Malta seminar: overview of the week

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! (

 

 

Marléne Corbinais.

 

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JEF Malta: Seminar on migration

Friday
All ends well

Today is the last day of the seminar, end quite frankly…I’m tired. Tired in a good way, that is… The keyword for this final day of the seminar is “output”. We need to produce some output for the seminar. Different ideas were noted and then we could split up in groups and get to work.  The different projects were: a animated movie,  formulate ideas for articles for the new federalist (thenewfederalist.eu), create a declaration (which we already made drafts of yesterday) and make concrete ideas of “integration in action”.

Since I joined the group that worked on the declaration, I cannot tell you how the other groups worked, I can tell you that each group came back with some great stuff. For example the group working around “Integration in action” came back with a serious plan on how to get the youth involved and try to tackle the prejudices concerning migrants. On the making-of of the declaration I can give you some insight: it was actually quite difficult – and not only because I was really, really tired.. There were essentially two camps who couldn’t come to an agreement yesterday. Today, they actually could, kind of.  The writing of the declaration took us more time than we had available so that met skipping the lunch break (not lunch itself) and missing out on the world café – which took place right after the lunch break.

The last event for this seminar was a panel debate in Valetta, where we were joined by the participants of the conference. The panel was quite interesting, but the round of questions was really weak. If you only allow three,  on beforehand prepared questions, don’t say “and now the floor is open for any question to the panel”. That’s just stupid.

Our time in Malta ended with the Europe United party in Valetta-Waterfront. I must say that this little island surprised me, it was an amazing location for the seminar. There were some great people who made this seminar even more worthwhile.

So thank you JEF and especially JEF Malta for hosting us. Until the next time…

Cédric Fernández

 

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JEF Malta: Seminar on migration

Thursday
All the world’s a stage

Today’s morning was entirely dedicated to the international conventions concerning refugees and migrant works. First there were two presentations and to end the morning another ‘exercise’. We were given several basic rights of migrant workers and were asked to order them. And although our group (minus one) came to a consensus pretty quickly, it is really a harsh job to rank things known as basic rights. I mean, how can you tell which one is more ‘basic’ then the other? After a comparison between the different groups – the differences were actually pretty minimal  – it was already time for lunch.

The afternoon started with a fishbowl discussion amongst ourselves. Three random people formed a panel and got presented with a question. After each of them made an opening statement, people could come up to the panel and replace whomever they wanted to replace. If you ask me, it’s a pretty good format for a discussion, but things could’ve been a lot smoother. After this discussion we started to prepare our final declaration for the seminar.
The way this was build, was actually pretty well done. We were split up into three different age groups. At first we all had to write a small statement of three points individually. The second stage was to find a compromise with person across from you. Then with the two people next to you and eventually with the whole group (of 8). This made that we finished Thursday with three different declarations. All three of them were really different. The youngest age group had an extremely practical approach (what should JEF do?), the middle group gave some general solutions to tackle the problem of integration and old group with the oldest people had a philosophical debate and came out with zip. Tomorrow we’ll try to merge all different drafts into one.

 

Cédric Fernández

 

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JEF Malta: Seminar on migration

Wednesday
How much is your life worth?

Today was quite a special day. I mean: yes, we had a panel debate, and the extra free-time was welcoming. But, it was nothing compared to the lasting impression of our visit to the open-center for irregular migrants in Marsa. The center is a male only center and the only center that was run by a NGO, the Foundation for Shelter and support for Migrants (FSM).  We were met by the director of the center, Ahmed Bugri, who is originally from Ghana, but moved to Malta to study when Malta and Ghana both still were part of the British Commonwealth. His personality, enthusiasm and dedication to the centre was absolutely inspiring. After a small introduction we split up in groups to get a tour of the center. The group I was in, was guided by Ahmed, but I heard that the other group had an equally inspiring and mind-opening experience.

For the beginning of the tour we just stopped next to the “water” that is next to the center. That stream was basically a sewage, with a incredible smell and then we were told that “because of the rain the previous days, the smell was really weak today, so we were lucky”. Reality check number one.
Ahmed had already explained that the center only had 460-something beds, but that there were more than a thousand people staying in the center. Of course when you see the consequences, it is something quite different. In a dormitory with sixteen beds, Ahmed pointed out, there are at least 35 people sleeping there, with up to fifty people not being an exception. Yes, I had heard stories like this before from centers in Belgium which are also over-capacitated; nothing prepares you for the confrontation with the reality of what those figures mean, though… Reality check number two.
Next, Ahmed lead the way to a part of the center that was under construction. They recently had a fire in a room in that part of the center and because of the over population of the rooms the fire was impossible to stop. They were lucky that only three people got hurt (a broken leg from jumping from the third level and landing in the trees). You should know that a lot of the old rooms, are still the emergency rooms set up several years ago. There are few safety measures taken into account, which basically means that nobody should be surprised that there is a possibility of a fire breaking out at any point. Reality check number three.
After showing us the new rooms – which were a lot more clean, better organized end took into account most safety measures –  the tour ended. As a closing statement Ahmed gave us his view of his policy concerning migrants. It was clear that there’s still a lot of work to be done, but I have little doubt that the director will ever be done working with the center, even though he already brought some significant changes to the center.

I think I speak on behalf of all the participants, when I say that this visit was an eye-opener and is really going to leave an impression. Hearing the statistics and reading the stories is one thing. Actually seeing the persons who live those stories, is an entirely different thing.

Cédric Fernández

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Jef Malta: Seminar on migration

Tuesday
Valletta

The international evening left its traces as some people weren’t able to make it to breakfast in time. Fortunately,  by the start of the morning session, everybody was back in the world of the living.
We started off with the first guest-speakers of the day. A Maltese specialist gave us the Maltese view on migration and the migration policy. He was joined by a British lady who moved to Malta to give her side of the story about migration and diversity in Malta. After  a coffee break we, split up in smaller group for the simulation game. We were supposed to be a “National commission of migration” and had the right to grant asylum for two people (out of the 10 who applied). Of course every person had a specific role to play during this discussion. As we were playing god and deciding which lives to save, we still had to realize that this was a simulation to a real life process. This is how it really happens.

The Afternoon was entirely on location, as we moved our business to the capital of Malta, Valletta. In the Europe-house, we met with a German who really deals with the integration problem on a grassroots level, the second session we had two guest-speakers – a representative of the European commission in Malta and a lector of the University of Malta specialized in the international/European law concerning migration – who gave us a (very) limited overview of the E.U. migration policy.

Diner was spent in a local restaurant and afterwards, we had some free time on our hands to spent in Valletta – luckily for us it had stopped pouring rain by the time we were finished with our  diner. We decided to go for a small walk, before ending the evening at a bar, where else.  We were back at the hostel around midnight.

Cédric Fernandez

 

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JEF Malta: seminar on migration

Arrival & Monday
Welcome to the castle
After a two and a half hour flight we landed ahead of schedule. Luqua Airport is a small airport (for a small island), and finding a cab wasn’t too difficult. So finally we arrived at the hostel where we’re going to spend the majority of our time during the next week. After all the formalities of checking in and introducing, it was time for bed….getting up after a long evening of traveling, always stings.
And this time was no different. Bright and early (7:45 am) it was time to get some breakfast to get the day started. Today’s goal mainly was to get everyone on the same page. What is migration exactly? What are the different types of migration? If you want to have a good discussion, it’s very important that everybody has the same definition of the different concepts.  But of course there can’t be a first day without an “ice-breaking game”. And in my personal opinion. Every ice-breaking game is one too many.  So, a brainstorming session, a lecture and a discussion set the record straight for the first day. You don’t need to worry, as we also teak a break on a regular basis.
The day ended with the traditional international evening. As always with a successful Belgian representation of alcohol (jenever and beer) and food (chocolate and speculoos). But now there was something extra… we were asked to present our country in a “original” way. Which meant acting, singing, dancing and drawing; something I did not like, but ok, as a group, we had fun. The talking and drinking went on until an early hour. On to tomorrow.

Post by Cédric Fernandez


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Federal Committee @ Bratislava 26-28 March

Dear all,

As my goal was to put a small report of the FC right after my contribution of the Seminar, Gaute messed up this masterplan. Either way, his input was hilarious, so worth reading. The FC took of on Friday with an official opening in the venue called Narodna rada Slovenskej Republiky. Sorry for not translating this, but I forgot the name in english. :-) There we had an interesting debate on the topic of the EU2020 strategy (http://ec.europa.eu/growthandjobs/pdf/complet_en.pdf) and gender equality. Too bad the Ambassador of Spain had to leave so early, and two other panel members as well, which reduced the debate to only one panelmember left. Well, our hunger for more was stilled by the very need and tasty catering in the building were we catched up with new arrival FC participants and mostly old friends. After that the formal stuff took off with counting votes, electing tellers, presenting different kind of reports (section, activity,..) and so on. Since one FC member resigned, a new candidate (the next one on the list with most votes, cfr. Florence) could become FC member, this is Luka from Italy. We closed this first day with a dinner in the hotel whereafter I went to bed early, catching up for some lost sleep during the seminar and making sure I would be fit enough for the party the day after. :-)

On saturday the Working Groups (WG’s) were formed and I took part in the one about Project Development. The others are: Communication and Media, Growth, Finances and Federalist Online Activism. After lively presenting the gender campaign we came up with during the seminar, we debated the other street actions to come and which ones to keep. We had a nice session and after that the Finances of JEF Europe were presented. This is about money, so important! In the afternoon we proceeded with the Political Commissions (PC’s) and I took the one on “Towards a European Democracy”. The others were “Federal Society” and “Global Europe”. In these PC’s debates to change or rewrite resolutions took place and were voted upon and then will be put forward for plenary vote the next day. Since also an EB member reseigned, there had to be a new one elected as well, but here no candidates were found, so the tasks are more or less divided among the other EB members. This FC we also needed to give our support to the SG candidate put forward by the EB. This is Ruben Loodts, currently still International Officer in JEF Belgium. After his presentation, the plenary opened the debate about his candidacy and voted upon it. Ruben was elected and we wish him good luck in his new job, starting from September onwards! We also had the farewell of Peter Matjasic, outgoing SG of JEF Europe. A quite emotional speech full of positive but also some negative remarks touched upon each one of us. Peter did an outstanding good job and we are all very greatfull for that. After this more formal afternoon we had dinner and went out to “Club Calabria” where you could not enter when you are wearing a knife or Kalashnikov.  The boys even had to undergo a search like they do in the airports, how amazing! Anyway, we got a free cocktail and a great party untill early in the morning! One point of agony though: this night was changing hour night, so you can imagine going from 2 o’clock to 3 o’clock, going out and getting up early leads to..

Sunday, D-day, as in .. a-small-hangover-and-feeling-exhaustedly-tired-day. But, as my mother always said: “if you can go out to party, you can get up in the morning as well!” haha, so we did get up, had breakfast and started the plenary with the presentations of the WG’s and PC’s and voted upon the resolutions that were discussed the previous day. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay untill the end, since our flight to Belgium was already shortly after the noon. Saying goodbey to all of our friends, rushing out to take the bus/trolley and tram, we went to the airport in order not to miss our flight. Exhausted but happy we arrived back in Belgium, me and Hans still a long travel ahead of us..cursing the raynair – Charleroi airport. But we made it and had a great weekend, that’s what counts and that’s what JEFFING is all about!

For a video report about the FC: http://www.youtube.com/jefeurope#p/u/2/WkxwO9u5KrM or visit JEF Europe’s YouTube Channel on http://www.youtube.com/jefeurope

For more info about JEF: jef.belgium@gmail.com or look us up on Facebook!

Angel

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Berlin Calling: Day 4 of the Seminar

Ouch, the nightlife of Berlin can hurt too, certainly in the morning. Since most clubs stay open until the early hours, at the Berkheim for example there was still a big line at six, I didn’t had a lot of sleep. That is however not a very big problem, since almost everybody seemed to suffer from the same condition. Luckily there wasn’t much work to do on Sunday. In the morning we just finished up the last bits of our workshop work, and after that we headed back to the Commission building that’s at the Brandenburg. In our lazy seats we got a nice introduction of what everybody did in their workshops. Some did a little play, some did a little bit of street action in the room and some just gave a short presentation about their work. To end, JEF Germany gave us a nice sandwich lunch before saying bye.

Saying bye is always a difficult thing to do. Especially when everybody has food in his or her mouth. We got to know a lot of new people, learned new skills and fell in love with Berlin. A city so diverse and creative, a place where everybody can find something to fall in love with. I never planned to write a lot about this last day so I’ll stop here. I hope you enjoyed this blog and maybe you’re interested in going on a JEF seminar yourself. If this is the case you should definitely contact a local section or somebody on the board of JEF Belgium.

To end I would like to thank JEF Germany for this great opportunity they offered. It was a nice seminar and a warm and fun stay. Hope to see these our German JEF friends again somewhere in Europe.

With love, from Berlin

Gaute

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Berlin Calling: Day 3 of the Seminar

Saturday was workshops and the seminar party in the evening. The Berlin Seminar offered no less than six different workshops from which participants could choose. Topics such as the financial crisis, foreign policy, social media 2.0, street art, campaigning or debating were on the table. Whatever you chose it wasn’t just to listen and learn, it was also doing it yourself. Since I was already writing this blog I chose the social media 2.0 workshop.

In the morning we got a introduction into social media such as facebook, twitter, bloggingportal.eu and so on, to show us the great potential of these digital tools to connect to others and spread the word of JEF. The purpose of the workshop was of course to write our own blog, something our trainers, Thomas, Martin and Miriam, assured us was not that difficult. Our topic was going to be the new EU 2020 strategy, the follow up of the Lisbon Strategy, about which we as Jeffers had some serious doubts. After lunch we’ve hit it hard and fast. We started with some research, gathered online sources and wrote our piece. With the help of our trainers we put it on the JEF site, The new federalist. This and more in less than 3 hours.

In the evening we returned to the hostel, to enjoy some free time before dinner. Since the pintjes in the hostel were outrageously expensive (2 EUR!!!) me and Peter hit the Netto supermarket and

got our own stash. Always a smart thing to do when you’re on a seminar: look for local budget solutions. A nice shower, some very nice pasta and a train ride later we we’re standing outside the venue JEF arranged for us, Fritzclub. This club was all about young people, catering to different tastes in more than four different music style rooms. More than enough to ensure that everybody in our group of Jeffers could have a great time.

The only thing we missed was the traditional Tequila sharing moment which Mandi (aka Manja) arranged. A longstanding tradition that goes all the way back to Ventotene. Off course it wouldn’t be the same without Angel, but we simply had to do it, since this was a ‘party on a seminarie’. After some deliberation we went back to the hostel to get the tequila and dive even further in the rich nightlife that Berlin has to offer with the help of my lomy personal Berlin-expertcal guide, Martin.

Gaute

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Berlin Calling: Day 2 of the Seminar

For the moment I’m sitting in the Sanatorium 23 bar with some locals. It wasn’t easy today, but now I’m chillin so let me tell you more about my day.

I got up at 8h30 to leave at 9 am for our first informational seminar session in Berlin, the JEF World café session. It’s a lot like the Speeddating Europe activity in Ghent, but with bigger groups, longer discussions and a bit more anarchy. We were free to choose at which table we wanted to join until all chairs are taken. What I really missed was of course the little ‘change seats’ tune, so did the moderator I guess. After four group discussions and two hours later we were invited to a soup buffet for lunch, paid for by a German insurance company, thanks!

After lunch we made our way to the Bundestag in the Reichstag. Big difference here! For clarity the Reichstag is the building, which dates back to the rule of the German Emperor, the Bundestag is the actual parliament. The German federal parliamentWe kicked off with a fish bowl discussion, a novel discussion concept that let’s room for participants to join a small permanent panel up front. Everybody was invited to make a couple of statements if they felt like it. Since it was pretty late yesterday and the speakers weren’t that interesting, participants had a bit of trouble filling in the empty seats of the panel. But hey, it was international evening yesterday, living on a seminar can be hard.

We finished our seminar responsibilities with a visit to the dome of the Reichstag. A disorienting structure of steel and glass, that moves, ventilates, shines,… well very important for Germans and very pretty to look at. The tour on the dome was even funnier, real German stuff here. They gave us an audio guide that told you when to stop while climbing the dome and at which buildings to look. I lost the track quite early. International evening hangover maybe? Or just me wondering over the large skyline of Berlin. Breathtaking anyway.

So now I’m in the company of some lovely locals. Their’s Martin, Merete, Manja (the pirate girl) and Uwe from the seminar, joined by Andreas, Sascha, Mattias and Maja. They’re a nice bunch of hardcore hamburger fans. They took me to a small place called the “frituurhause” and let me get a taste of my first real Berlin Hamburger. I can assure you, definitely better then my German Bradwurst yesterday, and very enjoyable. The frituurhause looks actually like a real frituur, but don’t come looking here for a bickyburger. Only ‘real’ meat my German friends assure me, and no deepfrying. Although I miss my bicky I left satisfied and happy, guess they made a new fan. This brings me to where I’m right now the Sanatorium 23 bar, a lounge bar, with stylish seats/beds, arty pictures on the wall, ambient beats and a fine gin tonic. Prizes are about the same as in Ghent so no panic here. Time for me to go again though, cause my Berliner friends are starting to think I’m a real computerfreak.

Maybe a little, but not that much. Let’s enjoy our drinks, but get to bed early tonight, because tomorrow the workshops start (Blogging or Streetart for me) and off course their will be the official party. Good night and see you soon again.

Gaute

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