Wezesha Hosts Ireland’s “The Citizens Are United Conference –Lifting The Stigmas Against Migrants”
The Irish NGO convened EU partners, Irish leaders, and the local community to mobilize citizens to encourage civic participation and promote tolerance towards migrants.

Dublin, Ireland—25th January, 2019—Today, Wezesha, an African Diaspora led Development organisation working to empower women and children, convened nearly 100 members including State and Dublin City representatives at The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) to discuss migrants and the stigmas against them. At the conference, Wezesha in collaboration with the Kennedy Institute at Maynooth University announced and launched a report, Embracing Diversity: How People of African Descent and Service Providers experience diversity in Dublin 15. The project was funded by IHREC.

The Citizens are United is a European Union (EU) partnership project with 10 other EU countries (Ireland, Malta, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Macedonia, and Romania, Cypress) and it aims to engage citizens on fighting stigmas against migrants (Third Country Nationals) with the vision to encourage civic participation, promote tolerance and understanding, as part of the EU’s six-year commitment to the Europe for Citizens program. Wezesha is one of the key partners on this project.

The conference engaged various speakers and participants including: Chief Commissioner of IHREC, Emily Logan; Dublin City Councillor, Ciarán Cuffe; Secretary of Gender Equality at Justice Department, Carol Baxter; and Head of European Migrant Network Ireland, Emma Quinn.

In April 2014, the EU adopted a Council Regulation to establish the “Europe for Citizens” program for the period 2014-2020, with the mission to fund initiatives/projects that strengthen remembrance and enhance civic participation at EU level. The six-year program aims to: contribute to citizens’ understanding of the EU, its history and diversity, foster European citizenship and to improve conditions for civic and democratic participation at EU level, raise awareness of remembrance, common history and values, encourage democratic participation of citizens at EU level, by developing citizens’ understanding of the EU policy making-process, and by promoting opportunities for societal and intercultural engagement and volunteering at EU level.

From the program, The Citizens Are United (TCAU) was born out of the successful implementation of a project, “The Citizens are speaking”, which was led by Cross Cultural International Foundation and included participating organizations such as Wezesha (Ireland) and ADEL (Slovakia). As a yearlong project (August 2015-August 2016), The Citizens are speaking engaged EU citizens on the highly debated issues of immigration, with a vie
w to encourage civic participation of citizens at Union level. The issues of stigmatization against migrants were raised by the Third Country Nationals (TCN) themselves during this project. One of the many successfully outcomes of the project was TCAU.

With a rise in stigmatization of TCNs and other violence against migrants in the EU, this project aspires to address the gap within the EU’s integration policy and promote opportunities for inter-cultural engagement/volunteering at the Union level. Stigma represents a mark of degradation associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person and determines actions like social exclusion, isolation, exploitation, bullying, discrimination, reduced opportunities. Stigmatization not only refers to personal characteristics or limitations, but also to group/cultural/ religious/ racial/ethnic identity. As a result of this project, we believe that there will be change in attitudes when dealing with TCNs and there will be more active involvement of policy makers at all levels to spearhead policy changes, to have standardized procedures throughout EU Member States on how certain issues are handled.

The objective of the “Lifting the Stigmas Against Migrants” conference was to continue engaging EU citizens to help reduce stigmas and other intolerance against Third Country Nationals (TCNs). Within the vision of the EU’s Europe for Citizens, which aims to create a more inclusive society at EU level, this conference brought together key stakeholders to address stigmatization, inclusivity, migrants’ rights, integration and other important issues relating to TCNs.

Particular objectives included: develop a better understanding of various stigmas against TCNs, how EU citizens can mitigate those stigmas to create more inclusive and integrated communities for migrants; discuss ideas in helping inform European Agenda for Migration, and Handbook on Integration for policy-makers and practitioners.

Discussions of the conference from Friday continued through the second on Saturday 26th January at the Green Isle Hotel as the 10 EU partners gathered to discuss the progress in their respective countries regarding migrants and integration efforts.