By, Joana Demirani, a member of GFR’s Self-Advocacy Team (SAT), advocating for inclusion and political participation of youth with migrant and refugee backgrounds:

When we think about an inclusive society it should immediately be correlated to active participation in the political sphere. From the beginning, an important factor that needs to be considered is the right that is provided to citizens to be part of this sphere.

Having said that, let’s set a question that will be answered further down; are refugees and migrants considered citizens?

Civic engagement is not just about being involved every 4 or 5 years in elections. Civic engagement is about advocacy, being active in your local community, requesting and demanding changes in your municipality, your neighbourhood, and your community. Active citizenship, if performed, is not just an action but is also a feeling, a sense of belonging and offering back to the community. Being active means being habitual, consistent, and creating an impact on others and yourself. In this context we discard the concept that voting is the only obligation that someone has as a citizen. Contrarily this is the minimum action that someone can do to be considered a citizen let alone an active one.

To answer the question that was set above; are refugees and migrants considered citizens? I will set another question; Having the nationality or the citizenship of the country you reside in, is it a necessary criterion to be engaged in the community?

That’s a question I am not going to answer directly; of course nationality in most countries is followed by the right to vote, but as said above that’s the minimum someone can do for their community.

Advocating for your needs and rights is one aspect of the coin. Advocating for the needs and rights of your community is what makes civic engagement complete. In this concept refugees and migrants are an important part of the equation. Inclusion requires participation, and participation requires an active (first, local and then regional) community. It is essential for every resident, every citizen, and every person regardless of their identity, background, needs and gender that consider themselves part of the society, to be conscious of their action, their demand, their rights, and their obligations.

From the more holistic point of view, in order to create strong, rightfully respected societies, we first need to break it down to inclusive communities, this requires not only collective responsibility but also personal.

One Response

  1. This! Very well said by the writer. We have to change our society’s way of doings into one that supports an inclusive one for all. Xenophobia, stereotypes and prejudice is the issue we must all tackle because I can’t think of any other thing other than carelessness that made our society built this way

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