Refugees real stories must be told

There is a recurring hate speech and rhetoric against migrants and refugees in various parts of the world that is in part shaped by the increased role of media in creating our perceptions about them. In an effort to combat it, the United Nations Alliance of Civilization (UNAOC) and the European Union organized a symposium drawing attention to this growing challenge.

The #SpreadNoHate symposium drew on the New York Declaration for Refuges and Migrants of September 2016 and its commitment to counter hate crimes, hate speech and racial violence.  

“2016 has been an elections year in many countries. Media, for better or for worse, was used as a tool shaping people’s perceptions around issues and swaying their votes accordingly,” Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, the High Representative for the UNAOC, said in his remarks.

With the refugee crisis being always debated in the campaigns and debates, “we noted solidarity towards refugees, [but] we also witnessed a surge of xenophobic hate speech.”

So what can we do about it? Let’s tell the real story behind migrants and refugees.

For example, migrants have a positive contribution to societies. They help inclusive growth and sustainable development. According to the report, ‘Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2015’ by the UNHCR and the UNRWA, migrants sent up to $432 billion dollars back to developing countries. Also they add significantly to the economy of their host country contributing more in taxes and social contributions than they receive in individual benefits.

Also, let’s use social media to change the perception of refugees as ‘potential terrorists’ or ‘threats to national security,’ instead of letting them promote the hate speech and negative narratives.

“We will do our utmost to tell the real stories of refugees, in order to protect communities’ interests and safeguard the rights of each individual. I think a balance must be found that protects the freedom of expression as well as the rights of migrants as human beings with human rights,” the High Representative stated.

With this in mind the UN also launched a global campaign against racism and xenophobia: ‘Together: respect, safety and dignity for all.’ The campaign aims to change negative perceptions and attitudes towards refugees and migrants and to strengthen the social contract between these populations and host communities.



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