Refugees: media vs reality

When I first saw the information about the project I was very curious because of the topic. Even though it is not very connected to my regular profession ( I study acting) the theme seemed to be extremely interesting for me as the refugee problem and the migration problem in Europe is something that is often mentioned in public discussion. That is why I decided I would like to gain knowledge and some experience in this particular area of social and civic life.

As an European Union student living and studying in Poland I did not have many occasions to talk or to meet people with refugee background. In Poland we do often meet and work or study together with people from Eastern Europe but in case of Syrian or African refugee – those are very rare situations. An image that I had in my head was mostly based on things I could read in the Internet, see in the news, possibly read in a book or just know from other people. As the migration crisis exploded in 2015 the topic has started to be widely spoken in the media all around he world, later on there were series of terrorist attacks, sexual harassment in Germany, France, Italy… The problem for a major part of society started to be more black and white. I am mentioning all of those things to emphasize the crucial aspect (in my opinion of course) about this project which was the opportunity to talk face to face with those refugee-background people. 

The visit of the refugee camp was a very interesting experience for me. I got the possibility to see how those people live, how the camp works, who works there, who are those people – from which countries, what are the reasons that they are where they are. I was trying to prepare myself for what I can see (based on Internet information and media image of those camps). Actually, I was surprised of what I saw. The conditions in the camp were very satisfying for me. Of course these are not 5 star hotels, but the general and basic needs of the migrants are fulfilled. They are living in open camp (they can leave it whenever they want), have their own amount of money which they can spend as they want, they live in small houses which are spread all over the big area in the woods. In the camp there are open kitchens and toilets, there are courts and playgrounds, there is also school. So comparing to what my image of those camps was like… the difference is huge. I am aware that the camp we have visited has a really good status, but either way I am happy that this is how it actually looks like. 

From my experience, when I talk to my closest friends, family and so on the problems they are usually mentioning are just fear of those migrants. To be completely honest I do admit, that often I share their opinions. The fact that I had an opportunity to go and actually talk to them was very important for me. I saw people. People dreaming about better life. People who has been into hell. Of course we can not just forget about huge cultural and historical differences we have with them. This is not just a matter of good will, both the closed society and the migrants cannot be just put into one bag without any ideas or programs or plans how to “mixed” them together in comfortable for both sides way. Not all of them are escaping the war fields. A great part of them is looking for better conditions of living, job or educational opportunities. Moreover, most of those people are single young man – usually from Africa (from countries that are not officially in the state of war). So it is huge simplification if someone says that people don’t want refugees because they are narrow-minded, xenophobic or racists or just cold-hearted. I strongly disagree. In my personal opinion the fact that people are unwilling to accept migrants in their societies is caused by a lot of factors such as – fear as a result based on media (terrorism etc.), lack of knowledge, lack of preparation (from the government or NGO’s or any other social programs). 

What I was trying to emphasize in this short article were my personal thoughts and observations about the projects topic and most controversial aspects of human migrations. I am very happy that I could participate in this project especially because of the theme, but also because of the occasion to meet people from different countries, cultures with different background and experience. What I missed during the sessions was some actual knowledge. Some data. I think that at least on lecture or presentation about migration in Europe, number of people who are migrating, from which countries to which countries, who are they, how old are they, what is the result of having the official “refugee status”, is it all the same for whole EU, and more and more information… The reason why I mention this is my own person. I am an acting student, I didn’t have a lot of situations in my life to somehow gain knowledge about migrations, refugees and so on. I am super interested to gain it but I need to have a source from which I can distill it. Furthermore I strongly believe that this dose of data and information would highly increase level of discussion during the project as I believe not only me had little experience in this area. 

Thank you once again for creating this initiative and I hope this project will evolve and affect more and more people even if only by spreading the personal experiences.

Małgosia Majerska

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