Welcome guides & transborder projects and materials
Over the last years, numerous info projects and guides have been developed, covering both individual countries (such as the Welcome to Europe ones concerning Greece, Italy and Spain) and some border areas (such as the one between Italy and France).
These projects – which were born and developed as a reaction and response to the increasingly violent and aggressive policies by Europe and by single countries towards migrants arriving and transiting within Europe – have been made possible thanks to the constant and incisive presence in the various territories of many realities (informal groups, associations, individual activists, etc.) which for years have been carrying out solidarity actions and support activities addressed to migrants in arrival/transit/departure and have been fighting against Fortress Europe and the various forms of racism and discrimination.
The realization of projects aimed at the production and dissemination of information materials, beyond the peculiarities of each project and reality that carries them out, has as common features the achievement of two main objectives: the first – more immediate and “visible” – is precisely to provide through various communication tools (paper materials, websites, audio files, etc …) independent, complete and updated information to migrants travelling in order to help them in their journey and in their choices always starting from the freedom of movement and from the principle of self-determination of every human being as milestones; the second – more indirect and less evident – is the one concerning the opportunity to create or strengthen networks and cooperation work between different anti-racist and solidarity groups and associations at national and transnational level by developing an extremely important process of sharing information, updates, social and political practices and initiatives.
EXAMPLES OF CURRENT AND PAST EXPERIENCES
- Welcome to Europe website (w2eu.info)
- National welcome guides: Welcome to Greece, Welcome to Italy, Welcome to Spain (Welcome to Europe network)
- Transborder info leaflet on Italian-French border (Welcome to Europe network, Carovane Migranti, Progetto 20K)
- Info leaflet about the Swiss-Italian border (2016) and cooperation between Swiss and Italian activists on Dublin cases (Welcome to Europe network and other groups)
- Italian-Greek network on the “Adriatic route” (Italian and Greek groups and associations)
- “Antenne Migranti” project about Italian-Austrian border (different Italian groups in cooperation with some Austrian associations)
How can we strengthen the networks among activists and groups active inside a country and along the border areas?
As written in the introduction, the production of information materials is extremely important not only in its objective (to produce and update information) but also in its process since it makes possible the creation or strengthening of networks at national and transnational level. In some cases these projects are born thanks to the presence of such networks while in other cases networks and collaborations between different realities are born thanks to this kind of projects.
What are the main common challenges and issues?
Depending on the typology of info materials, some of the topics and key points may change, although usually all these projects share some basic aspects. Among these are: the independence of the information; the link with “reality” (e.g. the list not only of theoretical human rights but also of those that are really guaranteed or violated); the collection of many contacts “from below” (local groups and associations, social centres and spaces, etc.) which share not only the fact of supporting migrants but, more generally, a very precise way of seeing the world based on freedom of movement and anti-racism; the will not to be “impositive” and ethnocentric towards migrants who use the information materials and therefore to try to help and “accompany” the life and travel paths that must be chosen by the migrants themselves.
Concerning the work among different groups and realities, there may be some difficulties related to practical, linguistic and cultural issues (e.g. different conceptions and visions from one country to another with respect to priorities and to timing and deadlines, language difficulties, expectations not always coinciding between one person and another or between one group and another). There are no “magic formulas” able to solve everything, but it certainly helps the possibility of meeting periodically (in person and/or online) to clarify from the beginning the availability and expectations of each person and the common work issues and frameworks.
How can we manage and balance the different levels of support and communication (“formal” and “informal” contacts and places, what can or can’t be written/said, etc.)?Which information can be published? How to share sensible/sensitive info?
In an era of increasing criminalisation not only of migrants but also of those who are in solidarity with them, it is necessary to find the right balance between the importance of providing information and the need not to put at risk either migrants on the move or those who offer them support. In this perspective each information project, while maintaining the main principles and milestones, is carried out paying attention both to how the information are written and to how and which information and contacts can be put inside the info materials (e.g. respecting the choice of some local realities not to be indicated among the contacts because of the high risk of criminalization). These aspects obviously present some complexities and difficulties and for this reason it is always important to build a solid relationship of trust and collaboration between all the subjects involved. In addition, it is of great importance to have the help of lawyers who can in some cases provide information and suggestions on which information to insert and how to insert it in the most effective and “safe” way.
How can we continue and improve the flow of information? How to adapt and update information?
The starting point for the constant and precise updating of information is certainly linked to the presence of groups and activists in the various territories. The issue concerning the updating of information is of extreme importance and is linked to the central issue concerning the attempts to find a compromise between the need to provide information as up-to-date as possible and the practical difficulties related to the timing and overload of activists and groups following these projects. In several cases, the time needed to update the information materials may lengthen due to the overload of the activists involved and the “structural” time required for the various phases of the work (collection, verification and selection of information, drafting and updating of the texts, translations, layouts, prints, distributions). In a certain sense, delays and unforeseen events are to be considered as “implicite” factors given the complexity of the projects and the completely voluntary nature of those who carry them out, but surely the individual working groups can understand how to try to reduce these difficulties as much as possible (for example by clearly identifying the contact persons/coordinators, organizing perodically videoconferences and meetings in person, clearly defining the deadlines, finding an agreement on which need is priority in a given place and time between having as many updates as possible and having the materials ready as soon as possible for distribution). Obviously the question of which and how much information to update changes if we are dealing with projects related to border areas where “urgent” and “geographically localized” information is the prevailing one and where there is a greater need to produce synthetic and periodically updated materials.
How to make info accessible (language, icons, web, audio guides/video download, etc.)? Exploring new ways of communication/information sharing?
In the implementation of the various projects there is much discussion about which communication channels to develop/maintain/add when producing information materials for migrants. Usually the most common tools are the websites and the print out of the various guides, but there are other ways that are just as effective and complementary to them like facebook pages, apps, audio files and sheets made of icons). The fact that many migrants use mobile phones as a communication and information tool during their journey makes it necessary to think more and more about the production of multimedia materials that can be used directly from the mobiles. In addition, some migrants are partially or totally illiterate and therefore they would find it easier to use audio files and/or materials printed with icons and images. At the same time, printed copies allow to have a “physical” tool always available. Generally speaking, the best solution would be to disseminate the information materials through various methods, if possible providing the possibility of both a paper print and a multimedia diffusion through websites, apps and/or audio files to download. As well as the work of updating information, here too there are some practical and economic difficulties and the overload of many activists, but some “pilot projects” may are very useful in this sense.
If and how can some “pilot projects” be reproduced in other areas and contexts (national welcome guides, e.g. Italian-French border info leaflet, Antenne Migranti network, etc.)?
Regarding the projects and in particular the pilot projects that propose new and original methods and practices, it is certainly very important to have opportunities to present them and assess their replicability and adaptability to other geographical areas and other contexts (in this sense the Transborder Summer Camp in Nantes was very useful and productive for the knowledge and the sharing of initiatives and projects carried out by different groups and networks).
Taking up some of the examples mentioned above, experiences such as national welcome guides, the Italian-French border info leaflet and the exchange of information and support between Italian and Swiss activists can also be replicated in other countries/regions and along other borders (and in some areas this already happens) since in the different countries and border areas, despite the peculiarities of each area and country, the main issues and problems often present similar elements and situations and therefore there are also similarities with regard to some of the content to be included in the info materials (e.g. the detention and reception systems, the criminalization of migrants and supporters, the ways in which migrants are rejected according to Dublin Regulation, police violence along the borders, the risks of crossing borders, etc.). Although with their respective peculiarities, the project “Antenne Migranti” (recently concluded) and the network on the “Adriatic Route” Greece-Italy are experiences that have allowed to create – both between the Italian cities/regions and in relations with the activists of Austria and Greece – a relationship of constant collaboration that has made it possible to improve and make more constant and effective the work of monitoring migration routes, direct support to migrants and exchange information and updates on the situation along the respective routes and cities.
Further examples, in addition to those mentioned above, are the “QX1-Welcome Map” project of the Transbordeur Collective in Marseille (which will also be carried out in two Italian cities) a project focused on the production and dissemination of easily accessible information through the use of mobile phones (website and app).
PROPOSALS AND REMARKS
Working on info materials and guides requires periodical updates and in this process a central role is played by the people on the move who share information and experiences and by a constant work of cooperation among activists and groups. Collecting and spreading info materials increases the opportunities for networking among activists inside and outside each national borders and the chances to build political networks and to strengthen the sharing of information and practices;
- The increasing of the number of info projects and materials and the crucial role of internet and social networks make the use of multiple media increasingly necessary (websites, paper, apps, audiofiles, QR codes). At the same time, we know that different kinds of media fit to different publics (social workers, migrants) so the best way could be the production and the dissemination of information through different media. On this issue some proposals are: create hotlines with automatically answers (audio-guides) with language choice; publish complementary brochure/ leaflet to update main brochures; produce welcome maps for cities and regions; find alternative communication ways to share urgent info (alerts on borders).
Confusion about info and info overload: in some cases it is not so clear which and how much information to include in the info materials and to find a good compromise between the need to put as many information as possible and the need to produce easy-to-read and clear materials;
- A frequent problem concerns the overloading of activists as most of them are often involved in other activities and projects. This can cause delays and troubles during the work on each project and it is somehow related with the “overambitious” attitude and the need to be aware of our limits without giving up what we do and what we struggle for.
- Problems collaborating between groups with different approaches and availabilities: when working on transnational projects and initiatives one of the most common issues concerns the different personal situations, approaches and ways to work that could create some problems for the whole work or just during one or more steps and phases. Personal situations (job, family, etc.), “cultural” topics (use of some specific words/sentences, aptitude towards team working, concept of time and deadlines, organisational aspects, etc.) as well as “political” issues (e.g. if and how to collaborate with other groups or with institutional actors) can create some difficulty and misunderstanding especially in long-term projects or in periods of very intense and stressful work but, based on our experiences, this sort of problems has always been overcome thanks to the big commitment of everyone and the great sharing of main objectives.