The citizens are speaking

The citizens are speaking

The Citizens are speaking is an Europe for citizens project, lead by Cross Cultural International Foundation Malta. The aim of this project as the name implies, ‘The Citizens Are Speaking’ was to engage EU citizens on the current highly debatable issue of immigration with a view to encourage civic participation of citizens at Union level.

This project addressed the gap in the EU’s integration policy including the rise in xenophobia that has increased during these last years and the promotion of  opportunities for inter-cultural engagement and volunteering at Union level.

The Romanian partner in this project was Dominou Association, from Craiova, that contributed with its expertise to the realisation of the goals of the project.

The project had three main activities comprising of two conferences, one in Malta and one in Slovenia and voluntary activities. The first two day conference was held in Malta in October 2015.

The President of Malta, Marie Louise Coleiro Preca gave a keynote address which was featured in the Malta Independent newspaper. The Malta conference was also addressed by keynote speakers from different fields: Lobby group – European Network Against Racism (ENAR), a think tank – Centre for European Reform (CER), Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and an Advisor to the Cabinet Office (UK).

The participants came from different backgrounds: students, TCNs, NGOs, and ordinary Maltese citizens giving a variety of opinions during the panel discussions and the workshops. After the conference individual organisations organised forums and debates to discuss the issue surrounding migration, neighbourhood policy and the integration of TCNs in order to gather information leading to the recommendations. These foras and debates were a mixture of migrants and natives and in some cases just the TCNs or the natives to allow for free dialogue to flow in cases where it was perceived that the other group was not willing to discuss the issues in the presence of the other.

A similar conference based on the same topics and subjects that were discussed in Malta was also held in Slovenia over two days. The conference in Slovenia had an entire afternoon focused on recommendations  gathered by the partner organisations during the debates and forums with citizens.

Apart from the two conferences voluntary activities were carried out in all the participating partner organisations Member States. Various activities, which included among others, teaching of the constitution to an entire school using game of chess, after school and home work for migrant children, multicultural dialogues and cooking sessions, sports, and therapeutic handcraft sessions, were carried out. Each partner organisation had three or several volunteers spending more than 120 hours volunteering and having contact with the migrants.

These voluntary activities opened the way for dialogue with the migrants and also made it possible to speak to the TCNs in a relaxed atmosphere helping them to open up about their experiences, difficulties they are facing and their recommendations on how they think the EU can improve in helping them integrate smoothly into the communities they are living in.