"Any one of us could choose to or be forced to become a migrant or refugee at any time and, on an individual level, we would hope that our right to move, to work or study, to start a family, etc. would be respected and protected like anyone else's."
Youth Time joins with other activists in observing the 18th of December- International Migrants Day by interviewing Frankie Reid, Program Manager & Interim Project Coordinator at Migration Matters– a non-profit organisation that was founded in January 2016 in response to media coverage about the so-called refugee crisis.
This year, we celebrate International Migration Day under the slogan “More than migrants”, and Reid shares her message on this matter.
Further, in the interview, she encourages young people to play an active role in promoting migrant’s rights and shares a few informative sources from where we can all begin and educate ourselves about such an important issue.
Migrants’ Rights Are Human Rights
“Migrant’s rights are human rights.”, she simply puts while adding:
“The freedom to live in a country different to the one in which you were born is a right afforded to all of us, yet in many ways current political and public debate in the last decades – at least in the Global North – has moved more towards “protecting” international borders and restricting access to safe migration routes.”
She recalls that activists and experts are very concerned that this infringes on the rights of people to migrate for any reason, be that economic, to escape war or persecution, or for any other reason someone may choose to live abroad.
“The pandemic,” she goes on, “has highlighted how people in Europe, for example, take for granted the opportunity to hop on a plane and visit a foreign country and when that is taken away from them by their governments, it’s uncomfortable and disconcerting – even when people actually understand the legitimate reason for it happening.”
“However, migrants and refugees are facing more and more hurdles to exercising their right to move and reside across international borders (enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) that predate and will surely outlive the pandemic.
In short, Reid leaves us with this powerful statement:
“Migrants’ rights are an integral pillar of the international human rights framework and should be thought of as such to avoid dividing society into “us” and “them” groups.”
“Any one of us could choose to or be forced to become a migrant or refugee at any time and, on an individual level, we would hope that our right to move, to work or study, to start a family, etc. would be respected and protected like anyone else’s.”
Building a More Nuanced Public Debate
Migration Matters is committed to empowering the public to have more nuanced and evidence-based conversations about migration. For this, it produces video content that shares research and solutions-oriented perspectives from thinkers in the field, and migrants themselves.
During our discussion, Reid speaks about the importance of this, and how we can create an environment which constantly promotes the importance of solidarity, inclusion and respect for migrants’ rights.
“We strive to empower people to have calmer, more nuanced conversations about migration that go beyond the pro versus con debate we too often see in public and political discourse, ”says Reid, who previously worked in online education for refugees at Kiron Open Higher Education.
This is done through short, educational video series that cover various themes and topics related to migration, such as integration and belonging, climate change, and the impact of populist and nationalist politics in Europe.
“Our series up until 2021 have predominantly featured academics, practitioners and other experts sharing their research and best practices from the field of migration in a more accessible way for the general public than academic papers.”
“But in the last year we have focused on amplifying migrants’ voices through series like I Am European: Young migrants and people with a migration history share their stories and Migrant Lives in Pandemic Times.”
“These series see migrants (or those considered outsiders in the country they call home) themselves talking about their own sense of belonging and identity and, in the case of Migrant Lives in Pandemic Times, the profound impact the pandemic has had on their lives.”
In addition to these two series, Migration Matters released two episodes on the importance of diversity and representation at all levels of the German media.
This mini-series features three journalists with migration backgrounds who share their valuable insights into the media industry.
“Through our videos and our partners who work directly with young people, teachers and journalists across Europe, we aim to change the narrative about migration from one that is always either “very good” or “very bad” to an understanding that migration is, in fact, an entirely normal phenomenon that is as old as time. We hope that by neutralising the topic, we can open up the discussion to allow for more balanced, evidence-based solutions that, crucially, respect the rights of everyone regardless of their migration status.”
An Open-Minded Youth
Honouring this date, Reid encourages everyone, but especially youth, to “educate yourselves beyond the news headlines you see online or on TV.”
“Listen to migrants themselves and allow your mind to be open to the possibility that you can also live abroad if you want to. Migration should not be demonised as something that only people in “poor” countries do to escape hardship.”
She invites everyone to take this knowledge and empathy back to your friends and relatives to start calm, balanced conversations about migration and migrants’ rights.
“This is one of the best ways to do your bit to foster a more welcoming culture for migrants.”
And of course, Migration Matters‘ videos are a great place to start the learning process!
You can find all 140+ videos on the Migration Matters YouTube channel, where you can also find subtitles in up to 10 different languages. All their content is free to share in classrooms, training and non-commercial events.
Happy International Migrants Day from Migrations Matters and Youth Time!
Pictures: Migrations Matter
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