Fight for a better society has brought together the young and refugees in Macedonia

Fight for a better society has brought together the young and refugees in Macedonia

Refugees and migrants are no less than regular citizens. They carry the weight of so many kilometers travelled, fleeing potential threats and having no safe future in their countries. Yet, they are still hopeful that one day everything is going to be fine. Their persistence and courage will inspire a group of young Macedonians to come up with ideas for campaigns in order to help refugees/migrants integrate into society.

Jovana Gjerasimoska from Kichevo is a girl who considers herself someone that has always wanted to participate in social changes. Her urge to fight for someone’s rights has motivated her to get in touch for the first time with some of the residents of the Vinojug transit border centre of Gevgelija. Jovana had the opportunity to work with them on a campaign which in case it realize, will help them integrate in Macedonian society.

 “They are simply people just like us. I was quite impressed with the girl, Sana, who attended our training course. She was such a leader, so intelligent…She’s so unique. Her story has really motivated me because she managed to hold on, be strong for her family, and yet, we treat them horribly”, Jovana shares her impressions of the training course.

The idea of her group is to create a web site through which they will launch an initiative to mark the Internaional Day of Inclusion in order to share pictures of actions for inclusion using a particular hashtag.

What motivated her to join this training course was the bas experience at the Serbian border where she had witnessed a bad treatment of a family of migrants. What is more, she doesn’t think of her hometown as open-minded and open to discussions of such topics.

 “One thing is watching it on TV, but when you see it first hand, it’s ugly and sad, and I do not want anyone else to feel that way again”, Gjerasimoska said decisively.

Jovana is one of group of over fifty young Macedonian people who this month learned about the challenges and issues faced by refugees and migrants, as well as asylum seekers residing in Macedonia. Legis NGO and the National Agency for European Educational Programs and Mobility of Macedonia have held a series of three workshops i.e. training courses, namely in Gevgelija, in the Tabanovce transit border centre, and in Skopje. The goal of the training courses is to enrich young people’s skills and provide them  with a direct contact with refugees/migrants residing in Macedonia.

According to Jasmin Redjepi from Legis, these training courses have a preventive impact on xenophobia, racism and combat radicalism, while at the same time they address integration of these people. They have noticed that the young have received certain attitudes from the media, but then they get a very different impression when they meet refugees face to face.

The training course in Gevgelija

 “We should bear in mind that Macedonia, unlike other countries in Europe, or unlike the Balkan Route countries, is a country that refugees avoid the most. As a small country, economically undeveloped, refugees have no interest in staying in. Macedonia is just a transit country and only a few decide to stay. That is why working on integration of those who decide to stay is no big deal. That is the point, to see that there are many more similarities in the differences and common things that the young can share among them”, Redjepi emphaises.

These young people’s final ideas are to continue competing with ideas from all over Europe. “They stay alone as if in a cage, and we go home where someone is waiting for us”, Katerina Dimovska, a social work and policy student who took part in the training in the Tabanovce transit camp. After seeing how they live in the camp, she says she has come out as a new person with a greater awareness. “Before going to the camp we were not aware of what kind of obstacles they are faced with. It was a challenge, to go and try and contribute to their integration”, Katerina says.

Their idea was about having refugees and migrants go out of the camp and take them to town where they could have some tea, which they named “Habibie drink”.

 “The aim was to have the cultures blend so that when other refugees come, they feel comfortable”, Katerina explains.

Katerina worked together with Kristina Mihajlovska, president of the Social Work Students’ Association. Even though their idea did not reach the next level of the competition, they are willing to put it into practice.

Jovana Gjerasimoska, Katerina Dimovska, Andjela Cenikj and Kristina Mihajlovska

No one bothers us, the young. We would like to be together and promote different cultures, we accept a different culture from ours and we would like to present ours to someone else. However, the Balkan region in general, and the older generations’ mindset are more conservative and want the existence of one culture only. They want only one culture existing in Macedonia, so that the others are unnoticeable, and that is an attitude that us young people cannot change, but we can teach future generations something that we want to promote. We cannot change the older generations, but we can do something better for the new ones”, Mihajlovska states.

Andjela Cenikj, their fellow student from Serbia rates her experience in the Tabanovce transit camp as unique. She had seen refugees previously – along the border and at bus stations, but had never before spoken with them.

I am amazed, they are so positive despite what they had gone through. I will not categorise them, but we can never compare to them because we don’t have the same background. You realize that they stay alone as if in a cage, and we go home where someone is waiting for us. That is the moment you realize how lucky you are. I do not say they are not lucky for having saved their lives, but it is different. I experienced the camp in an emotional way, and I managed to have my awareness raised and I see that I can work with these people in the future”, Cenikj notes.

Source: Радио МОФ