Welcoming is an opening: what is collected or received is let in – into a home, into a group, into oneself. Welcoming means putting oneself at stake, and in this it expresses a further nuance compared to hospitality, which can also be just good manners. The person who welcomes shares something of himself, offers himself, opens himself up to the other, becoming one with him. In the same way, those who are welcomed offer themselves, tell about themselves, question themselves. For a welcome to be real, it needs people who put themselves on the line. Welcoming means giving a name, listening and telling a story. Welcoming comes from ‘putting together’, ‘connecting’: we need to move away from the idea of welcoming as a gesture of kindness to an idea of welcoming that is an exchange on an equal footing, between equals, who enrich each other.
There is no universally agreed definition of ‘migrant’ at the international level, but UN recommendations suggest at least one year as a criterion for qualifying movement to a country other than the country of habitual residence as ‘migration’.
People travelling for shorter periods will not be considered migrants, except for seasonal workers. The term ‘migrant’ is generally linked to the decision to migrate when it is taken freely by a person for reasons of ‘personal convenience’ and without the intervention of an external determining factor, as is the case for refugees.
These definitions, correct in principle, must now be overcome to include – with the same rights – those who study abroad as those who seek work, those who have opportunities to do business in other countries as those who move from their own country to change their lives. What is needed is a global process of migration governance, not defining who is a migrant and who is not, who can move and who cannot. The more we look at migration as a natural human process, driven by the most diverse motivations, the closer we will get to a humane, correct and legal management of migration flows.
Today, more than ever, there is a need for complexity. For too long, attempts have been made to ‘simplify’, with the aim of making complex phenomena comprehensible. But the result has been the opposite of the desired one: oversimplifying dehumanises, restricts rights, does not increase empathy.
There is a need for real ‘complexity education’, which concerns both everyday life, where integration does not mean assimilation, and at a global level. There is no longer any way to distinguish between the causes that contribute to global migration: armed conflicts and persecution are closely linked to climate change and economic inequalities, through market laws and corrupt institutions. Educating for complexity means working with clarity on the fact that there are no easy solutions to complex problems. A complex approach to contemporary reality is the only solution for the destiny of humanity.
The term solidarity comes from solidale, of Latin origin, meaning ‘obligation’. To be in solidarity therefore means to be obliged, to be bound to someone or something in a solid way. Solidarity is therefore the condition of one who is in solidarity with others, i.e. one who is solidly bound to someone. The meaning of solidarity has changed culturally, maintaining the high value of the word itself, but only bringing it into play after very serious episodes and disasters in general. Solidarity is only spoken of in the face of disaster. This, however, risks creating a distance between the sense of solidarity and reality, bringing it too close to ‘charity’.
We must overcome the superficiality of an idea of solidarity only as help for those who are more unfortunate. Solidarity must once again become a link. Solidarity must not be limited to doing something, but rather in living in a certain way, that is, in feeling that the other’s life is important, accompanying the other in his or her deepest choices. Solidarity comes through authentic relationships. The more empathic solidarity is, the clearer it will be that in different periods of history and the economy those who are in difficulty today could help tomorrow.
Reproducing past experience (images, sensations or notions) in the mind, recognising it, locating it in space and time. This is the process commonly associated with memory. Faithful learning and repetition, not necessarily linked to a complete or correct understanding of a phenomenon. This is where memory runs the risk of becoming an empty box, all the more so when certain events are ‘normalised’ and end up looking all the same. A shipwreck of thousands of people or a ‘landing’ become moments, always the same, to which we react with less and less attention. Memory, on the other hand, must be a living matter, one that is nourished every day by lessons that must lead us not to repeat the same mistakes, not to reproduce or ignore the causes that generated a phenomenon. We need a memory that is not a monument, but a map.
For a long time it was imagined that keeping discussions on migration anchored to real ‘numbers’ would dilute the fiercest tones, but it has not worked. Despite the evidence, for example on which countries host the most refugees (none of which are in Europe), or on how there is no ‘invasion’ of migrants, it has failed to counter a toxic and very often violent narrative. This process, precisely because of the ‘numbers’, has contributed to the ‘depersonalisation’ of migrants, to talk about them only as a ‘mass’, faceless and nameless.
We need to go back to defining reality around the people who live it, with names and surnames, rights and dreams, because no migration policy can exist without once and for all embracing the concept that every life counts and that all political-administrative issues come after saving those who risk their lives.
The definition of state borders, which has generated in Europe and beyond a history of conflict, whether armed or cultural, has changed – over the years – towards a definition that is both wider and fiercer. Borders have become, for millions of people, a ‘border destiny’: being born on one side or the other of a border radically changes one’s chances of having one life or another. Today, more than ever, we need a new culture of borders that goes beyond the political-administrative dimension to an ethical and human definition of the concept of borders. Precisely because it is the borders that must become the subject of the story, and no longer the object. A subject that can recount, from the periphery to the centre, how there is an everyday life of the “border”, which has always existed and will always exist, reminding us all of the need to govern – in an ethical and humane manner – a process that will always and in any case be irreversible.
The international events of the last twenty years have fundamentally changed the meaning of the word ‘security’. For a long time, ‘security’ meant the full enjoyment of one’s rights, access to healthcare and education for all, not being discriminated against because of one’s political views, religious beliefs, or sexual tastes. Today, ‘security’ has been militarised: walls and barbed wire barriers – which we thought we would never see again in Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall – mark scars all over Europe. The ever ’emergency’ management of migration has become a ‘security’ issue, without being addressed as a ‘social’ issue. People are ‘safe’ when they can fight poverty, hunger, disease and climate change. And the safer people are, all over the world, the safer the world will be.
Stefan Grasgruber-Kerl (Awareness Coordinator. Sudwind, Austria)
Pietro Pinto (Snapshots From The Borders, Project Coordinator)
Paolo Patanè (Snapshots From The Borders, Senior Advocacy Officer)
Marina Sarli (Snapshots From The Borders, Advocacy Coordinator)
Ildiko Simon (Cromo, Hungary)
William Grech (Kopin, Malta)
Sandra Federici (Africa e Mediterraneo, Italia)
All interviews edited by Carlo De Marco (Snapshots From The Borders, Communication Coordinator)