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The integration of migrants into host societies is one of the leading challenges and priorities of the European Union and its Member States. The rapidly growing inflow of refugees from war-ravaged countries over the last decade has exacerbated the integration and inclusion challenges for most of EU member states, and has tested the capacity of local infrastructures and service provision agencies.
The partner organizations have recognized the need to develop a project that can act as a catalyst for sensitizing local communities and migrant/refugee communities to remove prejudice and mistrust and open opportunities for intercultural exchange, cooperation and interaction.
The central aim of the project is to develop and pilot sensitization strategies and tools for migrant integration, addressed to the hosting societies, through the exchange of good practices and models. The plan is to educate and empower educators, professionals and volunteers who are actively involved in the field of implementing migrant/refugee integration policy at the local level, who will then become facilitators of the sanitization strategies.
Hypatia, Foundation Promoting Equality, hosted a 3-day Learning, Teaching and Training session,to present and share best practices in the field of integration of migrants and refugees. The training was organized in the context of SENCIT project an ERASMUS+ Programme, with the participation of trainers/practitioners from project partners SBICO (Poland) and VORMINGPLUS LIMBURG (Belgium). It was held from 2nd to 4th April. The SENCIT project aims to transfer knowledge and skills to relevant trainers and practitioners so that they can effectively sensitize hosting societies on immigrant’s and refugees’ integration and social inclusion process.
The training meeting included:
DAY 1:Following welcoming remarks by Hypatia, partners made brief introduction of their organisations and what each organisation actually does in the field of integration of migrants and refugees. VORMINGPLUS LIMBURGpresented the methodology for project evaluation tasks. After that, each partner presented good practices from their regions that facilitate migrant/refugee integration in the host societies. Extensive presentation and analysis was placed on best practices in Cyprus, involving actions and programmes offered by local NGOs with programmes such as “Integration Programmes by Local Authorities” gear towards TCNs parents and children in with the after-school care learning and recreational programmes and lessons of Greek, English and IT classes for adults. The project “Supporting Migrant Women/Refugee and Asylum Seeing - SIMRA” which is about training women to acquire Facilitators/Mediators skills and become social service providers and organizers of cultural events for migrant communities. The initiative ‘Help Refugees Work’ was also presented which is a free web service that brings motivated refuge job-seekers in contact with employers and training providers in Cyprus in an easy and efficient manner.
DAY 2:The partners madeeducational visits to KISA, HOPE FOR CHILDREN, CYPRUS REFUGEE COUNCIL and MUNICIPAL MULTICULTURAL CENTRE in Nicosia.
KISAis an NGO focusing on Migration, Asylum, Racism, Discrimination and Trafficking (https://kisa.org.cy). KISA made a presentation of their actions and vision, which is mostly the promotion of an all-inclusive, multicultural society, free of racism, xenophobia. They explained on who they are focusing, on the fields of Migration, Asylum, Racism, Discrimination and Trafficking. Their programs and acts, includes awareness-raising of the Cypriot society, as well as lobbying, in order to influence the legal and structural framework, the policies and practices in these fields. They showed aspects of operating the Migrant and Refugee Centre that provides free information, support, advocacy and mediation services to migrants, refugees, victims of trafficking and racism / discrimination and ethnic minorities.
HOPE FOR CHILDREN is a program providing housing and comprehensive support services to unaccompanied minor refugee through the “HOME of HOPE” facility (http://uncrcpc.org.cy/en). They explained, how they aim to bring together judges, lawyers, psychologists, medical practitioners, mediators, counselors, mental health workers, media representatives, child cares, teachers & relevant professionals to contribute their specialized expertise in a practical manner through education, legal and other advocacy actions to promote and protect the interests of the children living in the sheltered Home of Hope. It is a unique program that brings a range of experts to collaborate in session meetings about each case of unaccompanied minor refugees. They explained that each case of minor is brought to them by the Welfare Office and the Local Authorities. In some of the cases, minors do not have official documents to prove their identity or age, so they bring contact to their relatives in other countries. In the Home of Hope shelter they offer room and board that is financed by AMIF. Social workers and psychologists are available and work closely with the minors to resolve contact with family members and other procedural matters with Migration and Asylum Services. The programme offers recreational and learning programmes encouraging participation to rewarding experiences. Schooling and psychological support if provided for every minor resident at the shelter.
CYPRUS REFUGEE COUNCILis a program providing integration programs and services to refugees(https://cyrefugeecouncil.org/). During our visit there, they presented how they advocate for the establishment and implementation of positive legislation, policies and practices, in accordance with International and European Law. In community level, they explained to us, how they pursue the empowerment as well as their mobilization, and meaningful participation in all aspects of society. In order to achieve that, they conduct trainings, workshops, seminars and other capacity building activities to persons of concern, bringing other NGOs and professionals in the field. They also corporate with volunteers and members of local communities, local authorities and policy makers. They presented how they provide individualized legal, social and psychological support to persons of concern, in order to ensure access to rights, integration into the local communities and a satisfactory quality of life. Furthermore, they network with relevant civil society actors, educational institutions and media.
NICOSIA MUNICIPALITY MULTIFUNTIONAL FOUNDATIONis the municipality’s local social services program which promotes social cohesion to less privileged. (http://localintegration.eu/en/)They provide equal opportunities especially for single parent and migrant children enabling parents, to enter or to remain in the labor market and to integrate in Cypriot society. The activities targeted to the group of Third Countries Nationals, are implemented within the framework of the European Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund and co-financed by national funds. Among other services - such as the provision of educational and recreational activities which includes support for homework, theatre classes, chess lessons, English lessons, sports activities and outdoor excursions - a bus service to pick up children from their school, as well as lunch after school and snack in the afternoon are offered.They also give music classes and art therapy classes. Also the parents have the opportunity to participate in Greek, computer classes, as well as to receive psychological support and a sense of belonging.The program is for many parents the only possibility to get child care after school. This fact facilitate the balance of work and family life as well as access to the job market.
DAY 3: All partners met together, to summarize the good practices and discuss how the Cyprus practices could be transferred to other SENCIT partner organizations. The partners also undertook exercises to present their vision of society that includes migrants and refugees and presented the dream image of their organizations . Partners also decided to create a 5 minutes duration movie that will present a migrant’s story. The story telling should reveal all the problems a migrant faces in a European Country like Cyprus and give knowledge of the needs and the obstacles a migrant or refuge is facing. The purpose is to knowledge what we have to deal in order act there upon. The use of Digital Storytelling with refugees is important, as they have stories to tell that reveal a great deal about their identity, heritage, environment, and lived experiences. Some refugee stories are passed down from generations, while others emerge as creative expressions that are unique and meaningful to the context of participants’ lives.
Evaluation of the LTT was carried out to wrap-up the 3 day programme.
The next training session is planned to take place in Hasselt Belgium, in October 2019. The followong one - in Poland in April 2020.
HYPATIA – FOUNDATION PROMOTING EQUALITY