Mental constructions, balance of power and sharing experiences

The day was divided into two parts. The objective was to have a better understanding of the realities resulting from the migration processes.

During the first activity, the aim was to have an insight of the mental construction of the balance of power between refugees and the ones who are in charge of the implementation of the migration policies, to understand the different perspectives of the actors in migration process, the ones that are in charge of selection process and the ones whose fate depends on it.

The whole group was divided into 3 parts. There were three different roles, one for border officials, one for refugees and one for observers. The border officials were in charge to decide whether to let the refugees in or not and on which criteria. The refugees were telling their stories in order to have been allowed to enter the country and the observers analyzing the interactions between the two sides. At one point the roles of the refugees and the border officials switched so that both sides could put themselves in each-others’ shoes.

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The role-play was followed by a reflection circle where people were able to express their feelings after the game and to analyze each-others’ behavior.  What became evident after this game was the existence of strong stereotypes among participants as well as internalization and reproduction of abuses that are typical in these situations. The entire group agreed that most of the decisions were not based on any legal or rational arguments but rather on stereotypes, fears and the potential benefits for the receiving country only. The conclusions that emerged from the post-game analysis highlighted some inner contradictions among the participants who were supposed to be positive actors for migrants but were still affected by some protective feelings towards refugees, somehow considered as a potential foreign treat to their country. This analysis enabled the group to become conscious how the balance of power affects the interactions of individuals and especially between powerful and vulnerable people. This post-game analysis also emphasized larger issues such as formal and informal processes of integration and inclusion in the receiving country.

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The aim of the second activity was to get more specific samples about the concrete and local realities of refugees and specific circumstances regarding their experience. Through imaginary stories, the participants tried to illustrate the real hardships but also opportunities in their new places of living. Examples from the seven represented countries allowed the group to highlight the diversity and the complexity of situations regarding the attitudes of the states, living conditions, migration policies, employment opportunities. Some similarities were also revealed during the discussions, especially the ones regarding discrimination, legal issues, cultural shocks and homesickness. The presentations of the stories were enriched by intercultural discussions in smaller groups in order to deepen the participants’ awareness of local realities.

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