It is a long journey...

The hardship faced by those who have to escape from home is beyond imagination. Refugees leave behind their loved ones, their belongings and their life behind them. Many of them cross inhospitable deserts and dangerous seas in the hope of reaching a place of safety, where they can finally rebuild their lives. And for those who are lucky enough to reach such a place of safety, the journey is still not over. 

Life in a foreign country is not easy for refugees who have to undertake yet another journey which resembles, in the eyes of many, a cruel obstacle race. These obstacles vary in nature from the bureaucratic, cultural and economic ones to those linked to the not so welcoming attitude displayed by local communities.

At JRS Malta we have learned that this movement towards integration and the search for a place in a community where one can truly belong is an important part of the journey of refugees. And yet, integration is not an option. Because life is not an option. And the integration process is what leads refugees to rebuild their life in a community which in turn is enriched by their presence. In the words of Pope Francis we have to continually ask ourselves: “How can we ensure that integration will become mutual enrichment, open up positive perspectives to communities, and prevent the danger of discrimination, racism, extreme nationalism or xenophobia?” (Pope Francis)

Integration involves a number of inter-dependent dimensions including legal aspects, the economic dimension which leads towards sustainable livelihoods as well as social interaction and political participation. Through the legal and psychosocial services it has provided over a number of years, JRS Malta has been actively accompanying refugees on this journey towards integration. More specifically however, over the last few months, JRS has undertaken a number of programmes and initiatives which have integration as their main focus:

a)      Through its employment service, JRS Malta assists people in filling in their CVs whilst making them aware of job vacancies. A one-week training course on employment issues was organized during the month of July. Our team is also reaching out and entering into dialogue with potential employers, in a bid to ensure that the rights of everyone are respected in this all-important field of employment.

b)      The Integration Priority Track programme is aimed at ensuring that individuals who have opted for long-term integration in Malta are provided with the personalised support they require in order to achieve integration.  Through this programme, beneficiaries of international protection are receiving the educational support required to be able to access higher education institutions in Malta as well as receiving financial assistance to set up their own business.

c)       In collaboration with the Paulo Freire Institute, a three-month language and cultural orientation programme for refugee families who benefited from the right to Family Reunification was organized. 

“Integration and hospitality are not only about opening our borders, but opening our communities. The latter does not result from the decisions of a few leaders, but from our own personal decisions. To change our countries we must start with our communities, and to change our communities we must start with ourselves”. These are the words of Peter Balleis, former director of JRS International. We are called to believe that a society where everyone truly belongs and where equality is much more than a soundbite is possible. We are called to actively hope that, together, we can really help create communities in which diversity is celebrated and not feared. We know that the road towards integration is long and arduous but not impossible. The important thing is to start from somewhere. And that somewhere is ourselves. 

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