Budapest, Hungary, 27-29 April 2017, "How to overcome stereotypes about migrants?"

Budapest, Hungary,
27-29 April 2017,
"How to overcome stereotypes about migrants?"

First day, 27th April, 2017, Budapest.

We are here in Budapest, April 27, 2017, representatives from seven European countries CSOs gods, to begin the second event of the project Lampedusa Berlin travelogue. We are the guests of Oltalom Karitativ Egyesulet the partner organization of the project in Hungary. the theme around which we will be discussing together is: "How to overcome stereotypes about migrants?" An issue not a little complex and important for Europe today .... Arriving yesterday in Budapest from the airport, we have not noticed, with surprise, how the streets and walls are covered with signs written "Stop Brussels". We will learn that it is only one of several campaigns carried out by the current Hungarian government to legitimize its migration policy, as opposed to the strategies and actions undertaken by the European institutions.

All this confirms that this is, for us, a very important stage of our project. Hungary is in fact one of the European countries where the migration crisis has shown its most difficult aspects, especially in 2015, when about 200,000 migrants arrived in the country, crossing the border between Serbia and Hungary. This was to a large extent people who had fled Syria or from other Middle East countries through the so-called Balkan route. Migrants tried to arrive in Hungary, as the first country in the shengnen area, ie with freedom of movement within Europe, with the hope of continuing their journey to the countries of northern Europe where they could apply for asylum.

The reaction of the Hungarian government has been very tough, as is well known. The images of this exodus, with thousands of migrants, including many families with children, locked at the border with Serbia in fortune camps, and the harsh repression of the Hungarian police and army bounced in the European mass media.

At the same time official communication campaigns were carried out by the Hungarian government, defined at international level xenophobic and racist.
For example, in June 2015, several posters leaked out on which the government expressed its views on immigrants. The posters displayed sentences such as: "If you come to Hungary you do not have to take away Hungarians' jobs." It is not surprising, in all of this, that Hungary is considered, according to various researches among the most xenophobic countries in Europe, although there are few citizens and organizations working for intercultural dialogue and the reception of migrants.
The government's campaign has now turned against Europe itself, as we have seen. In one of the "Stop Bruxells" signs, someone added a phrase: "But send us the money, right?

Start of the event: Coordination Meeting and Public Conference

The morning of April 27th begins with a co-ordination meeting of the European Group of Participants, in order to verify the implementation of the project. After lunch we will start the official event with a public conference.
The conference opens with greetings from Gábor Iványi, president of Oltalom Charity Society, and István Perger, Representation of the European Commission in Budapest.
We take this opportunity to illustrate the Lampedusa Berlin project to the conference participants and to focus on ongoing activities. Among them, the "Creative Call", through which we have asked to submit proposed project logo, and the narrative contest "Telling the Dialogue" with which we invite civil society organizations and citizens to send us narrations of experiences of intercultural dialogue in Europe.

The following presentation was that of Mr Endre Sík (researcher, TÁRKI Hungary) on xenophobia in Hungary. The presentation exposed three categories of people holding three different attitudes: xenophobes, xenophiles and “thinkers” (hesitants). Mr Sík said that in Hungary there was a sharp increase of xenophobia after the collapse of Yugoslavia and an even sharper during the migrant crisis in 2015 (due also to the hate campaign of the Hungarian government). The main thesis of the lecture was that the number of xenophobes has been gradually increasing since the beginning of the nineties, exceeding the number of thinkers in 2015, while the number of xenophiles decreased practically to zero in January 2016. The lecture concluded with a summary of the characteristics of “the typical xenophobe” and “the typical young xenophobe:

The typical young xenophobe
- without knowledge of a second language
- immobile
- rural
- mistrustful
- from the radical right
- not belonging to migration networks

One of the main questions concerning this issue concern the reason why young xenophobes have such harder attitudes. According to Mr Sík’s answer these youths are very easy to mobilize, because they are very eager to have an ideology.
In the following intervention we listened two important experiences by the Hungarian civic society; is infact important to say that, despite the hostile political environment, there are in Hungary organizations very active in the field of migrant rigths and assistance. Mr Reza Sayed Mustafa, Hungary, told us about some experiences related to “Social integration of migrants through civil projects” realized by Artemisszió Foundation. The foundation’s three main areas of operation are adult training, youth and migration and assistance to refugees.

The last speaker of the day was Zsolt Zádori, by Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Hungary) who talked about “Legal assistance for refugees”. The Hungarian Helsinki Committee is an association focused on; human rights watchdog; researches, training; domestic and international advocacy; refugee programs (involving legal assistance); maintaining a lawyers’ network which provides legal assistance and legal support for those in need. After presenting some of the HHC’s results in 2016, Mr Zádori went on to discuss the current situation in connection with migration in Hungary, particularly focusing the destroyed asylum system in Hungary, and the Hungarian government’s hostile actions (e.g.: its hate campaign) towards migrants.

Second day, 28th April, 2017

"How to overcome stereotypes about migrants?"

On the second day we got to explore the theme of prejudice and xenophobia in the various partner countries of the project. It was a very interesting time, as the ability to share information about the different national realities often not available. Below we present the fragments of the various researches conducted by the national groups.
Important to underline that it is made of different materials, according to the working mode of the individual groups. Another thing to point out is that individual contributions, although reflecting the different national contexts, are interesting in a European perspective. In each of these contributions are useful aspects to understand why xenophobia in Europe, and its possible solutions.

Hungary

Diversity of Hungarian Society

In Hungary 13 minorities are recorded as historically and traditionally co-existent: Bulgarian, Gypsy, Greek, Croatian, Polish, German, Armenian, Rumanian, Rusin, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian and Ukrainian. Their rights are declared by the CLXXIXth statute of 2011 on the rights of national minorities. This law states, among others, that religious and cultural traditions must be respected and all Hungarian citizens belonging to any minority have the right to the free confession and keeping of their identity. Besides these historically co-existent minorities, migrants also enrich Hungary’s culture. Immigrants started to appear in greater numbers in the country at the end of the 1980’s.

Hate campain by Hungaria government

In the past two-three years the climate in the Hungarian society - especially since the refugee wave the country experienced during the summer of 2015- doesn’t help to mop up xenophobic and racist attitudes. In May, 2015, the government sent a letter to each and every Hungarian citizen. In the introduction of it, Viktor Orbán cites the example of the terrorist attacks on the French caricaturists with the conclusion that Europe cannot tackle the issue of immigration properly. The questionnaire in the letter contains suggesting questions. Among others, it claims that immigration has grown twenty-fold in Hungary recently.

One of the questions asks whether the respondent is afraid of Hungary becoming the target of a terrorist attack. The letter enquires whether the citizen feels Brussels is tackling the issue of immigration improperly, which is connected to the spreading of terrorism. The letter also asks whether the citizen agrees that the government should handle the issue of immigration in a stricter way than the EU does.

In June, 2015 several posters leaked out on which the government expresses its views on immigrants. The posters display sentences such as: "If you come to Hungary you mustn’t take away Hungarians’ jobs.” or "If you come to Hungary you must respect our culture.” Civil organizations expressed their anger over the posters and asked their supporters to damage them. Public posters became memes on the internet within a few days and various transcripts were also made of them.

In the case of Hungary, we can speak about not only mental, but also physical barriers. On the 17th of June 2015, the government of Hungary decided to build up a fence alongside the Hungarian-Serbian border in order to close the frontier. The Parliament accepted the modification of the Law 2015 CXXVII which disposed about the closing of the border. The fence is one hundred-seventy five km long and four meters high. The hurdle was ready in record time with the participation of the Hungarian Army and public workers from the nearby area. All together 22,2 milliard HUF was spent on the construction. Two days before the appointed deadline, on the 29th of August, 2015, the fence was set. The barrier on the Hungarian-Serbian border was a first in the line of many future border closings. By 2017, Hungary closed its borders with Romania and Croatia as well.

In October, 2016 a national census was ordered with the suggestive question: Do you want to allow the European Union to mandate the resettlement of non-Hungarian citizens to Hungary without the approval of the National Assembly?”. Even though the census was invalid (less of 50% voted), since 98,36 % of the voters answered with a no to the question, the government communicated a successful result.

"Stop Brussels". in the spring of 2017 the government led by Viktor Orbán has launched a national campaign called "Stop Brussels" which accuses the EU of undermining the independence of Hungary. The initiative, considered by the European Commission as "wrong from the facts" and "highly misleading", saw the government delivering 8 million closed questionnaires to Hungarians. Each form contains six questions about "Union Key Policies".

To understand the tenor of the campaign, one of them asks "what should Hungary do" when "despite the series of terrorist attacks in Europe, Brussels intends to force the country to enter illegal immigrants", a category that includes, among others , asylum seekers. Two possible answers, which enable immigrants to move freely around the country or "keep them under the supervision of the authorities" - in the walled fields that the government built - until their case has not been considered.

However, besides the tokens from the government, the civil sector also tried to solve the imminent refugee crisis. Grassroot organizations, such as Migration Aid, Migrant Solidarity Group for Hungary, Oltalom Charity Society, Menedék Hungarian Association for Migrants, jointly with citizens started their own ‘campaign’ in order to provide psychological first aid and assistance for those who had to leave their country of origin.

Xenophobia in Hungary

A 2012 research of Political Capital suggests that, after Latvia, Hungary is the second least tolerant country in the EU. Xenophobia in the country – just like in other European countries – does not appear as an economic and sociological problem but has a symbolic nature.
As statistical data show, fewer migrants arrive in Hungary than in the other European countries. This fact has a two-sided impact on Hungarians’ xenophobia, which is not targeted at particular groups but to immigrants in general who are uniformly perceived as aliens.

The category of refugees for the average people is broader than that of the legal classification. Since Hungarians lack sufficient personal experience and information, many of the population experience difficulties to define who is a refugee. People prone to merge everyone, who is living or working, here has low socioeconomic status and without a western origin, into the category of refugees. In addition, their image of migrants is mainly shaped by political and media discourses.

Good practices

Despite the difficult situation there are numerous good practices implemented by civil society in Hungary in the field of migrant reception and integration, as mentioned above. Practices that use sports, education in schools, etc. Here are a few examples:

  • Oltalom Sport Association: Welcome To The Pitch-Fair Play Football
  • Throughout a national tournament, local amateur teams in various cities/villages play against Oltalom Football Team in 2*10 minutes ‘mini-games’. There is no referee during the matches. The two teams with the help of a mediator set up their own rules regarding their match (i.e. how to celebrate the goals; how many points each goal takes, etc.). Residents of the specific location of the tournament have the chance to meet migrants and refugees in a ‘non-forced’ situation. They have the possibility to meet and socialize in the field of sport where it does not matter where people come from or what is their religion, only that they share the passion for the game.

  • Our New Neighbours - Ferencváros Community Foundation (FCF)
  • The aim of the project on one hand is to integrate “our new neighbours” (people of migrant and different ethnic background, connected to our district, i.e. living and/or working here) into the activities and opportunities of the Foundation. On the other hand, to make migrants visible to the community to influence public opinion and brand the district as a "District of Colour and Diversity”. With this we would like to show the strengths inherent in diversity. During the implementation, video-interviews will be done with people of migrant/different ethnic background living in the district. Part of the project is also an event together with the interviewees and to organise an awareness raising campaign using the visual portraits.

Spain

An important part of the work done by the Spanish group concerns stereotypes circulating in daily culture in Spain. The Spanish working group produced a description of these stereotypes and a comment that shows - based on search data - because the stereotype is false.

We will find how these stereotypes can be common to all the cultures of the partner countries of the project, and Europe in general.

  • Stereotypes that circulate in the "everyday culture" What are some of the main stereotypes of migrants and refugees that circulate in your country?
  • Asylum and refuge. "Refugees endanger the security of Europe"

    The massive arrival of refugees is resurrecting some of the old rumors about migrants: they are going to take away the work; take social aid while hundreds of thousands of European families live in poverty; they are an invasion; they are a danger to the society and the values of Europe. The xenophobic speech of some political leaders, or the alarmist messages of some media, fuel the narrative that appeals to fear. The last terrorist attacks in Europe have served to recharge this argument. European leaders should not confuse terrorism with the increase of asylum seekers. They are two different things, and only one of them is a threat. European leaders must carefully distinguish between them and be clear that the best thing for the security of Europe is not to turn away from a global refugee crisis, but to ensure the orderly, organized and humanitarian entry of people fleeing similar horrors. In addition, every application for asylum lodged involves extensive examinations and very strong security controls.

  • It is an invasion

    The world is much larger than the EU, which is not the main target of migrants and refugees. Of the top 25 destinations of migrants, headed by the United States and Russia, there are only five of the 28 Member States. In addition, there are 60 million people displaced by conflict in the world; 86% of the refugees are in the poorest countries on the planet, is a fact, and especially in countries close to conflict zones.
    In the case of Syria, for example, Turkey, Libya, Jordan and Iraq have practically 95% of the Syrian population that has left, which are about four million. Europe comes a small part. Since the beginning of the crisis, there has been an average of around 600,000 asylum claims in Europe. It is a drop in the ocean if you compare this figure with 60 million internally displaced persons or asylum seekers.

  • Turkey has two million, Lebanon 1,200,000 plus half a million Palestinians, in a population that has about four million. It is as if there were 12 million refugees here in Spain. No country in the EU is poorer than Ethiopia, Turkey, Pakistan or Lebanon, which are home to the most refugee countries. Here in Europe we have 500,000 million inhabitants.

  • We need only look at the percentage of the working population that is unemployed to see that the crisis has treated migrants worse than the native ones. While the Spanish unemployment rate was 20,13% (2011), that of foreigners was 28,94%. In addition, many of them bring other skills in different areas that we may not have here, for example in terms of language, or complementary training, that is to say that, far from being a problem, it is rather a wealth and an opportunity for our society.

    The impact of immigration alleviates the aging of European society: "Most studies recommend a range of long-term policies, combined with a sustained flow of immigration to ensure the sustainability of the current pension and social protection system. (European Commission, 2006)

    Nor should we forget that the refugees, the immigrants who arrive, usually take jobs that we, the nationals, do not want, the gaps in the labor market. Comparing statistics on the type of occupation, it is clear that in the allocation of jobs between national and foreign workers, immigrants are more dedicated to unskilled jobs.

Italy

"The contribution of Italy was composed by several type of materials, each ot them with a specific meaning with respect to the theme: "How to overcome stereotypes about migrants?"

A- "Stereotypes and prejudices", an autobiographical script about the stereotypes of Italian society in the 1960s, collected by ForTeS. Through this narrative Renata recounts episodes related to her experience of adopting a Somali child. Racism and stereotypes with which Renata comes into contact can make we smile today, yet reality has not changed much ....

B- Interviews and Life Stories on "A Study on Experiences and Inclusion of Foreign Women in Italy" by S.O.S. Racism, Italy. This contribution concerns a self-help group of migrant women; an interesting experience because it is a practice to combat stereotypes and to encourage integration managed by the same migrant women. An additional experience told by S.O.S. racism, an intercultural Bank of Time, is an example of a good practice in which Italians and migrants cooperate together for a common goal.

C- The last Italian contribution was an activity conducted by Asinitas with high school students, Liceo Morgagni of Rome, on stereotypes and means to overcome them. This activity, which has seen the boys engage actively as researchers, is important in addition to the achievements of the boys, also as an educational methodology, useful - in particular - for acting as a teacher or educator with young people.
A very interesting element found by the Morgagni school kids is the importance of some forms of communication, such as web series, to combat stereotypes. An example of this process is "skam", a Norwegian TV series that has become very popular among young people thanks to the very sensitive and important issues that it treats, such as homophobia and overcome stereotypes of gender and religion.

Germany

The German project partner Sozial Label, too, has done excellent research on the topic "How to overcome stereotypes about migrants?"

An interesting aspect is to note how stereotypes in the different European countries project partners are, in some ways, common.

Among the most frequent stereotypes in Germany we find:
Refugees are criminals
(Refugees are violent- Rape refugees):

  • Refugees pereceived as potential criminals, fear of a rise of criminal aggressions, migrants are violent. After the new eve days in Koeln in 2015/2016 we have a new word appearing « raperefugees »
  • The most frequent fear about refugees in the public opinion is connected with the rise of the crime rate in Germany. People feel like their security is under threat due to the many foreigners arriving en masse. What the far-right regards as an absolute truth while federal statistics show migrants playing a minimum role in crime

Refugees and cultural differences:

  • Refugees and cultural differences, it is difficult to integrate, values
  • Stereotypes that are paternalistic and “light” formulated will gain more support than open stereotypes.
  • Muslims need particular support in order to interiorise that men and women in Germany have the same rights.

An interesting element in the fight against stereotypes is the irony, thanks to the spread of comedy videos, made by migrants themselves.

2nd day – 28th of April 2017

The second day saw the realization of the public panel:"How to overcome stereotypes about migrants?" The panel, conducted with the Open Narrating Space methodology, has seen strong participation, and has developed on three thematic areas:
1- Stereotypes in everyday culture
2- Good Practices for overcoming stereotypes against migrants/refugees
3 - Integration policies

Find the attached report, but in the meantime we give you a taste of some of the results:

1. Stereotypes in everyday culture

What are the prevalent stereotypes in your country?
Why could these stereotypes spread in the society?
What fosters these stereotypes?

Stereotypes:

  • migrants have to be poor
  • judgement based on external features
  • all muslim women’s rights are denied by their men and their society
  • migrants don’t want to integrate
  • Muslims are terrorists / migrants are all islam fundamentalists
  • Black men are dealers and criminals
  • migrants steal work of Italian people
  • migrants don’t works because they don’t want to

Proposals:

  • Attitudes towards migrants would be changed. Awareness-raising. Sensitizing host society.
  • Awareness-raising from early age
  • positive examples through sport (e.g.: Oltalom Sport Association)
  • exchange programs (Life Long Learning programs, EVS, Erasmus+, scholarships): intercultural preparation of participants
  • involve migrants in proposals and solutions
  • involve migrants in arts project, have a different perspective on migrants
  • TV should show a multicultural and multilingual society
  • Migrants on TV
  • institutionalized integration programs, e.g.: school workshops, curriculum

2. Good Practices for overcoming stereotypes against migrants/refugees

Do you know good practices that help reducing/overcoming stereotypes towards migrants?
Among the good practices the panel has highlighted some types of activity:
- Improvement of communication
- Language classes with emphasis on culture
- Learn about their history, current situation, habits and traditions
- Organizing multicultural events
- Education: workshops in schools/universities (including exhibitions, videos, films, lifestory telling, etc.)
- Organizing football tournaments with refugees and Hungarian citizens, using Fair Play rules
- Next-door family: meals between a local and an immigrant family in one of their houses, so they get to know each other, share a meal and set the basis for a future relationship
- Involving women with different cultural background (cooking together, sharing food/culture)
- Involving them in communities: opennes, no degrading while helping
- Anti-rumour agents network: volunteers trained to stop rumours in everyday life with real data and information to deconstruct false stereotypes
- Mentoring practices: locals and foreigners sharing daily life and helping each other

What works? and why? (elements of good practices)
Among the elements that guarantee the success of these good practices is the importance of creating personal relationships between migrants and citizens:

  • Getting to know different people destroys stereotypes (stereotypes are based on ignorance and on fear of the unknown) - trade your fears for curiosity and interact more
  • Provoke empathy with “the other” - “the different”, by making people aware that everybody, all of us is part of a stereotype (we are all same all different)
  • Creating art work - shared creativ experience

3. Integration policies

Is there an integration policy in your country?
How do these policies contribute to overcoming stereotypes about migrants?
What should an integration policy contain?

Participants in the group had discussions on the following fields of integration in detail:

  • education
  • language
  • housing
  • employment/labour market
  • media
  • social and cultural integration



The evening saw a public cultural program, with the screening of the movie: The Citizen, an interesting movie that tells the story of an immigrant seeking unsuccessfully to obtain Hungarian citizenship and to integrate into society until he is forced to leave.

3nd day – 29th of April 2017

The last day saw the group participate in an activity of the Oltalom Sport Association's Regular, which runs football training activities with refugee players, Budapest, Margaret-island.