They take our jobs. They put pressure on our social services. They bring war, disease and uncivilised social practices. They degrade our culture and threaten our societies. Everything was better before they arrived…
These are just a few of the myths on migrants and refugees that are routinely spread by the mainstream media and politicians in Europe. Depicting migrants, refugees and asylum seekers as a burden on national economies and a danger to social cohesion, these myths combine to build a specific “narrative” on migration that leads to fear and anxiety among the public and oppressive reactions from governments.
Just how big is the gap between the mainstream narrative and the hard facts on migration and asylum in Europe? How can we understand and challenge this narrative? What can we do to ensure that refugees and migrants are granted the full rights they are entitled to as members of European society? These are the questions that were dealt with at the UNITED conference “Moving Stories: Narratives of Migration Crossing Europe”, which took place near Torino, Italy, from 22 to 27 April 2016.
About the situation in Italy
Due to its location in the centre of the Mediterranean, Italy has always been a gateway to Europe, and is a key destination for refugees coming to Europe from Africa and the Middle East by sea. According to data from the UNHCR, over 144,000 refugees and asylum seekers arrived in Italy by sea in 2015. Flashpoints include the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, but the Italian island that has become most synonymous with Europe’s refugee influx is Lampedusa, located around 250 kilometres off the coast of Libya.
Over the years, the coasts of Italy have been the scene of many tragic losses of life. Of 23,222 documented deaths of migrants and refugees recorded by UNITED since 1993, 11,213 were people attempting to reach Italy, most of them traveling by sea from north Africa.* Considering this situation, it is very appropriate that Italy is the host country for a UNITED conference focusing on the stories of migrants and refugees in Europe.
(* data from internal UNITED database, not the most recent published version of the List of Deaths)
What were the aims of the conference?
Considering this complex situation, our conference created a platform:
- To explore the data and statistics on migration and asylum in Europe and examine the gap between hard facts and media narrative
- To investigate ways of challenging narrative and creating and spreading positive counter-narrative
- To exchange best practices that have already been implemented by organisations all over Europe
- To network, strengthening existing ties and building new relationships for the benefit of the antiracist movement in Europe.
The knowledge, expertise, and input of participants was invaluable. Around 70 NGO representatives from more than 30 European countries reviewed different perspectives on the situation of migration and asylum in Europe, explored various tools and methods for challenging narratives on migrants and refugees, shared best practices and got to know other activists and organisations from every corner of the continent.
The conference was based on participatory approaches and spaces for joint work and sharing of knowledge and skills. The methods included: Debates, workshops, trainings, presentations, political cafés, icebreakers, good practice market, cultural activities, open forum, sharing good practices, etc.
UNITED network conferences
UNITED is the largest pan-European anti-racist network of more than 550 organisations. Twice a year, at the UNITED network conferences, antiracist and human rights activists from all over Europe meet and discuss effective ways of combating racism and discrimination. At a recent UNITED conference held in October 2015 in Hungary, participants from 35 countries discussed the topic of antiracist youth work in Europe.
For an impression from previous conferences have a look at the posts on facebook.com/UNITEDnetworkConference
This event was made possible with the financial support of:
• European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe
• Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union
• EU-Russia Civil Society Forum
• Compagnia di San Paolo
The information contained herein does not necessarily reflect the position nor the opinion of our sponsors. Sponsors are not to be held responsible for any use that may be made of it.