December 4th and 5th are only two calendar days out of a total 365.
What can one achieve in a mere 48 hours?
More than you can imagine, if you put your mind to it!
The seminar “Bridges to New Beginnings” was organized by the Partnership between the European commission and the Council of Europe in the field of youth and had the following aims:
- To develop a better understand of young refugees and migrants’ situation and how
different sectors work with this group
- To create a space for mutual understanding and synergies among different actors
- To disseminate and learn from good practices of cross-sectoral cooperation pertaining to the topic of young refugees and migrants
- To identify gaps in intervention for further planning and development in different fields.
The first day began with an inspiring panel discussion by several inspirational speakers who run refugee-led organizations; they shared their stories, touched our hearts and inspired us to kick start the conference in a goal oriented and energetic outlook hoping to establish concrete outcomes.
Shortly after, a discussion about the book “Between Insecurity & Hope” was led by its editor and authors. A discussions cafe was installed and participants were able to engage in discussion about topics related to unaccompanied minors, challenges facing them, the importance of holding states accountable to the human rights they promise to govern and protect in addition to discussions relating to the importance of partnerships to support refugee integration.
Lunch came after, but it was not a regular one. It was spiced with a testimony about social inclusion and human rights in Flanders and it left everyone inspired or empowered.
The discussions in the morning set the mood of the day to help the participants prepare for the afternoon simulation activity: a recruitment of multi-stakeholders to collaborate and establish a plan for migrant integration in an imaginary country. Laughs were echoing in the room at times and at others, the tension would skyrocket due to stress about the difficulty of certain situations faced; either with the legislating body, media or even the executive bodies of the state. The simulation ended with presentations that suggested concrete solutions and each group had different innovative ideas that made everyone learn distinct significant techniques that could make cross-sectoral collaboration successful.
And that is how day 1 ended.
Day 2 began with a panel discussion which IFMSA was invited to be a part of. The panel discussed recent EU strategies and policies affecting the lives of young refugees and migrants. IFMSA stressed the importance of shifting the health sector from a sole emergency preparedness response to an inclusive one that is not independent of national health services and which caters to chronic diseases, including mental health disorders.
The rest of the day was spent discussing advocacy tools to protect the rights and lives of young refugees and migrants. Sessions about extremism, hate crimes and how to prevent them, current youth policies and plans in the Council of Europe were discussed, in addition to many more.
One thing that is for sure, is that the seminar achieved so much more than the above mentioned goals. In just two days, friendships were built, a friendly and safe environment was established for everyone to voice their input and a long-lasting will and plan of cross-sectoral collaboration was initiated between a group of extremely motivated and passionate youth workers aiming to better the conditions and alleviate the pains of young refugees and migrants.
To summarize the seminar in one sentence, I will use a statement one panelist mentioned on the first day: “diversity is a fact; inclusion is the choice”.
Hiba Ghandour, Liaison Officer for Human Rights and Peace issues