources of information from other countries
to show that their problems are not isolated. International contacts
give them a new and a fresher perspective.
One of the goals of this network could be fostering an antifascist
culture, which needs to be started from scratch in the post-communist
countries and has to be renewed in the West.
The Center for Interethnic Cooperation in Russia (www.interethinc.org)
gave an example of a network of ethnic organizations as a means
of combating racism through connections among NGOs, international
organizations, ethnic communities and local authorities. Ras
presented a model of a decentralized activist network, which
revolves around a certain set of values and principles and deals
with a wide range of problems, all connected with advancement
and institutionalization of fascist ideology. Independent local
groups combine research and action in the field and coordinate
themselves through regular conferences and a bi-monthly newspaper,
without a centralized body of control or administration. Finally,
Never Again Association Poland (http://free.ngo.pl/nw),
a network of volunteers who conduct constant monitoring of racist
accidents, publicized several highly successful campaigns such
as "Music against Racism" and "Let's Kick Racism
out of the Stadiums".
To get cooperation among various organisations, several concrete
projects were proposed. Amongst the others were the publication
of international antiracist and antifascist posters, the translation
of websites to make them known and available for antifascists
in other countries, the publications of digests/compilations
of various international antifascist magazines/newspapers and
the organization of Graphics/essays contests in order to give
new symbols/texts to the movement.
Campaigning against fascism
Every year UNITED mobilises local groups all over Europe
to organise different actions against fascism and antisemitism
on November 9 - the International Day against Fascism and Antisemitism.
The significance of the date was explained together with UNITED
working methods for the campaign - from encouraging NGOs to take
action, sending posters for wide distribution, publishing the
campaign-list of activities to issuing a common (European) press-release
and printing a European campaign report.
The strength of the campaign comes from the fact that the focus
is changed every year (e.g. on Roma) and that the slogan and
the idea for campaign poster are always the result of the network
consultations. The campaigning working group is the place for
brainstorming ideas regarding the needs of the movement and possible
Therefore, the group concluded with some very concrete ideas
for the following 9 November campaign, which were shared with
the others. The proposals were accompanied also by critical remarks
(regarding the implementation), which showed that participants
took a responsible position towards their role.
This group focused on the sensitive problem of discrimination
and its various facets.
During the introductory part, the participants identified the
levels/grounds for discrimination, which actually give it a multi-faceted
nature, i.e. ethnic origin, religion, language, gender, disability,
political orientation, colour, age, sex, economic situation,
class, qualifications, area of residence, sub-culture, left-handed,
education, social status, family status, nationality, etc. The
group agreed on some general definitions of different kinds of
discrimination, such as multiple, compound, and intersectional.
The group also agreed on the definition offered by the General
Recommendation 18 of the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
Participants were extremely good in providing striking examples
for each category.
After having defined and exemplified the concepts, time had come
to share the good practices existing in different countries and
being used by various organisations present around the table.
Some of the best quoted practices were: establishing a network
of counselling centres for migrants and refugees that provide
services in various fields (Berlin Initiative); gathering data
for the documentation of cases in a homogenous way; working with
mainstream and community media; working towards a humanization
of legal system and legal culture (NGOs, Street Law, Asylum,
Slovakia); improving the portrait cases related to refugees,
migrants and, more generally, of people who are subjects to discrimination
with the help of media and institutions; establishing a communication
network with citizens through an advocacy group; using interactive
methods for Human Rights Education within school curricula (Council
of Europe programs; avoiding self-victimization through empowerment.
Campaigning against racism
Every year around 21 March - the International Day for Elimination
of all Forms of Racial Discrimination - UNITED coordinates the
European Wide Action Week against Racism. Hundreds of organisations
join forces to raise awareness on burning issues like discrimination
and racism. Always in consultation with network organisations
and in answer to the network needs, UNITED proposes common slogans
and poster, media-release and activities list as tools to be
used by all the organisations involved in the campaign. Action-planning
working groups during the UNITED conferences are the places where
focus for the next year and common slogan are born.
The WG in Rieti tried and did the same effort. After explaining
the significance of the date chosen to campaign around and after
sharing some examples of activities run at local or national
level by the participants, concrete proposals for next year campaigns
were discussed. The general conclusion was that the spectrum
of possible issues to be approached is so wide, that a general
campaign against discrimination is needed.
AND ANTISEMITISM - BUILDING A DIALOGUE
This working group gathered 14 persons with Jewish, Muslim, Christian
or non-practicing background, representing 13 different nationalities
which made the discussion and the work between the participants
fruitful, interesting and nuanced.
The focus of the working group was on the situation in Europe
and its neighbour regions. First of all, in order to go deeper
into the problem of islamophobia and antisemitism in the European
today's societies, the participants began the workshop by brainstorming,
defining and discussing what the notions islamophobia and antisemitism
mean and what thoughts and associations they provoked in us.
The two terms are closely related to prevailing prejudices about
Muslims and Jews in the West. The group discussed what these
prejudices could be. Islamophobia the non-logical fear
of Islam is fuelled by the distorted images of Islam as
a homogenous block threatening the Western civilization and its
society. Muslims are represented as radical terrorists and as
members of a fast growing population 'invading Europe'. Concerning
antisemitism, the participants thought about the existing prejudices
of Jews ('they are rich and arrogant, they govern the media and
the banks, they killed Jesus') and also other phenomenon related
to antisemitism such as skinheads, holocaust, pogroms and criticism
of Israel. The participants were aware of the incorrectness of
the prejudices, but they agreed that these prejudices exist and
prevail in the West. The group agreed that in both the case of
the fear of Islam and in the case of Judaism, the media have
an enormous impact on creating and reproducing generalized, distorted
images of Jews and Muslims.
In order to understand the complex situation better, one Jewish
and one Muslim participant gave a short introduction about the
Jewish and the Muslim Community in Europe. This helped the other
group members to have a better knowledge about these two religious
communities. It also gave a base for the further discussions
about the measures that could be taken in decreasing religious
xenophobia and in building a dialogue between different cultural
and religious groups in the society. The participants shared
their experiences from the work accomplished in their own organizations
and they had the opportunity to listen to three presentations
about concrete projects that have been accomplished, or will
be done in order to stimulate dialogue between Jews, Muslims
and Christians. Bashy Quraishy gave an enlightened presentation
about ENAR (European Network Against Racism) and its work towards
introducing a consciousness in EU policy and legislation about
racism, xenophobia and antisemitism. Kemal representing Caucasus-Abkhazia
Cultural Center shared his experiences of the work with Chechen
refugee children and how to create a way to communicate with
them with the help of joint activities, art therapy, music, etc.
Finally, Ilya from Euro-Asian Jewish Congress presented a joint
project between Jews and Muslims in former Soviet Union States
that will be accomplished if it gets financed. All the participants
agreed that it is important that organizations working for religious
dialogue and mutual understanding inform each other of the efforts
made for these issues.
COMMUNICATION AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT
This working group had as its goals an overview of the situation
of media in the different countries of the participants, an analysis
of the responsibility of media in diffusing stereotypes and a
co-operation with the local media in order to promote the conference
and its contents.
After a quick round table session on the situation in each country,
it appeared clear that media usually had a heavy responsibility
in promoting directly or indirectly the diffusion of stereotypes
and prejudices against migrants, minorities and refugees. Indeed
newspapers and television for instance are "greedy"
of crime news, especially whether migrants are involved. In all
countries there is few space for representatives of minorities
and often the good examples of integration are ignored. In the
case of Latvia some TV programs are openly racists and xenophobic.
This huge and unfortunately very often negative impact of mass
media on public opinion leaded the group to a reflection on the
role of mass media: media, and more particularly television,
should play an educational role within the society, under the
partial supervision of the Public Authorities for instance, or
a greater self awareness of the media themselves.
The use of terminology is the very example of how media should
pay more attention to the consequences of their actions: too
often words are misused by media and get deeply within the unconsciousness
of public opinion. (e.g. there are no "illegal people"
but undocumented people, etc.)
The group decided to adopt original methods to report the results
to the rest of the participants: the plenary room would become
a press conferenceThe group was divided into journalists (written
press, radios and television; some of them were real journalists
working for the local press!) and antiracism activists. The journalists
were questioning the experts on some of the issues that were
debated during the working group sessions, giving to the whole
assembly an opportunity to have an overview of the discussions
in this group. This method was particularly interactive since
real and "improvised" journalists were asking questions.
Sergio was a famous journalist of CNN International and concluded
with the live connection from Rieti, Centre of Italy!
Media campaign working group
This session was based on the concrete realisation of a "media
campaign" to promote the conference, its contents and the
UNITED goals. The aim of the project was to promote the goals
of the UNITED conference through a media campaign, the main target
of which was basically everyone at local, national and international
level who did not attend the conference, with special attention
on the Rieti residents. The actions planned ranged from interviews
with the television, radios and newspapers, to final press
releases and press conferences translated into many languages.
Indeed the participants agreed on language differences being
the main barriers within such a campaign. The group finally prepared
a common press release to be sent by participants, once back
in their countries, to the local press. It started like this:
"Dissolving barriers - For 4 days the heart of Italy functioned
as the heart of Europe"
Action planning working group
Most of the participants
of this specific action planning WG were experienced activists
in existing national or European campaigns in the sport-world.
Nevertheless, some just intended to enlarge their knowledge in
this direction and we can say that they had the perfect opportunity
to do so. Voluntarily, the participants extended their working
time in the WG by giving dinner up the day before, in order to
follow a football match at the stadium and to collect "live"
examples of discrimination and racial harassment. Then, during
the WG they discussed causes, ways to react and efficiency of
campaigning against racism in sport.
The group presented the results of the discussion to the rest
of participants in a particularly involving and active way: the
"action" took place in football stadium (the plenary
room). While the players were on the pitch some uncivil supporters
started with monkey chants and insults (two of the participants
in the group), probably directed against a migrant player, like
unfortunately it happens in many European stadiums. Anyway the
chants remained isolated, while another group of football fans
replied with a clear condemnation of this anti-sporty and unfair
behaviour (3 others participants in the group), inviting the
public to follow them: in an instant, the whole stadium (the
plenary assembly) started to sing alltogether "stand up
against racism, stand up against racism, stand up against racism!!!"
How incredible the "group effect" is and how powerful
it can be when used in a positive way!
The conclusion was clear: it is possible to act all together
against racism, only in that way discrimination and intolerance
can be defeated!
presentations and discussions
Successful projects supporting
refugees examples from East and West
FOR UNACCOMPANIED MINOR REFUGEES (UMRs)
by Adimka Uzozie - SAMAH - Foundation for Unaccompanied Minor
Refugees Humanitas (Netherlands)
Adimka presented her organisation (SAMAH) and one specific innovative
project run by the organisation. SAMAH is the foundation for
unaccompanied minor refugees (UMR) that was set up in 1999. It
is an independent foundation running under the auspices of the
national Humanitas association. SAMAH aims at improving the position
and participation of unaccompanied minor asylum seekers (AMA)
and young adult unaccompanied asylum seekers up to age 21, in
order to enable them to develop into balanced adults. The majority
of the AMAs are independent, self-reliant youngsters, but for
various reasons they need special attention and support, due
to the current strict asylum policy, the procedures and the official
support and housing programs. This special group demands extra
assistance and support. The unaccompanied minor refugee [UMR]
has to make a choice whether to return to their former home country
or to look for alternatives.
SAMAH activities consist of acting as a national convergence
point for issues relating to UMR's; running a helpdesk for UMR's
and care-workers; gathering and distributing of information to
third parties; raising concerns of and promoting the interests
of UMR's development; implementing projects for UMR's.
SAMAH strongly opposes the existence of situations where UMR'S
do not enjoy the same basic right as other children in the Netherlands.
The association also aims at creating a positive image of UMR'S,
as they are normal young people who find themselves in an abnormal
The presentation was received with high interest by the participants,
especially for the good practices shared, since there is often
the case that organisations are working with asylum seekers or
refugees, but no specific programs are adapted to the needs of
EMBASSY: EXAMPLE OF A PROJECT SUPPORTING UNDOCUMENTED MIGRANTS
by Caroline Noel - Universal Embassy (Belgium)
Universal Embassy can be seen as a successful as well as an un-successful
project, from which everybody can learn the positive aspects
and also how to avoid the negative ones. It has been a very positive
experience and its existence itself was an act of resistance
(against limitative legislation regarding migrants). Anyway,
at this point the limits of the project were reached and a transformation
process will probably follow. Universal Embassy provides support
to undocumented migrants in Belgium; it started in 2001 when
a group of undocumented people decided to squat the building
of the former Somali Embassy in Brussels. A group of volunteers,
with different educational backgrounds (legal advisor, social
assistant, students, artists, people working in NGO sector, researchers)
are in charge with the administration of the project. Very few
financial means are available and they are based mostly on private
donations. The activities of the Embassy are related to every
day life and in support to the inhabitants. They also include
fundraising, political and artistic activities.
The operation is based on participative methods and on a process
of collective decisions. The goal is to directly involve the
undocumented migrants and to encourage their self-organization.
However, relevant difficulties rose up recently, due mainly to
the probable return and re-appropriation of the building by the
Somali authorities and a crisis within the project.
On the base of the experience of Universal Embassy, its representative,
Caroline Noel, listed some limits of such a project from which
others can learn and improve their work. That is the lack of:
existence of a common aim, use of appropriate methods and professional
expertise, clear and strict administrative arrangements, material
and financial means amongst the most important. Possible
solutions were also proposed, leaving, of course, space for comments
and adaptation from case to case.
The participants appreciated a lot to hear from Universal Embassy's
experience, both its pick and its fall since a lot can be learned
and applied in their own work.
A NEW DIMENSION TO THE ASYLUM SYSTEM: PROFESSIONALIZATION
by Andreea Badilica - Romanian National Council for Refugees
The third project presented in this plenary session was an example
of a successful activity developed by the National Refugee Council
in the frame of preparation the accession to the EU of new countries
in this case Romania).
The target groups of the project were both asylum-seekers and
refugees in Romania, as well as public authorities dealing with
refugees' issues (Ministry of Administration and Interior and
Ministry of Justice). The activities consisted in ensuring that
persons in need of international protection benefit from all
procedural safeguards, such as qualified interpretation services
and specialized legal aid during the Refugee Status Determination
The results of the project listed:
-55 asylum seekers assisted by lawyers
-150 asylum seekers assisted by interpreters
-25 interpreters/translators trained
-7 training sessions for border police
-100 border police representatives trained
-300 medical consultations / year
The representative of the Romanian National Council for Refugees
was proud to share with the participants the positive experience
of this project and especially the long-lasting effects over
the work the Council is doing on a daily basis.
6 project presentations and discussions
Antiracist co-operation East-West
COOPERATION IN ANTIFASCIST AND ANTIRACIST WORK OF YOUTH HUMAN
RIGHTS MOVEMENT (YHRM)
by Anastasia Nikitina - Youth Human Rights Movement (Russia)
YHRM has been developing since spring 1998 under the support
of Moscow Helsinki Group and other well-known human rights activists.
In May 2005 YHRM unites more then 700 Members from about 15 Countries,
with the aim of providing mutual support; promoting cooperative
activities of network's participants; developing the community
of professional Human Rights defenders; providing succession
of generations in Human Rights movement; developing new methods
to advocate Human Rights in youth groups; involving youth into
wide human rights activism, social and volunteering activities;
raising effectiveness and prestige of Human Rights movement and
NGO sector as a whole; and educating youth in theoretical and
practical aspects of Human Rights.
The representative of YHRM explained why East-West cooperation
is important for their work. Exchanging experience, creating
common space for action, helping each other in times of trouble,
feeling a part of a larger movement were amongts the reasons
Further on, the current activities, campaigns and action groups
were presented, as well as the modalities for joining, benefiting
and contributing to the movement.
A great positive experience of good co-operation East-West which
everybody can learn from and can apply in their organisations'
by Eoin Pattison - Front Line-International Foundation for
Protection of Human Rights Defenders (Ireland)
The second project presented in this plenary session referred
to a very concrete example of direct co-operation between an
Irish organization and a Chechen one.
Front Line was founded in Dublin in 2001 with the specific aim
of protecting Human Rights Defenders, people who work non-violently,
for any or all of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights. Front Line's main focus is on those human rights
defenders at risk, either temporarily or permanently because
of their work on behalf of their fellow citizens. Front Line
runs a small grants program to provide for the security needs
of defenders and mobilizes campaigning and lobbying on behalf
of defenders at immediate risk.
The project presented to the conference participants was meant
to liaise with human rights activists in Russia and Chechnya
in response to growing harassment and intimidation leveled against
them by the Russian authorities. On January 20th 2005 agents
of the Federal Security Bureau (FSB) conducted a raid on the
office of the Society for Russian-Chechen Friendship (SRCF),
one of the few intercultural, partnership based organisations
seeking peace and respect for human rights in Chechnya. Following
the raid, the FSB has launched a criminal case against the SRCF,
a case which is completely arbitrary and unjust. The level of
support which the SRCF need from organisations such as Front
Line is apparent in the fact that since its beginning, four members
of the SRCF have been assassinated in the course of their human
rights work. Hence Front Line helped issue Urgent Actions to
the relevant heads of state and international human rights bodies.
At this point, it continues to monitor the discrimination and
targeting of legitimate intercultural human rights organisations
such as the Society for Russian Chechen Friendship.
The project presentation was followed by the participants with
high interest. Moreover, it was recalled that representatives
of the Society for Russian-Chechen Friendship participated before
in UNITED conferences (2003-2004), and UNITED itself has been
involved in campaigning around the death of one of their representatives,
getting solidarity responses from the entire network!
of open forum session is used by the participants to bring-up
views or opinions related to the conference topics or to share
information about their activities and organisations.
The time was shared between several participants:
Collins, "the spokesperson" of refugees in Europe
(refugee himself), made a statement talking about how refugees
are pouring into Europe and how the governments don't listen
to their complains, as well as about EU laws that made things
more difficult for NGO's working for this cause. He gave some
examples on how some European countries sponsor sport activities
in African countries, while when a displaced person comes running
to seek asylum in Europe, he or she is been called big name like
refugee, asylum seekers, migrant, alien, and so on. In conclusion,
he mentioned that what a refugee wants is just a better life
and a place to belong, as well as a chance to live like normal
A second intervention was made by Susie Green, the representative
of Diversity Program of the EU YOUTH Programme. SALTO-YOUTH,
which stands for 'Support and Actions for Learning and Training
Opportunities within the European YOUTH Programme' refers to
eight Resource Centres in different countries working on different
European priority topics such as Social Inclusion, EuroMed Cooperation,
Cultural Diversity, Antiracism, South-East Europe, Commonwealth
of Independent States, Training & Cooperation and Youth Initiatives.
SALTO runs support activities to enhance the quality of YOUTH
mobility projects and gathers resources for youth work and training
in Europe and beyond.
Inviting the participants to explore the website resources and
training opportunities offered by SALTO (www.salto-youth.net/diversity),
Susie closed her intervention by mentioning also the funding
possibilities in the frame of YOUTH programme.
Last but not least, the Media working group presented
to the participants the up-dated version of the common press-release
of the conference (elaborated in their WG), asking for feed-back
and corrections. After collecting these, they proceeded to finalising
and distributing it to all the participants for further use back
home, as immediate implementation of recommendations issued by
the media campaign working group
(see text of press release at www.unitedagainstracism.org,
and social parts of the programme
working-activities were greatly complemented by the social program
offered in the afternoons and evenings. Interculturality was
the key-word of all the evening happenings, since the large variety
of cultures represented at the meeting had the right place to
The info market was an excellent opportunity for participants
to introduce their own organization to one-another and to develop
the links existing between the anti-racists ONG's. Many participants
had brought material from their organization in order to "illustrate"
their work and activities. The info market was a great success
and permitted to have an overview of the different actions that
were taken by the participating organizations in the different
countries. It also permitted to reinforce the connections already
existing and to feel "united"!
During the info market we received a special visit from the "peace
messenger" Karoliina Lallukka a Finish (former) EVS volunteer
who was travelling in Europe in a European Peace Tour with the
"Colours of the Peace, the flags of the rainbow". She
collected addresses of antiracist NGOs from the UNITED Address
Book, printed 1000 flags, visited different anti-racist events
and organisations. During the info market at the UNITED conferences
she shared the concept of her project with the other participants
and distributed some flags.
After the material-exchange, the intercultural snacks
followed. Any participant brought some typical food (or drinks)
from his/her own country and made the others try it! The "mix"
of cultures played a big role in encouraging people to know each
others and to exchange gastronomic traditions!
Alternatively, two activities were proposed to the participants
on Friday evening: antiracist sport and video presentation.
The football game (chosen by the sporty-ones!) brought
the spark out of the participants. Football, as generally agreed,
is a game that can unite people. At the football match played
at the Sport Centre in Rieti, fourteen participants took part
and it showed how sport can play an important role in the Antiracism
Video presentation "Death on the Silk Road",
prepared by Dolkun Isa, the representative of World Uyghur Congress
was also watched with interest and commented upon afterwards.
Trip to Rieti was a part of the program which no one would
want to miss, especially since a guided tour was provided, in
the little center of Rieti (and the center of Italy)! Historical
and architectural information was given and secret Roman passages
have been open to the eyes of the participants who didn't miss
the chance of getting to know the local culture later on during
the "dinner out" in an Italian Pizzeria.
Intercultural evening and Farewell party
"It was like this conference should not end" -
this was the statement made by one of the participants in the
Rieti conference. The intercultural party was a wonderful occasion
to listen to music and enjoy the dance from different cultures.
Relaxed and friendly atmosphere dominated the evening and strengthen
the newly based relations among the participants, being a good
premise and guarantee for further cooperation.
9 Participants word at the end
"Very interesting topic, gained a lot. I think that the
participants were very resourceful and committed people. UNITED
people and local partners' efforts are more than appreciated.
Maria (Slovakia): "I
came to this conference without any expectation and have to say
that it was a great pleasure to meet all this beautiful people
and discussed the most important issues of the time. Thank you."
Djermana (Bosnia and Herzegovina):
"I have to say that I gained a lot and learnt many new
things. Even learnt how to be more tolerant, though I thought
earlier that I was quite open-minded. I learnt how to understand
others better and work together with them. What we had here is
a presentation of a perfect world. Perfect society. People of
different background working together for a better future."
Dragomir (Croatia): "I
am very satisfied with people and topics of the conference. I
learnt how to understand some problems from different countries,
from different cultures This conference is my first international
conference, where I met a lot of interesting and very pleasant
people. See you!!!"
Adimka (Netherlands): "First
time to act within UNITED program. Challenging and motivating
and gained new energy for fighting for refugees on a national
and international level."
James (Norway): "For
me, the networking contacts have been truly invaluable!"
Maria (Slovakia): "It
was a great experience for me to live the fact that so diverse
people can live, work and have fun together without any difficulties.
We all know about it, but to experience it is very powerful."
Sabine (Austria): "MANY
THANKS!!!! - the conference was a great experience! Very stimulating
Elgun (Azerbaijan): "There
was a really intercultural environment during the conference
meetings and all other time. Each participant made other one
richer! Many thanks to the organizers and to each participant
for contribution in the conference!"
As all the intercultural
events organised by UNITED, this conference was the result of
a collective effort. It would not have been possible without
the involvement and support of numerous individuals and organisations.
First of all, we want to thank all the participants for their
active participation, commitment and seriousness during the conference.
Special thanks to the International Preparatory Group, who designed,
prepared and implemented the program - representatives of Associazione
Rieti Immigrant-Provincia - Italy, Red Cross Finland, Universal
Embassy (Belgium), World Uyghur Congress (Germany), Youth Human
Rights Movement (Russia).
Many thanks to our sponsors: European Youth Foundation of the
Council of Europe, Municipality of Rieti, Studio Semplice di
Eastwood Edo Ihaza - Rieti, Heinrich Böll Foundation (with
support from the budget of the European Comission for the project
'Participation and regional self determination').
We owe a great deal to the volunteers from ARI and from UNITED
who technically supported the conference.
Thanks to everybody who contributed
to the success of the conference and in particular to our wonderful
for Intercultural Action
UNITED for Intercultural Action
European network against nationalism, racism, fascism and in
of migrants and refugees
Racism, nationalism, fascism,
discrimination, asylum policies... all
of them have a European dimension even though they often look
pure national issues. Reports from all over Europe demonstrate
increasing dangers facing migrants, refugees and ethnic minorities.
Often these dangers are increased by undemocratic intergovernmental
decisions like the Schengen Treaty. Strangely enough, racist
fascist organisations have strong European links from Portugal
Russia, from Sweden to Italy. Fortress Europe needs to be fought
local, regional and European levels - it cannot be fought on
Linked through UNITED, hundreds
of organisations from a wide variety
of backgrounds, from all European countries, work together on
voluntary basis. They base their cooperation on common actions
shared activities on a mutual respect.
UNITED is and will remain independent
from all political parties,
organisations and states, but seeks an active co-operation with
anti-racist initiatives in Europe.
Through the UNITED network
organisations meet each other, work on
common actions and share information. Europe-wide action weeks,
campaigns and such are planned and discussed on UNITED conferences.
Like-minded organisations find each other on such conferences
work together on specific projects on specific topics. The workers
the secretariat are in constant contact with the network
organisations, ensuring that information and proposals for action
transmitted rapidly. Information is received from more than 2300
organisations and mailings are sent out to about 2500 groups
If you want to get involved...
Discuss the ideas and aims of the
UNITED network within your organisation. Let us know that you
like to join or receive information. And add us to your mailing
More information you can find
or write to email@example.com
Order the printed
version (with many pictures) of the report at:
for Intercultural Action
European network against nationalism, racism, fascism
and in support of migrants and refugees
413, NL-1000 AK Amsterdam, Netherlands
phone +31-20-6834778, fax +31-20-6834582