The culture of welcome as a means for combatting hate speech

Thu, 13/12/2018 - 12:30


Awareness. The Refugees Welcome platform gets backing from the European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM) to promote the culture of welcome. How will it proceed?

As the discourse which turns its back on newly arrived citizens gathers momentum in European countries, the recent result in the elections in Andalusia being the latest example, the Refugees Welcome platform is to help promote a positive vision of migration and foster a culture of welcome which focuses on the opportunities that this culture offers.

In this respect, the media plays a crucial role. Many media sources continue to nourish a daily narrative of ‘invasion’, an ‘us against them’ which leaves no room for solutions. Media coverage on this issue also goes a long way towards explaining how the general interest in the migration crisis in Europe has diminished by 65% in the last year, according to Google trends.

In a bid to counter this situation, Refugees Welcome, the platform which puts refugees needing a home in touch with people wishing to rent out a room, is proposing an alternative which offers a positive vision of migration. In promoting the culture of welcome, on equal and integrational terms, a clear line of communication can be set up at a European level to halt the hate speech which fuels the far right.

Shock plan

Susana Hidalgo, co-founder of Refugees Welcome Spain, explains that the new project has received backing from the European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), with 80,000 euros to start the first stage of analysis for the creation of this new line of communication. “Before anything else, we need detailed knowledge of the impact of this culture of welcome and, most of all, to identify the aspects and areas where we need to be most effective. That’s the only way to then be able to work on awareness campaigns with the greatest impact”.

The new project by Refugees Welcome Spain will work in the field of awareness to halt the narrative of the far right.

Actions planned include workshops and surveys to gain information on the concerns of the general public in relation to migration and refugees. This will enable the identification of new ways of reaching a broader and more diverse audience and even the creation of a digital network to connect the community of host families all around Europe to gather information.

Hidalgo believes the positive reaction to the project by the EU shows there is starting to be more awareness about the issue and, more than anything, action is being taken to stop the rise in messages from the far-right which foster hatred towards newly arrived citizens.

In the three years since it was set up, the platform has arranged 1,413 home sharing experiences with refugees, 50 of them in the Spanish state.

Initially set up in Germany three years ago, the platform now operates in a dozen countries in the EU, Australia and Canada. Thanks to its quest to find housing options for refugees, it has so far arranged 1,413 home sharing experiences, 50 of them in the Spanish state.

Refugees Welcome in Barcelona

In Barcelona, following a trial period which led to thirteen shared housing experiences, the city signed an agreement with the platform early in 2018 to refer requests to them from members of the public wanting to make places in their homes available to newly arrived citizens for a minimum period of six months. In addition, during the sharing experience, the organisation encourages social opportunities for the person taken in, enabling them to build a network of friendships and also practice Catalan and Spanish.

The work of Refugees Welcome, which is backed by Barcelona City Council and has various local federations and organisations as collaborators, aims to reduce accommodation difficulties for asylum seekers who don’t receive support from the state-run reception and integration programme, bearing in mind the reality of the rental housing market in the city.


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