Scouts Unite for a Smooth Integration of Refugees and Migrants Worldwide
Over 170 Scouts from the European, Africa, Arab and Inter-America Regions of World Scouting gathered in Brussels from 7 to 10 December 2018 to reiterate their relentless commitment to the cause of refugees and migrants.
Through a wide range of sessions and participatory workshops, participants had the opportunity to listen to compelling success stories describing how their fellow Scouts on the other side of the globe have welcomed refugees and migrants.
The workshops offered participants not only a space of fruitful exchanges but also a panoramic overview of the various refugee integration practices and programmes currently implemented by Scouts all over the world.
From Denmark, where Scouts have relied on building long-term partnerships with different governmental and intergovernmental institutions to secure a space of integration for newly-arrived refugees, to Jordan where Scouts have stepped into refugee camps to offer relief work and protection to youth at-risk, the range of experiences and practices has been truly impressive.
Despite the striking similarity that one can notice while passing through the colourful workshop rooms, differences of local context, scope of needs and the realities at large can be easily discerned. For instance, in Europe, in Greece, the focus has been primarily set on providing immediate support and help to unaccompanied children, while Irish Scouts have focused more on advocacy, campaigning to engage the local community and raise empathy toward the refugee cause.
In France, the project “Karibu” has been specifically designed by the Éclaireuses et Éclaireurs Unionistes de France (EEDF) to create an adaptable pedagogy that supports the integration of refugee children into Scout groups.
The project “Pfasyl” led by the Swiss Scouts took shape when some village officials in central Switzerland asked the Scouts if they could help them to provide some activities for the kids in the basement of a council building. The Scouts acted within 2weeks:
“We were really fast, and we took the kids out of the asylum centre said Romano Camenzid, one of the Pfasyl project leaders.
“Out of this, a movement has been created and it started spreading in other cities. Today, Pfadsyl is growing. Thanks to this conference, we can push the project further. The project connects children to Scout groups as soon as they leave their asylum centres. As long as our support is needed, we should grow the movement” he added.
In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, where thousands of refugees passed along the “Balkan route”, Scouts rose to the challenge and played an active role in refugee transit centres. They mediated support, built partnerships with local authorities, raised awareness among the host communities and implemented educational workshops.
In Turkey, where 3.5 million Syrian refugees currently reside, Scouting and Guiding Federation of Turkey (TIF) has put a tremendous amount of effort into fundraising since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, in order to provide basic humanitarian aid and help young refugees regain a sense of purpose through Scouting.
In Africa, a continent that has tackled refugee emergencies for decades, experiences across countries do differ to a certain extent. In Kenya, Scouting in the Dadaab refugee camp, hosting Somali refugees, has proven that Scouting can be the most viable, durable solution to building resilience among the refugee population. In Uganda, the issue of gender-based sexual violence has made this a critical priority action of the Ugandan Scouts.
In the Arab Region, from where 40% of the displaced people worldwide originate, Scouts have tried their best to bridge the support gap caused by the weak action of municipalities. Despite being at the forefront of the crisis, central governments in both Lebanon and Jordan have lacked the necessary means to meet the needs of Syrian refugees. Lebanese Scouts answered the call by setting up the “My Tent, Your Tent” project which offers relief and help to Syrian refugees in Lebanon by meeting their basic immediate needs, such as clothing and shelter. The Sudanese Scouts have also focused on advocacy, campaigning to offer a counter-narrative to the most common negative prejudices against refugees and migrants.
The wide range of experiences and good practices shared throughout the conference days has succeeded in inspiring participants to improve the quality of their work once they return to their home countries:
“The conference has been really inspirational. There is some great work going on all over the world. Scouts are always proactive. Governments focus on recoding and reporting and not on acting and Scouting is where the action is. Scouts turn out first and they are the ones who set up shelters. Good practices related to psychological support has been very useful. I can take these elements back home and think about training programmes” said David Wright from the UK.
The event was closed by a half a day conference that was kindly hosted by the European Economic and Social Committee and that was officially opened by the Vice President of the European Commission, Mr. Jyrki Katainen, who recognised the impressive work undertaken by Scouts.
"I do appreciate the work that Scouts have undertaken in all member states to welcome refugees and migrants and familiarise them with their new host communities. Successful integration depends on the successful actions carried out by both member states and youth work" he said in his official speech
He then presented three symbolic awards to civil society initiatives that worked brilliantly for the integration of refugees and migrants in Europe including the Time to Be Welcome project.
The rest of the conference featured several heartfelt testimonials made by the Time to Be Welcome volunteers such as Ciara from Scouting Ireland:
“what I have learnt from the project is that if you gather a truly passionate group of volunteers you, can make a difference."
Recommendations addressed to policy makers and civil society organisations that operate in the field of refugee integration were shared toward the end of the conference. Notably, Usama, a long-term volunteer in the Time to Be Welcome project highlighted that in such projects “training should be offered to volunteers throughout the whole experience. Needs change and new skills might emerge”. More recommendations can be found here http://www.timetobewelcome.eu/the-project/project-recommendations/ .
Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting said: "The real way to gain happiness is to give it to others." Today, Scouts, more than ever, are trying their best to make a difference in a troubled yet rapidly-changing world, by generously giving countless hours of volunteering to the cause of refugees and migrants.
The closing speech of “Chip” Veerle Haverhals, a member of the European Scout Committee, reiterated the Scout commitment to the cause of refugees and migrants:
“Over the last three years, our Movement has grown in confidence about its ability to be a leading social force for good in the world. As the world’s leading educational youth movement, Scouting is looking outward at the big issues that affect people and planet, mobilising it’s 50 million young people to take action” she said.
A full list of the participating countries can be found here http://bit.ly/2RfFrmQ