Introduction

‘Refugees are ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.’

With regard to refugees and asylum-seekers, European societies are often characterised by fear and suspicion; mainstream society tends to feel that they have something to lose and that their position is threatened. The resulting exclusion and discrimination causes a great deal of hardship for refugees and asylum-seekers. The quality of legal representation provided is often insufficient.

Recent media analysis by ICAR (‘Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Media, Briefing, Feb 2012) shows that
the mainstream media – particularly commercial media – has played an influential role in creating this fear of, and hostility towards, refugees. In addition to unbalanced and inaccurate reporting, news and featured articles on asylum rely heavily on politicians, and ‘individual asylum seekers and refugees are only quoted when they themselves are the subject of a report and rarely contribute directly to the policy debate.’

The IntegrArt project seeks to challenge this media discourse, by strengthening the representation of marginal groups such as asylum-seekers and refugees. IntegrArt invites citizens to think more critically about the integration of refugees. Art projects have the potential of drawing the general public’s attention to the need to re-think and re-evaluate current approaches to asylum-seekers and refugees, and to encourage more culturally sensitive, empathic and unprejudiced attitudes.
The IntegrArt project is supported by the European Union Life Long Learning programme and is realised by five partners working in different regions in Europe (Global Link – UK, Initiative für Internationalen Kulturaustausch – Germany, Nilüfer Sosyal Yardimlaşma ve Dayanişma Vakfi – Turkey, L’Officina della Memoria – Italy, FotoMemoria/Anthropolis, Hungary). The aim of the project is to use digital stories to empower refugees and asylum-seekers in Europe to share feelings and thoughts relating to their status, about the society they live in, what brought them to their new society, and thereby to draw the general public’s attention to the reality of life as a refugee in Europe.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.