We’re already a week after my first experience of a JEF international seminar. The cold of Belgium has already frozen me to my bones and I miss the sweet sunny weather of this wonderful island of Malta (or ‘Molta’ as the locals pronounce it).
Looking back at all the pictures circulating on Facebook walls, I recall how much fun we had, but also the intensive rythm and the whole work achieved in only 5 days, as our wrinkly eyes can testify here and there. Or was it because of the lack of sleep, due to the incredibly appealing nightlife of Malta? I’ll let you decide ( But I’d say it was probably a mix of both factors.)
I won’t tell you in details the program of the week but in general I’d tell you that we had different speakers, from different backgrounds, telling us a bit more about migration and, in particular about the Maltese situation regarding the big amount of boat people who have landed “by chance” on the island as they were heading to Italy, or who got rescued in the rescue area of Malta, since 2002.
We also had workshops and heated group discussions, during which the national backgrounds of participants and their own personal relation to migrants really became visible. It was interesting to see the contrasts of the different “problems” the different European countries face regarding migration and integration, and how passionate people can be on such a topic. I think this showed at a micro level how divided Europe still is on the matter and how far we still are from a unified European migration policy.
On Wednesday, we had a visit to a detention center for refugees, run by an NGO. It was pretty harsh, I have to admit, seeing the conditions in which those people live. As some girls of the seminar said to me, it’s comparable to the feeling you get from a funeral, you need a few minutes to process it and acknowledge what you see. But I think these kinds of confrontations with reality are necessary when working on a topic like that. You can’t theorize everything, speak in numbers and categories. The human aspect of immigration is sadly still too often left aside in medias and elsewhere and visits like this one are not fun yet useful. I regret the fact that we weren’t left more liberty to walk around and talk to the people one by one, because walking around the center in a big group inevitably imposes some distance but well, I’m already thankful we got the chance to enter the camp.
After four days of taking in as much as we could about matters of immigration, integration, assimilation and so on, came the time of producing some outputs. A declaration, by us, participants of the seminar, and addressed to the FC attendees, was written and some workshops took place to develop more concrete projects ideas for JEF towards those issues (an animated movie ; Integration in actions – Jeffers going to schools to make kids aware on those issues; etc.).
But the seminar wasn’t only work. It was also a lot of fun and a great human experience. And for me, it was a perfect occasion to share with other Jeffers from all around Europe, learn more about the cogwheels of JEF at the different organizational levels, and finally discover this European JEF spirit. I met amazing people, from different backgrounds, different ages, with various ideas and perspectives and came back home with a bunch of new friends and a boosted self-confidence. Would I do it again? For sure! (