How can newly arrived people to the European Union be integrated? The EUNIC cluster in Athens looked at what culture can offer in this respect. The project “The Culture of Integration”offered artistic activities in refugee camps and beyond. Kouzinia Katramadou, EUNIC focal point to Greece, gives insight into the skepticism received and the way the EUNIC cluster organised these wide-range activities.
The “Culture of Integration”offered many different activities to people newly arrived in Greece. The “Let’s keep in touch” project aimed to become a refugee-run library, set-up in a refugee camp. Did this idea work out?
As everyone who has ever worked in the refugee camps can tell, there is no such thing as permanence in any of the actions undertaken there, mostly due to the fact that migrants are on constant move. Having said that, the project managers implemented a series of workshops and set up the library which, to all intents and purposes, can run indefinitely. We expect their final report at our closing event in Athens.
How were these activities generally received by newly arrived people and by local people alike?
There was initially mistrust especially for the projects that took place in refugee camps. The refugees and migrants are not a homogenous group, which is something we tend to forget in our daily work. The people that live in those camps come from different ethnic, social, economic and cultural backgrounds and they didn’t want to participate or let their children participate in common events, being weary not only of the project managers but also (or mostly) of other participants. The events that took place outside the camps were well received by both refugees and the local communities – I witnessed this at aconcert of the band DYAR in Mytilene on the island Lesbos.
One of the purposes of the project is to promote European values. What prompted you to address this issue?
One issue that preoccupied us mostly was women’s rights and how to make them known to refugee women who are among the most vulnerable groups that arrive at our shores. Most come from countries where basic rights such as the right to equality or non-violence are unknown or non-existent. The issue of course is of high importance to the EU lately and there are several such references in theEU’s strategy on social integration, among others. The videos produced as part of this project try to bring those ideas closer to the people arriving.
The activities involved a wide range of partners. How did the cluster manage to work first as a cluster, but also to coordinate the partner network?
We set up a working group to check on the work and help the project leaders in the implementation of their projects. More specifically, each project was supervised by two members of the working group and reports were submitted at our common meetings. The working group was also presenting the on-going work to the meetings of the Cluster that took place, usually, every other month. The Goethe-Institute, acting as the president of the Cluster, took care of the financial aspects of the projects and all secretarial work.
Kouzinia Katramadou currently works in the cultural department of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs(MFA). She acts as EUNIC focal point for Greece – that means for the two members, the Hellenic Foundation and the MFA. As a focal point, she is also active in the Athens EUNIC cluster.
The “Culture of Integration”project began in January 2017 in the midst of ongoing arrivals of refugees and migrants in Greece. It supported the implementation of activities in the fields of libraries, education and the arts. The aim was to contribute to the social and cultural integration of the newly-arrived people as well as to support the local receiving communities in coping with the corresponding challenges.
“Culture of Integration” will organise a final conference in Athens on November 9 and an additional event in Thessaloniki on 22 November. The objective is to present the project to local audiences, including cultural operators and the academic community, in order to raise awareness on the issue of integration and the usefulness of cultural approaches in this respect. The events will also be networking forums so that interested parties may find partners in order to implement similar events.
The concept, design and implementation of the project were inspired by the outcomes of the conference“European Values revisited: The role of Culture in refugee integration into local communities” that was co-organised by EUNIC Cluster Athens in November2016.
The “Culture of Integration”project and final event have been co-organised by the Goethe-Institut Athen,the British Council, the House of Cyprus, the Austrian Embassy, the NorwegianEmbassy, the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Hellenic Foundation of Culture, in cooperation with the American College of Greece and the support of the National Library of Greece.
Videos from the conference can be viewed here.