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“Definitely I have seen SnapShots From The Borders come to life, from the writing of the project with coordinator Pietro Pinto and others, to the presentation of the application. From the beginning I wanted to involve the municipality of Costanta, because it has a historical role with respect to migration in our country, and they accepted to be part of this project from the beginning”.

This is how Iris Alexe, founder and representative of the non-governmental organization Novapolis, recalls the beginning of this long journey. “We were born in 2013 and we are based in Bucharest, but dealing with migration we have always worked in south-eastern Romania and in the region of Dobruja, on the border with Bulgaria. This is also why I often worked with the municipality of Costanta and it was important that they were in a project that works on migrants and borders.”

Iris has a lot of experience, having worked in the past for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Soros Foundation, as well as serving as a consultant for many projects. Hers is therefore an important perspective to evaluate SnapShots and the work done over the years.

“Compared to other territories involved in the project, and compared to other parts of Europe, the southeastern border of Romania is really a world apart. While elsewhere solidarity, welcome and memory – which are the pillars of Snapshots – are in trouble, in this territory they are very strong and are shared principles,” Iris explains. “So many different minorities, languages and cultures have always coexisted here: the very history of this region is linked to migrations. Just think of the population exchanges between Romania and Bulgaria that took place during and after the conflicts of the 1900s: even if they weren’t called ‘refugees,’ it was the same story. Think about the world famous footballer Georghe Hagi, a symbol of Romania, he has a family background that we would call a refugee today. They really have memories of these personal experiences and how these people can feel. Also there is the Turkish community, the Greek community, historical minorities in the region. New migrants, basically, find a shared historical context of migration,” Iris says. “And Constanta, in particular, has synagogues, Catholic and Orthodox churches and mosques within a few hundred meters, it’s a pillar of the city’s identity, and the population is proud of this interculturality. This generates a very humane approach to welcoming. Recognizing migrants as individuals, with a history, and not as a faceless, history-less multitude.”

“I didn’t want to have high expectations at first, but now I can say I’m really pleased with how it went,” Iris replies. “In fact, I can say that something extraordinary has happened. Satisfied as a representative of an organization that has been part of this process, but also as a citizen of this Europe that has realities that network to work better and share good practices. And also the research work that has been done, on individual territories, has been excellent. Local governments, civil society and communities, in a participatory way, have been involved in a virtuous path and Costanta, by the way, is the only reality that welcomes from the sea, and has been able to share this experience with other realities more committed in this sense in other parts of Europe.”

“It’s hard to choose a single moment, but for sure the visit to the Pope in Rome and to the European Parliament have been unforgettable”, Iris says, “because such important occasions to present the realities of the local territories, but at the same time the problems and the shared visions, have been a great opportunity, both for the local administrations and for the civil society organizations. In addition, the involvement of local communities, not only online, but also in live events, gave the opportunity to meet, talk to each other, confront the territories. Young and old people have participated together, confronting each other, in the events, talking with attention and desire to understand better, even talking with migrants, about their cuisine and their favorite TV programs, a human way to know each other”.

In some way, according to Iris, “this project should indicate a way to approach the debate on migration, to change the language as well, and to bring to the decision makers the voice of the suburbs that best know the life on the border”.

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