On the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, IMVF organised the Webinar “We don’t want strangers” – Racism and Discrimination in Migration, which took place on 21 May, in online format, through the Zoom platform and live on IMVF’s Facebook page.
To learn more about the impact of racism and discrimination on the migration process, we invited Juliana Wahlgren, from the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), and Emellin de Oliveira, researcher at the R&D Centre on Law and Society (Centro de I&D sobre Direito e Sociedade, CEDIS), for a moment of sharing and learning.
Juliana Wahlgren, an international expert in migration, has been working on issues related to Migration and Anti-Semitism and on National Action Plans against Racism.
The speaker began by clarifying some concepts related to racism and migration, reinforcing their inherent interconnection and demonstrating that migrants, as a vulnerable community, are subject to being victims of racism. In this sense, she stressed the importance of understanding the dimension of the concept of racism since, according to the speaker, racism is a social construction that changes over time, goes beyond colour and ethnicity, and is reflected in various forms of discrimination.
Juliana highlighted the role that institutions, social structures and history itself play in racism, noting that racism comes from the influences in society. In this context, the speaker warned that systemic racism creates an imbalance in individualisation and it is an obstacle to measures aimed at combating racism and discrimination.
To end her intervention, Juliana presented the European Union Action Plan against Racism (2020) and the European Union Pact on Migration (2021), highlighting their strengths and weaknesses, and concluding that the measures outlined by each of them go in opposite directions, revealing the lack of coherence of these two documents.
Emellin de Oliveira, a PhD student in Law at Universidade Nova de Lisboa, presented the paradigm shifts that occur in society in times of pressure.
To exemplify these paradigm shifts, she used a variety of examples. One of the examples used was the 9/11 terrorist attack in the United States of America (USA), which triggered discrimination against Muslim citizens. Through this example, the speaker sought to draw attention to the impact that social changes have on migration, stressing that discrimination against migrants is often the result of the association of migrants with certain traumatic events, which in turn triggers widespread feelings of insecurity in host populations.
In this context, Emellin stressed the importance of the Durban Declaration, as it places migrants at the centre of contemporary racism, warning for situations where migrants suffer from discrimination, such as in access to purchase or rental of housing, education, healthcare, work and social security, and criticised the boycott she suffered after the 9/11 attack.
The speaker drew attention to the title given by the European Commission to the File on Migration, which was initially “Protecting our lifestyle” and which was later changed to “Promoting our European way of life: protecting our citizens and our values”. On this issue, she stated that “we do not have to protect a specific group, we have to protect everyone against any threats that may exist”, recalling the principles enshrined in the Declaration of Human Rights.
To conclude, Emellin gave us some examples of good practices related to the diversity policy, namely projects and actions aimed at combating racism and discrimination against migrants.
The Webinar ended with a debate, during which participants had the opportunity to ask the speakers questions about their interventions. You can learn how these questions were answered by listening to the Webinar recording available here.
This was the third Webinar organised under the project TAS – Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis – Migration Labs, promoted in Portugal by IMVF and co-funded by the European Union through the “Europe for Citizens” programme.
The purpose of the project TAS – Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis – Migration Labs is to support the principles of EU citizenship and promote an improvement in civic and democratic participation at EU level, reaffirming values of solidarity, intercultural dialogue, mutual understanding and combating stereotypes on migration and minorities.