The cluster on Migrations meets in Bilbao

The Migrants and Refugees Cluster met, between the 3rd and 4th of March, at Deusto University (Bilbao, Spain). Six leading European Institutions were represented which provide complementary views, experiences and competences: Human Rights Institute (Deusto University -  Bilbao, Spain), Migrations and Refugees Research Center (Comillas Pontifical University – Madrid, Spain) JRS Belgium, Global Studies Center from Munich, Jesuits University Ignatiatum from Poland and Escuelas SAFA from Ubeda (Spain). A review regarding the general state of HEST programme and the new goals to achieve for 2019 was presented. Three experts were invited to discuss the situation about how migrants and refugees are dealing with social integration in Europe.

Miguel González (Ellacuría Foundation and JSM/JRS) started explaining his national and international experience in community-based initiatives and the project “I get you”. Gonzalez focused on defining and discussing main concepts such as stereotypes related to migration in the current context in Europe, prejudices, racism and discrimination. Moreover, the discussion addressed why populist movements and ideologies in Europe have gained such strength lately.

The second expert, Ekain Larrinaga (Council of Getxo) addressed the European Project “Anti-rumors”. This projects aims to combat prejudice, stereotype and racism related to migrant populations in Europe. Among the conclusions were the importance of rumors/gossips and how particular discourses can damage peaceful coexistence and intercultural relationships. Moreover, Ekain described the kind of strategies they used in their daily work, such us making people doubt about certain assumptions by thinking about the issues and prejudices more critically.

Lastly, Iraide Fernández (From the Ikuspegi Migrations Observatory of the Basque Government and UPV political party) addressed the developments made by the Basque government since 2003. One of the main contributions has been the Barometer (Questionnaire about perceptions and attitudes towards migrations composed by 40 items). Fernández highlighted how Basque society still holding some negative stereotypes about migrants (specific groups in particular: Moroccans and Romanians). Most of these stereotypes are related to saturation of health system, decreasing the educational standards, the abuse of social benefits and safety. Finally, Fernandez insisted on the importance of the collaboration between academic institution and civil organizations, highlighting three hot topics: Islamophobia, gender issues and segregation in the educational system. The workshop ended with closing remarks of all participants on the issues raised during the presentations.

Based on the experts’ ideas and discussions, the members of the cluster drafted a future research project. The project is focused in understanding the existing fears and prejudices in host societies, especially in ambivalent groups. The following questions are key for the research project: How do these fears and prejudices hamper our ability to create cohesion and solidarity? What kind of values should be used to oppose them? Which are the existing best practices for community building?

Please stay tuned for more updates and do not hesitate to contact HEST in case you want to contribute!

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