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[BLOG] We need to stop treating migrants as a security issue.

20. 06. 2018

by Carina Autengruber

 twitter @CAutengruber 

When Donald Trump was campaigning with the threatening promise of building a wall, I heard a lot of my European friends saying that this could never happen here. But, you don't need a 1600 kilometer long wall to push people away. On World Refugee Day, I want to make you realise that the wall is already here - it’s just not quite like you think it is.

So far, the European leaders have treated the question of migration as a security issue, reinforcing the narrative that refugees are an imminent threat. It’s time for European leaders to stop falling for the lure of populism. I’m tired of seeing decision-makers fuelling xenophobic rhetoric and feeding people’s fears, over and over again. Did we forget our motto: united in diversity? Why are we investing in security when we could invest in inclusion?

Why are we investing in security when we could invest in inclusion?

Displaced youth should be able to find a safe and welcoming space. They should be included in every part of society from education, work, health and social services to decision-making processes. It’s tragic that today, we need to make people remember this basic fact: all refugees, displaced persons and migrants deserve to have their human rights respected. They ALL deserve to be treated with dignity.

While our political leaders are still tip-toeing around this matter of life and death, once again, young people are leading the way. This is not surprising. Even if it seems sometimes like our voices are a minority in all the noise surrounding the issue of migration, I am proud to be part of what is overwhelmingly an empathic generation. According to a World Economic Forum survey, 72.6% of people aged 18 to 35 would welcome refugees into their countries.

72.6% of people aged 18 to 35 would welcome refugees into their countries.

From the beginning of the influx of people knocking on the doors of Europe, young people and youth organisations were the first to intervene to actually welcome and support refugees. Bringing people together, sharing life skills, working collectively on community projects, youth organisations play a big part in the inclusion process of migrants. While this good news doesn’t always make the headlines, the work being done by young volunteers and activists is undoubtedly making a valuable difference.

This year, the European Youth Forum partnered with UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, to launch the European Youth Initiative Fund. This fund aims to mobilise young people, empower displaced youth, promote protection and inclusion. The first funded projects already started throughout Europe. From the first insights, I can tell you: it is so positive and beautiful to see what young people have been making together. I am certain that these local initiatives will help drive a positive change in Europe.

But there is so much more to do and so many ways to take action.

Youth organisations are trying to empower more and more young refugees and migrants.

Youth organisations are trying to empower more and more young refugees and migrants. But they also have to make sure that they are not reproducing the same structural barriers that are blocking them to become active citizens. The European Youth Forum’s Migration and Human Rights Network created a comprehensive checklist that encourages youth organisations to be open and welcoming towards displaced youth and young migrants.

Ultimately if we forget our differences and work together towards a sustainable future, we might be able to break this wall of fear.

 

Read the European Youth Forum’s Migration and Human Rights Network statement on World Refugee Day 

 

About Carina Autengruber, Vice-President of the European Youth Forum

Carina Autengruber has been active in the Austrian Nature Youth (ÖNJ) and the catholic parochial youth movement (Jungschar) since she was 10 years old. On her first international exchange back in 2008 with the Service Civil International (SCI) she discovered her passion for international youth work and European affairs. Since then Carina participated in numerous exchange programmes and has lived in Luxembourg, Portugal, South Africa, Belgium and Germany. From 2014 to 2016 she was the European Youth Delegate of the Austrian National Youth Council (ÖJV).

Carina is currently doing her Master degrees in political science, development studies and gender studies at the University of Vienna. Furthermore, Carina works for a consultancy, where she is responsible for data management.

Besides that, Carina is a passionate feminist and is active in various women's rights initiatives.