I had the opportunity this year to be a trainer for a study session called “Arts, Rights and Papers” organized by Human Rights Education Youth Network in cooperation with Amsterdam City Rights at the European Youth Centre in Budapest, Hungary. During the first phase in May we discussed with a group of young artists and activists about the situation of migrants, in particular youth undocumented migrants. Following an online phase of our project we met again in October to finalize our study session.
During this second phase the art exhibition “Painting the sky” which had as subtitle “Arts and feelings have more weight than an official stamp” took place. Our participants brought the stories of undocumented people from different countries in Europe to share their life experiences and struggles to get the right documents to work, study and have a family in the countries they chose to start a new life.
The exhibition aimed the audience to ask themselves questions such as “are the rights of undocumented people respected” and “what can we do?” The stories covered in this art exhibition explored the right to health and access to health services which are denied to undocumented people, access to work and working conditions as well as dehumanization, negative stereotypes, and the fear for those perceived as different.
Undocumented people are a group at risk of having their human right denied daily. Without a legal status they are potentially subject to abuse and fear reaching authorities for help. However, their struggles are not that different to the ones of other migrants who moved to a different country to thrive and settle down. There is a degree of uncertainty and stress involved in migration processes. Let us take for instance the official Finnish statistics published by Migri on the number of residences permits requested based on family ties for the year 2022. In 2022, 105 cases were denied from this group out of 3059 applications submitted. Although it would not be appropriate to speculate on the grounds for a refusal of these residence permits, it is important to highlight that these are more than just statistics. Behind these numbers are people going through a process that takes years and even when a member of a family has the legal grounds to be a legal resident for their family ties, the full process can be stressful, confusing, and lengthy. In some cases, these processes are accompanied by more legal uncertainty than others.
At the same time, the legitimacy of the reason to migrate of both undocumented and documented migrants are often questioned. This sadly includes putting into question the validity of people’s right to have a family in some cases. For instance, in the United States it is still commonly used the derogatory term “anchor baby” to refer to the children of immigrant parents who benefit of their children status to get a residence permit. These are harmful stereotypes which aim to portray immigrants and their families as opportunistic and somehow “taking advantage” of the migration system.
The only way we can combat these negative narratives is by creating our own counter-narratives. Presenting the stories and realities of multicultural, multilingual families and their children in our activities. Making our activities more inclusive for all the diverse types of families that exist within society is a concrete step we can take. Activities that use the power of art are an especially important instrument to bring attention and humanize these stories.
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Ajatuksia ja kokemuksia elämästä kahden kulttuurin keskellä.
Reflections and experiences from the life of intercultural families.
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