Statement by Kanuuna

URBAN YOUTH WORK: HUMAN RIGHTS TO BE EMPHASIZED IN THE REFUGEE DEBATES

City of Kuopio 12-13 November 2015

 

Municipal youth workers will be trained in discussing “human rights and refugees” with the young people. The task of youth work is to educate young people to see the world through the eyes of the others, say the Youth Directors of the 27 biggest cities in Finland.

This year Finland has received almost 30 000 asylum seekers. It is a lot. Many municipalities discuss today, why have so many people arrived. Many of the citizens are worried about how this changes their place of residence.

Refugees seek for shelter from war and persecution. The UN treaties guarantee a right to seek asylum in foreign countries. The right belongs to Syrians, Iraqians as well as to all Finns. People do not leave their own home and undertake a dangerous voyage, if they wouldn’t be compelled to do it. Parents do not send their children alone to the other side of the world, if they saw that their place of residence and their country provide a chance to decent life.

Even if the number of asylum seekers in Finland feels big, the majority of them do not, however, arrive here. The largest part of those running away from war crosses only one or two borders. Many of them living in refugee camps still wish to return back home. The hope that the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria could improve have started to wither away and this is the reason to move out.

A significant share of those having arrived at Finland will stay in Finland. A more multicultural Finland is the new normal. It is a reality, which is not going anywhere.

The starting-point, the core and the condition for revival of youth work is human rights. Youth work is based on the principle that everybody who becomes a participant in our activities has equal rights to define her- or himself as a human being. The strength of youth work is to support the growth of every young person to someone who recognizes and assumes her or his responsibility as a citizen. Youth work is also committed to help young people with fewer opportunities. This is why municipal youth work is on board organizing activities all around Finland for those arriving here.

As those responsible for urban youth work we think that it is youth work in particular which is responsible for strengthening the human rights approach in the Finnish debates. About 60% of young people in Finland live in the Kanuuna cities which also employ about 80% of municipal youth workers in Finland. We will provide training for our staff to better understand refugees and human rights. We train our staff to be able to have better discussions about the refugee phenomena with the young people already participating in our activities. We think that one of the key missions of youth work is to improve the ability of young people to see the world through the eyes of the others. We further think that it is the task of youth work also in the public debate to emphasize that human rights belong to all. Strengthening human rights helps youth workers to organize activities for asylum seekers, manage local concerns, mediate possible conflicts and offer those arriving better conditions to grow up citizens of all and equal rights in our communities.  

In today’s public debates and coffee tables refugees are addressed as those. When we talk about those, we ruin the humanity of the people arriving at Finland. Asylum seekers are not those, but them. They have their families, dreams, people close to them and their professions. They want for their children and for other people close to them a life without cruelty, a life where one can talk and meet freely and where one can fulfil oneself without the fear of violence.

The people arrived at Finland are now ‘them’. There are them and us. If we don’t do anything, we will continue living in their and our worlds. If we open our world and invite them in, there would soon be only us. The fact that in the future there would be only us would mean a better society for both current them and current us. 

 

Signed by Youth Directors of 25 Kanuuna cities