Rocio Cifuentes https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/17609/all cached version 08/02/2019 23:25:54 en So, is it a refugee crisis? https://www.opendemocracy.net/rocio-cifuentes/so-is-it-refugee-crisis <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“Not really. It’s a crisis of everybody’s values and everybody’s solidarity, and how far they’re willing to go to ensure human rights for everybody.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/MT3W1nAIQ-g" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p>I’m Rocio Cifuentes. I’m director of the Ethnic Youth Support Team in Swansea and we’ve developed a project called “the Think Project”, which aims to educate young people and increase their resilience to racism and far-right extremism. </p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">As everybody will be aware of, racism and xenophobia have been increasing significantly in the UK over the last decade, probably since 9/11 in America, and 7/7 in London. When the so-called ‘war on terror’ was instigated, it kind of became a war on Islam. That means that the very diverse communities that we have been living in, in the UK, communities including many Muslims, were increasingly targeted for their race and religion.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In Swansea, we have a small, but growing ethnic population, which includes a lot of Muslims and refugees and asylum-seekers. So, as a charity whose aim is to support ethnic minorities and young people, we felt that there’s a real need to do something practical about the increasing racism and xenophobia and Islamophobia that the young people we support are being subjected to. We looked around and realised that nobody else was really talking to young people in schools, or really challenging in any kind of practical sense the negative media narratives which are really kind of all around us.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In the context of increasing racism and in the context of the UK’s “Prevent” strategy, which was looking at how to prevent extremism from taking root within the UK, we’re already developing a project targeted at young Muslims and preventing them from becoming radicalised and becoming Islamist extremists.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">So, we decided to develop a kind of mirror project, which targeted young white kids who might be at risk of far-right ideology and far-right extremism. The concept is very simple. It works through giving young people the facts but also giving them a very positive experience of diversity. The people who deliver the programme are themselves from diverse backgrounds. They are Muslim and they include refugees. That opportunity to speak face-to-face with somebody who is a Muslim or a refugee is very often, for most of the people we work with, the first time that they’ve ever been in direct contact with this category of person that they have previously feared.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">And the programme completely changes young people’s attitudes, so through the formal evaluation that’s been done, through various attitudinal questionnaires, at the beginning of the programme we know that the vast majority of the people we worked with are very hostile to diversity.</span></p> <p><span class="mag-quote-center" style="line-height: 1.5;">This is the first time that they’ve ever been in direct contact with this category of person that they have previously feared.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">They believe, for example, that asylum seekers should all be sent back to where they come from. They believe that most Muslims are terrorists, they completely overestimate the proportion of people from diverse backgrounds living in their areas. The rough estimate for most of the people we worked with – we worked with nearly 500 people over three years – so more than half of those people actually believed, at the beginning of the programme, that the diversity, the ethnic population of Wales was over 50%, which in reality is around 6%. It reflects the disproportionate messages that the media and some opportunistic politicians have been putting across.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Unfortunately, nobody is really putting those messages right. So schools, and other services working with young people have failed really to give young people the correct tools that they need to be positive citizens of society. They need to do much more to give young people the correct understanding, the correct facts, and to give them a positive experience of diversity, because we do live in an increasingly diverse world, and these are the tools of understanding that young people need if we are going to live in safe and cohesive communities.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/20151030_Syrians_and_Iraq_refugees_arrive_at_Skala_Sykamias_Lesvos_Greece_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Refugees on boat. Ggia/Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/20151030_Syrians_and_Iraq_refugees_arrive_at_Skala_Sykamias_Lesvos_Greece_2.jpg" alt="Refugees on boat. Ggia/Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved." title="Refugees on boat. Ggia/Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Refugees on boat. Ggia/Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>I think Brexit was a shock to many people. But, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, because of the strength of the feeling that was building against immigration and against Muslims – which was created and exploited by the media, together with politicians. And civil society failed to really realise the scale of that threat, and failed to counter it with an effective narrative and an effective education. So Brexit is just a moment on this journey, which as I mentioned is more than a decade old, commencing probably after 9/11 and after 7/7 in London.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">And Brexit is the manifestation of a large majority of the population’s lack of understanding of the realities of migration, the realities of diversity, and combined with their very legitimate grievances around lack of opportunities, lack of housing, and their lack of social mobility. So the issues have been very much conflated, and it’s up to educators, and that includes formal education but also informal education through community groups, through local media, through online media, to really challenge that misunderstanding and get the real facts across.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I also think that we need to go beyond this idea of not being able to talk about diversity and immigration and the idea of zero tolerance to racism. I think that closes down conversations, and in order to really move beyond, and to make progress, we really have to enable and even encourage, particularly young people, to say how they feel in a safe and respectful environment, so that these views can then be carefully challenged and discussed.</span></p> <p><span class="mag-quote-center" style="line-height: 1.5;">We need to go beyond this idea of not being able to talk about diversity.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I think there’s too much emphasis, especially within schools, on excluding young people, or this idea of ‘no platform’ for racist ideas. Of course, there is a line, and when that line becomes inciting racial hatred, of course that should be treated as criminal. But there should be much more room in schools, and in organisations where we can work with young people, for discussions around the concerns around immigration. Most of the time the concerns can quite easily be responded to in terms of giving people the reality and the numbers of people who are coming in as immigrants or as refugees or as asylum seekers.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">And when people get the chance to really understand the figures – for example today we heard that the refugee population is only 0.2% of Europe’s overall population, so is it a refugee crisis? Not really, it’s a crisis of everybody’s values and everybody’s solidarity, and how far they’re willing to go to ensure human rights for everybody. That is the crisis, it’s not about the 0.2%.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">And we all need to play our part in changing that narrative. Human migration has always happened, it’s the history of mankind. Britain, America – you know the old empires – that was the greatest example of large-scale migration that we have seen. So there needs to be much more understanding and teaching within schools of the role of, for example, the British empire and how that happened, because I think, if there’s a lack of understanding, then unfortunately we’ll only repeat the mistakes that we’ve seen in history.&nbsp;</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-anoth-sidebox"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/mediterranean-journeys-in-hope"><img style="padding-top: 10px;" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/MJIH-icon-140%402x.png" alt="" width="100%" /></a></p> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/mediterranean-journeys-in-hope/janina-pescinski-cameron-thibos-en-khong-alex-sakalis-rosemary-bechler/introducing-this-weeks">Introducing <em>Cities of Welcome, Cities of Transit</em></a> <hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/mediterranean-journeys-in-hope/bue-r-bner-hansen-cameron-thibos/welcoming-refugees-despite-state">Welcoming refugees despite the state</a><br /> <span style="font-size:90%;">BUE RÜBNER HANSEN </span> <hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/mediterranean-journeys-in-hope/cameron-thibos-ignasi-calb-ram-n-sanahuja/barcelona-city-of-refuge">Barcelona: city of refuge</a><br /> <span style="font-size:90%;">IGNASI CALBÓ and RAMÓN SANAHUJA</span> <hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/mediterranean-journeys-in-hope/cameron-thibos-anna-terr-n-cus/toward-more-humane-european-asylum-sys">Toward a more reasonable European asylum system</a><br /> <span style="font-size:90%;">ANNA TERRÓN CUSÍ</span> <hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/mediterranean-journeys-in-hope/susanne-asche-cameron-thibos/when-refugees-appear-we-take-them-to-art">When refugees appear, we take them to the art museum</a> <span style="font-size:90%;">SUSANNE ASCHE</span> <hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/mediterranean-journeys-in-hope/cameron-thibos-patrick-taran/myths-of-migration">The myths of migration</a> <span style="font-size:90%;">PATRICK TARAN</span> <hr /> <a href="https://www.facebook.com/openDemocracy/videos/10154457148689774/">VIDEO: How Gdańsk, Poland became a city open to migration and diversity</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">THOMAS JÉZÉQUEL</span> <hr /> <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTZKgMKsHuM&list=PL27HDLFDYbmJAqSzPnnyU6LsiroZlG1rD&index=18">VIDEO: The impact of migration on development</a><br /> <span style="font-size:90%;">CECILE RIALLANT</span> <hr /> <a href="https://youtu.be/OQFUv13wviE">VIDEO: Why did the Balkan route close for refugees?</a> <hr /> <a href="https://youtu.be/V_W730384KI">VIDEO: Anti-radicalisation, social movements, and imagining alternatives</a> <hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/rocio-cifuentes/so-is-it-refugee-crisis">So, is it a refugee crisis?</a><br /> <span style="font-size:90%;">ROCIO CIFUENTES</span> <hr /> <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPtoBlDfUEY">VIDEO: More than a refuge, a welcome</a> <hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/aurora-labio-rom-n-mart-n-francisco-n-ez/european-refugees-and-twitter">European refugees and Twitter</a><br /> <span style="font-size:90%;">AURORA LABIO and ROMÁN MARTÍN and FRANCISCO NÚÑEZ</span> <hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/Mediterranean-journeys-in-hope/moving-europe/long-year-of-migration-and-balkan-corridor">The long year of migration and the Balkan corridor</a><br /> <span style="font-size:90%;">MOVING EUROPE</span> <hr /> <a href="https://youtu.be/kNf3WBGupvc">VIDEO: What does it take to achieve solidarity?</a> <hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/mediterranean-journeys-in-hope/eleni-karageorgiou/solidarity-in-european-asylum-policies-response-to">Solidarity in European asylum policies: response to a problem or part of it?</a><br /> <span style="font-size:90%;">ELENI KARAGEORGIOU</span> <hr /> <a href="https://youtu.be/ESZiiUk6gRc">VIDEO: Is returning refugees and migrants counterproductive?</a> <hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/valsamis-mitsilegas/solidarity-beyond-state-towards-model-of-solidarity-centred-on-refugee">Solidarity beyond the state: towards a model of solidarity centred on the refugee</a><br /> <span style="font-size:90%;">VALSAMIS MITSILEGAS</span> <hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/sergio-carrera-aikaterini-drakopolou/unsafe-turkey-unsafe-europe">Unsafe Turkey, unsafe Europe</a><br /> <span style="font-size:90%;">SERGIO CARRERA and AIKATERINI DRAKOPOLOU</span> <hr /> <a href="https://youtu.be/FSR1qTtly8o">VIDEO: How does Europe use databases to control refugees?</a><br /> <span style="font-size:90%;">NIOVI VAVOULA</span> <hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/leonie-ansems-de-vries/spaces-of-transit-migration-management-and-migrant-agency">Spaces of transit, migration management and migrant agency</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">LEONIE ANSEMS DE VRIES</span> <hr /> <a href="https://youtu.be/4wllYV3t294">VIDEO: What are refugee hotspots?</a> <hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/annalisa-lollo/solidarity-is-political-struggle-free-and-forced-mobility-between-italy-and-france">Solidarity is a political struggle: free and forced mobility between Italy and France</a><br /> <span style="font-size:90%;">ANNALISA LOLLO</span> <hr /> <a href="https://youtu.be/SdMR9ad2rx4">VIDEO: The closure of the No Border camp</a> <hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/mediterranean-journeys-in-hope/leonie-ansems-de-vries-marta-welander/refugees-displacement-and-europ">Refugees, displacement, and the European ‘politics of exhaustion’</a><br /> <span style="font-size:90%;">LEONIE ANSEMS DE VRIES and MARTA WELANDER</span> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rocio-cifuentes/think-project-brexit-and-urgent-need-for-better-citizenship-education">The Think Project, Brexit and the urgent need for better citizenship education</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> WFD2016: educating for democracy Democracy for education Rocio Cifuentes Thu, 22 Sep 2016 17:10:47 +0000 Rocio Cifuentes 105488 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Think Project, Brexit and the urgent need for better citizenship education https://www.opendemocracy.net/rocio-cifuentes/think-project-brexit-and-urgent-need-for-better-citizenship-education <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Think Project in Wales, born from a project to combat home-grown Islamic extremism, demonstrates that open discussion can effectively draw at-risk youth away from far-right ideologies as well.</p> </div> </div> </div> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/PA-7708644_920.jpg" width="100%" /> <p class="image-caption" style="margin-top:0px;padding-top:0px;">A man watches anti-fascist protesters at the British National Party's Red, White and Blue festival in Codnor, Derbyshire, in 2009. Rui Vieira/Press Association. All rights reserved.</p> <p>The recent momentous decision by the majority of the voting UK population to leave the EU was shocking, but, in retrospect, not surprising. It is now glaringly obvious that too many people for too long have been without prospects, without education and without hope. For these people, the benefits of the EU – including the possibility to live and work in one of 27 countries, or the many jobs it funded, were simply never considered as relevant or accessible to them. The imagined disadvantages however – of too many immigrants, and EU bureaucracy – were shouted out to them daily for more than a decade through the populist mainstream media, and legitimised more recently by opportunist mainstream politicians anxious to seem in touch with their concerns.</p> <p>Indeed Brexit is just a moment on a journey which arguably began after the terrorist attacks in New York on 9/11 and London on 7/7. This is when historical dichotomies of east vs west and narratives of anti-Islam were energetically revived, quickly evolving into anti-anyone-who-looks-Muslim as we saw with the mistaken killing of the Brazilian Jean DeMenezes on the London underground. The global financial crash and acceleration of austerity measures in the UK offered the perfect storm in which foreigners, asylum seekers and Muslims could all be blamed for ‘taking all the jobs and all the houses’. </p> <h2>Preventing extremism with dialogue</h2> <p>In this UK context of increasing racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia, the Ethnic Youth Support Team – a charity established in 2005 to support young ethnic minorities living in Wales – saw a need to do something more practical than simply support victims of, or condemn or report racist hate crime. We knew from our experience delivering projects to address Islamist extremism that young people’s resilience can be increased by simply allowing them to air their grievances and concerns in a safe and respectful environment, coupled with giving them facts and ideas to counter extremist narratives. We also knew, from 10 years of working with a wide range of young people that, given the time, space and opportunity, most have a huge capacity to learn and to change. </p> <p class="mag-quote-right">I’ve always been a bit racist, I’m not gonna lie, but this project has changed the way I look at things, I see everything completely differently now – it’s changed my life.</p> <p>Consequently, we developed the ‘Think Project’ – a practical educational programme designed to engage with and educate the most ‘disadvantaged’ young people. These are arguably those most vulnerable to far-right messages, and they include those excluded from mainstream schools in alternative education, and those in the youth offending system, youth prisons, and so on. It was designed as a three-day educational programme giving young people the truth about immigration, about asylum and about Muslims, and changing their views on these issues for the better.</p> <p>Delivered by ethnically diverse and engaging youth workers, its uniqueness stems from the fact that it combines facts about immigration, Islam and asylum, with a positive first-hand experience of diversity. Also central to its success is its emphasis on open dialogue and debate, allowing young people to say openly how they really feel about migration and Muslims, before those views can be debated and challenged.</p> <h2>The proof of the pudding is in the eating</h2> <p>Following a successful pilot, the Think Project was funded by the Big Lottery Innovation Fund, and between 2012 and 2015 438 young people completed the three-day programme. The project’s formal evaluation found a 95% success rate in radically changing young people’s views from being anti to pro-diversity. As one young man from Merthyr Tydfil said: “I’ve always been a bit racist, I’m not gonna lie, but this project has changed the way I look at things, I see everything completely differently now – it’s changed my life”. </p> <p>What stood out was the degree of misconception surrounding the issues of immigration, asylum and Islam. At the beginning of the programme, 96% of young people did not know what an asylum seeker was, and those who tried to define it understood it as ‘someone who comes here to take our jobs and benefits’. By the end 83% did know what the term meant, and could link it to the human right to be offered sanctuary from war and persecution. One of the most valued parts of the programme, which was mentioned repeatedly by project participants, was the opportunity to meet and hear first-hand the experiences of someone who had sought asylum in the UK, which they said was something they would never forget. </p> <p>Crucially, and illuminatingly in light of the Brexit decision, the vast majority of young people grossly overestimated the number of people from a different ethnic background to themselves living in Wales – over half of the young participants estimated that this was more than 50%, and about a quarter thought it was over 75%. By the end of the programme 89% correctly put the figure at under 10%. Distorted perceptions of reality chime perfectly with the message of the Brexiteers; the UK is being over-run with immigrants, who are here to take jobs, houses and benefits, and that we are indeed at a ‘breaking point’. However, our programme shows that given the opportunity to learn the facts, and given a positive first-hand experience of meeting and talking to Muslims and refugees, all this can be changed, making these young people significantly more resilient to the messages and ideology of far-right extremists. </p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Our programme shows that given the opportunity to learn the facts, and given a positive first-hand experience of meeting and talking to Muslims and refugees, young people can become significantly more resilient to the messages and ideology of far-right extremists.</p> <p>The shame is not that the popular press has been allowed to peddle these myths and misrepresentations for so many years, nor that opportunist politicians have capitalised and exploited these stereotypes, turning vulnerable groups into scapegoats for austerity. No, the greatest shame has been that educational institutions, charged with giving young people the tools to become positive and active contributors to society, have failed to give such a large proportion of young people a clear understanding some of the biggest issues and challenges facing contemporary societies. And of course there have been personal tragedies and victims along the way, including most recently the murder of MP Jo Cox at the hands of a far-right terrorist. If we are to avoid more tragic murders, we need to stop such home grown terrorism in its tracks, and prevent it from taking root in the minds and hearts of our young people.</p> <p>Citizenship, diversity and democracy all need to become core parts of the national curriculum taught to all young people at every stage of their education. However this should not be the preserve of the high-flying elite. Such programmes rather need to reach out in a more targeted and proactive way to those young people who arguably need it the most, including those who miss out on mainstream schooling, and whose life prospects are limited due to other complex factors linked to poverty and deprivation. </p> <p>There are much wider challenges involved in addressing the entrenched and inter-generational poverty facing many young people today, and it is no wonder that many feel aggrieved. However, it is essential that schools and educational institutions in particular work proactively to counter and challenge the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim narratives which have been enjoying a resurgence in the UK and across Europe in recent years, and equip young people to question and critique the media, politicians and extremist groups. </p> <p><a href="http://www.thinkproject.org.uk/">The Think Project</a> is one example of such an approach which has been shown to be effective.</p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/brexit2016">oD's complete Brexit coverage</a></p><hr /><p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/mediterranean-journeys-in-hope">Mediterranean Journeys in Hope</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-anoth-sidebox"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p style="font-size:120%;font-weight:bold;"><span style="color:#20518b;">Cities of Welcome,</span><span style="color:#dfe452;"> Cities of Transit</span></p><p>Rocio Cifuentes will be speaking at the 'Cities of Welcome, Cities of Transit' conference, to be held on 14-15 July in Barcelona. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/info/cities-of-welcome">More information...</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/rocio-cifuentes/new-way-of-challenging-racism-and-farright-ideas-in-young-people">A new way of challenging racism and far-right ideas in young people</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/rocio-cifuentes/so-is-it-refugee-crisis">So, is it a refugee crisis?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Wales </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Wales Education for democracy Brexit Team Syntegrity Build Bridges Rocio Cifuentes Fri, 08 Jul 2016 10:07:11 +0000 Rocio Cifuentes 103739 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A new way of challenging racism and far-right ideas in young people https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/rocio-cifuentes/new-way-of-challenging-racism-and-farright-ideas-in-young-people <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Through open dialogue and debate we seek to understand why they feel the way they do. Then, we aim to give them the facts and information they need to think for themselves.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Rocio_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Rocio_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="349" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>“It’s helped me to understand new things about the world”...</em></p><p><em>“I really feel sorry for those people who’ve had to come here due to war and that - I used to just think they came for our jobs. Now I know they come for safety”</em></p> <p>These are some of the comments made by young people in Wales who’ve taken part in the ‘Think’ Project, a programme devised by the Ethnic Youth Support Team (EYST) – an ethnic minority youth-focused charity based in Swansea – which seeks to challenge racism and far right ideology which has been on the increase. </p> <p>In Wales, the UK and across Europe, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments appear to be growing, spurred on by an unsympathetic media and opportunistic politicians. The worsening economic climate, the decade long ‘War on Terror’ and the more recent so-called ‘clampdown’ on EU migration have all contributed to this atmosphere of negativity and hostility, which of course plays out in our playgrounds, our neighbourhoods and our local job markets.&nbsp; And the victims include young children living in Wales, who are bullied, victimised or abused, for having a different skin colour, different religion, or a different way of speaking. </p> <p>At EYST, these victims are our clients. And, while we still seek to support these young people to respond to whatever challenges they may face, we also recognised a need to take a more <em>preventative </em>approach to racism and the apparent growing normalisation of far right ideas: hence the ‘Think’ Project. </p> <p>But our approach is not the commonly used punitive and universalist approach of ‘stamping out’, ‘kicking out’ or ‘zero tolerance’ to racism. Our approach is to engage in a very targeted way with very young people who may have the most negative views of or grievances against Muslims, asylum seekers, or foreigners – the most disengaged within society, young people not in education or employment, those involved in offending, and so on. Through open dialogue and debate we seek to understand their points of view and why they may feel the way they do. Then, we aim to give them the facts and information they need to be able to make up their own minds and think for themselves. </p> <p>This work should be delivered by tutors who are uniquely skilled in engaging with vulnerable young people, at respecting and empowering them, and who also have personal life experiences of racism to share with the project participants. Credibility, humour and ‘keeping it real’ with the young participants has thus proved enormously important. Crucially, we have found an effective method is to bring in guest speakers who have fled their own countries, and sought asylum in the UK, to share their stories, which more often than not provokes a deep empathy from the young people who hear these stories – often for the first time. </p> <p>Over 250 young people from towns across South Wales have successfully completed the 3 day programme since its start in April 2012. Around 95% have significantly changed their views about asylum seekers, and have learned the difference between economic migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and why they have come here. A <a href="http://eyst.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Think-project-report-web.pdf">report</a> written by Professors Ted Cantle and Paul Thomas, launched at the House of Commons in March 2014, recognised these methods as unique and highly effective.</p> <p>The Welsh Government’s Community Cohesion Strategy of 2009 also recognised the increasing support for far right ideas in certain communities within Wales, and a forthcoming report they have commissioned on the extent of this support will no doubt confirm this. Hate crime figures are also up, while still recognised to be the tip of the iceberg due to under-reporting. Yet it seems that there is little joined up thinking on how to support institutions – especially educational ones - on how to challenge this. </p> <p>In Swansea, EYST lead a multi-agency working group on racism and far-right extremism, which has good representation, but we would like to see this replicated on a national level. Young people in Wales deserve at least the opportunity to learn the truth about the people living next door to them, or sharing their classrooms, and to do so in a way which is engaging and based on real life. If we don’t do this, then we are simply waiting for media scapegoating to turn into racist bullying, murders or much worse....&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Never again</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Wales </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Swansea </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Swansea Wales Education for democracy Confronting Europe’s problem with far-right extremism World Forum for Democracy 2017 Build Bridges Rocio Cifuentes Wed, 03 Sep 2014 08:46:33 +0000 Rocio Cifuentes 85674 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Rocio Cifuentes https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/rocio-cifuentes <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Rocio Cifuentes </div> </div> </div> <p>Rocio Cifuentes is director of <a href="http://www.eyst.org.uk">Ethnic Youth Support Team</a> and the <a href="http://www.thinkproject.org.uk/">Think Project</a>, Welsh specialist projects addressing Islamist extremism in vulnerable Muslim young people as well as far right extremism in vulnerable white young people.</p><div class="field field-au-shortbio"> <div class="field-label">One-Line Biography:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Rocio Cifuentes is the Director of the &lt;a href=&quot;http://www.eyst.org.uk&quot;&gt;Ethnic Youth Support Team&lt;/a&gt; (EYST), which she has led and developed since its inception in 2005. She is the daughter of political refugees from Chile. </div> </div> </div> Rocio Cifuentes Tue, 02 Sep 2014 13:47:42 +0000 Rocio Cifuentes 85642 at https://www.opendemocracy.net