Presentation of local initiatives to combat xenophobia and racism toward refugees
Zagreb, (IKA) – On Wednesday, October 25, 2017, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Croatia presented the project I Get You—Local Initiatives to Combat Xenophobia and Racism toward Refugees. The panel of speakers consisted of representatives from the local initiatives Taste of Home, Green Action—Free Bicycle Repair Shop, GTF—Initiative for Sustainable Growth, Welcome and the fan-owned football club NK Zagreb 041.
For the past two years, the project has been conducted by the JRS in Croatia, together with eight other JRS offices in Europe, with the aim of promoting the best local initiatives that build community and encourage the integration of refugees into the local population. I Get You projects are local initiatives that include refugees in their work and activities, provide them with integration support, and alter perceptions and potential prejudices in the local community, said Kristina Samardžić of the JRS in Croatia.
The project was launched in early 2016, at a time when EU policy began to change, which leaned toward increasingly restrictive asylum policies and attitudes toward migrants and refugees. The same year, she noted, Croatia witnessed historic migration when 670,000 refugees passed through the country.
The head of the JRS in Croatia, Fr. Tvrtko Barun, said that there is no system in our country for integration but various elements and individuals are engaged at a personal level at several ministries and offices. “There are many loopholes, where there is room for improvement. It is necessary to urge the state system to cooperate with the civil society because civil associations and organizations have good projects and recognize refugees’ needs, while the state system lacks such knowledge,” said Fr. Barun.
“As citizens, we are gathered around various initiatives in order to confront a problem in our society. We believe that we have been very successful and set a good example for people who fear that they may not be able to do anything. Where they have failed, we have patched up the situation somewhat. We want our good example to be copied as much as possible because we have good recipes for success—good integration of refugees and the spreading of positive stories, combatting racism and xenophobia,” said Zinka Mujkić of Taste of Home. This is a project for improving the economic situation of refugees and persons of migrant origin, in which they prepare and serve foods from their native countries at local events and meetings.
“Food is the most beautiful and finest medium through which we can make ourselves heard about the problems we have encountered. Everyone likes to eat well and try something new. That is precisely what we offer: something new, authentic and original. Our cooks prepare their authentic recipes from their countries of origin, recipes that they bring from their homes and remind them of their childhoods, families and friends,” said Zinka Mujkić.