What We Do
Programme for the Social Inclusion of People Seeking Refuge in Europe
The political and social environment for people seeking refuge and other migrants has changed immensely over the past two years, with calls to put an end to “open border” migration policies. Popularised misperceptions give the impression that migrants and particularly people seeking refuge pose a threat to fundamental European values such as freedom of religion (and from religion), democracy and gender equality. Discrimination against Muslims continues to be a major concern in Europe, according to studies by the European Fundamental Rights Agency and the Migrant Integration Policy Exchange. People seeking refuge face numerous hurdles to their social, economic and educational integration, especially because policies do not always adequately distinguish between the needs of specific groups versus the unique needs of each individual. Newcomers and members of host societies need more contact points and shared spaces in order to effectively move forward toward successful integration.
The PSR Programme seeks to enhance social cohesion and the two-way process of integration for people seeking refuge in Europe. The Austrian-based Project Integration through Dialogue seeks first to build the capacities of dialogue facilitators who have multicultural backgrounds, and second to build the capacity of people seeking refuge to approach their own integration proactively and from a position of empowerment. The Programme also works to promote dialogue as a critical approach to refugee integration and inclusion, through partnerships (such as through the Network for Dialogue) with key organizations in the field.
KAICIID believes that dialogue is an essential part of the integration process, which can only succeed when both sides – the host country and the new residents – obtain a deeper understanding of each other’s needs, wants, hopes, fears and recommendations. In order to share these vital dialogue skills, a team of KAICIID Dialogue Facilitators help groups of people seeking refuge to deepen their understanding of Austrian systems, services, and culture over the course of 13 dialogue sessions.
Supported by KAICIID, the Network brings together European grassroots dialogue organizations and other experts to jointly promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue for social inclusion. On the basis of an Expert’s Workshop on Interreligious Education in Europe, co-hosted by KAICIID and the European Commission Representation in Austria, a core group of 11 founding Network members met in September 2018 in Hinterbrühl, Austria to determine a collaborative path forward and create a joint action plan for 2019. This Network aims to foster social inclusion, peace and coexistence in Europe within the context of migration.
Individuals matter. Effective integration, like social cohesion, requires local, grassroots engagement, because it always comes down to individual decisions and relationships at the community level.
Dialogue matters. Individual attitudes towards the other can be transformed for the better through dialogue across religious or cultural divides. Effective dialogue requires a certain set of skills and attitudes, which can be taught and learned.
Human rights are individual, universal, interdependent and interrelated. All people are born with the same individual human rights, including freedom of religion or belief (or non-belief), freedom of conscience and freedom of expression. No one’s rights should be infringed in the name of upholding someone else’s rights, and indeed this is never necessary.
Organizations matter. In order to impact policy and foster dialogue as an attitude and approach, KAICIID recognises that it is critical to partner with key European organizations and within existing institutional frameworks.
Who are the dialogue facilitators?
In 2017, the Integration through Dialogue project is being piloted in Vienna, Austria with a team of four dialogue facilitators. All are Austrian citizens with migrant backgrounds, hailing from Syria or Afghanistan. KAICIID is excited to work with these great women, all of who have found ways to combine their Austrian identity with their heritage, and who want to encourage newcomers to find a path to integration that works for them.
Ruham Al-Bezra migrated to Austria after completing her studies in Syria, and holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology and has a background in philological and cultural studies in English and American Literature. She has completed a diploma programme in integration coaching and intercultural competence in Vienna, and has volunteered by teaching integration-related courses for refugees. She has also served as an interpreter for several Austrian municipal authorities and schools. Ruham has spent five years with International Human Relief in Vienna as a coach and trainer for refugees from Arab-region conflict areas.
Born and raised in Austria, Nadine Kelani is currently in her last year of her Bachelor studies in spatial planning at the Technical University in Vienna. She has worked as an Arabic interpreter in Caritas’ Asylum Centre, and engaged in voluntary work with refugees. She is also a board member of the student society “Multicultural Society in Austria.”
Born and raised in Afghanistan, Forouzan Noyan has been living in Vienna for ten years. As a mother of two children, she completed her education 2012 in Vienna as a childcare worker and has been active in this profession since early 2015. For the past eight years she has also been working on a voluntary basis for the Islamic centre in Vienna helping asylum seekers find their way through administrative channels in Austria.