A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.
In this week’s blog, Jamie Mercer from Youth Focus: North East looks at the Syrian Refugee Crisis and what impact this could have on the youth sector and what we in our sector can do to help using youth work practices during transitional periods.
The plight of the Syrian refugees has dominated our televisions, newspapers, and social media platforms in the last few weeks. The distressing image of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying lifeless, face down on a beach in Turkey has ferociously ignited public opinion as demands for European governments to take action rise.
David Cameron has pledged to relocate 20,000 migrants to the UK by 2020, while Germany – who welcomed migrants with open arms, song, and gifts – have stated they can accept up to 500,000 migrants and refugees a year.
The events have seen a media U-turn with the Sun declaring a ‘crisis campaign’ just months after calling migrants ‘cockroaches’.
With several thousand refugees arriving in the UK, it brings a group of people desperate for a new home and willing to do anything to get safe and secure environments for their families into our communities.
There is always the need for a transitional period with this type of situation; there will be issues along the way but hopefully the promise of safety for everyone. Creating better futures and community cohesion will shine through.
Youth work has social integration at its heart and I believe there are several youth work practices that can be used in some small way to make this transitional period go as smoothly as possible within our communities.
Firstly, we can encourage the respect and value of differences between individuals. In youth work we celebrate difference and teach both tolerance and acceptance of others. Respect is a key word, and one at Youth Focus: North East we make sure is embedded in all of our work with young people.
Secondly, we can help to promote social justice. Following closely on from respect and tolerance, social justice is the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political, and social rights and opportunities – particularly those that are in greatest need.
Finally, challenging discriminatory or prejudiced views. If a young person we work with demonstrates a particular view that is discriminatory or prejudiced, it is our role to let them have that view but also to explore it and challenge it. They may not have been challenged on it before, they may have read it somewhere and taken it as gospel, or it may have been taught during childhood, but without challenging these negative perceptions it prevents the individual from learning more or properly articulating their thoughts on why they feel a certain way.
I met with the head of youth services in Hartlepool earlier this week and they are planning some fantastic work around immigration and integration that I think will have some very positive outcomes. This issue has never been more topical than it is now and it is only going to get bigger so I think taking the opportunity to look at how in the coming years we can promote more tolerance and understanding and further embed it in our practice can only be a positive move.
Jamie Mercer, Youth Focus: North East