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The conversation we need

Amid the storm of unpleasant phrases that accompany the debate around migrants and refugees coming into the country these days, and the increase in the volume of far-right groups, one wonders why, among all this noise, one cannot hear the voice of refugees and migrants. Understandably, refugees cannot speak out while being attacked and harassed, but the question persists with greater acuteness: where are the voices of those affected? The problem with this absence is that it creates the false impression that migrants and refugees and their interests are being validly represented without them.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a person in a public library. This person told me that libraries had become sanctuaries for refugees and migrants. So I asked her what kind of sanctuary that library was. She said many migrants and refugees visited daily to browse books, learn English, and seek new knowledge. While she spoke, I thought that many of them went to the library because they sought refuge from the low temperatures outside, escaping the cold of their rooms; they came to use the bathrooms and the computers to apply for precarious jobs and kill time between interviews. How something is seen depends on the eye of the beholder.

Where to look for their voices, then? Suppose we want to have a clear and close photograph of the experience of migrants and refugees today. In that case, it is simple: we have to cross the invisible border that separates us and go where migrants and refugees meet and talk to them—being open to the experience of talking with another person who is not in our circle of friends or acquaintances, getting out of our comfort zone and listening to what they have to say.

Why do we need to hear the voices of migrants and refugees?

Because the foundations for the changes we need to build a prosperous and democratic society with greater inclusion, a society against racism and discrimination, and combating the growing totalitarian and populist narratives can only come from considering their experiences and voices. The strength of our democracy and the prevention of populism will depend on our dialogue with those beyond the borders of social comfort.

The growing presence of the far-right will pass, but the questions that this wave will leave will remain with us: How can we build a just, multicultural and prosperous society for all without racism and discrimination? At this point, the narratives of migrants and refugees are vital.

Without considering their experiences and voices, we will only repeat the story that happened to a friend who was standing by a window next to a rich man, both looking at the rain; “the rain is beautiful,” the millionaire said, while my friend thought worriedly about the cracks in the ceiling of his house through which the rain would leak. What seems fair to a privileged citizen is entirely different for those in difficult situations. Without hearing the voices of those affected, without dialogue, each person will continue to be self-absorbed, seeing only one side of the coin.

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One response to “The conversation we need”

  1. mastersons69 Avatar
    mastersons69

    I agree Angel. We need to hear the stories of those who leave their homes due to war, persecution or economic necessity. Engaging in these conversations elicits empathy and provides counter narratives to the dehumanising rhetoric of the far right.

    Like

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