On Wednesday, 25th October 2017, Jesuit Refugee Service in Croatia (JRS) presented a project “I get you – local initiatives” practices in dealing with racism and xenophobia towards refugees” in the form of a panel discussion. The representatives of local initiatives The taste of home, Green action – project Biciklopopravljaona, GTF – initiative for sustainable development, initiative “Welcome” and football club “Zagreb 041” took part in the panel.
The project has been carried out over the last two year, along with 8 other JRS offices in Europe, in order to promote local initiatives’ best practices in building communities and coming together of refugees and local citizens. ‘”I get you” project gathers local initiatives which include refugees in their work, providing support in the process of integration, all the while changing perceptions and potential prejudices of the local community’ – it was said by Kristina Samardžić from JRS Croatia.
The onset of the project was at the beginning of 2016, right at the time of changing the EU policies, which were leaning towards restricting asylum policies and relationship towards migrants and refugees. She added how it was the same year that Croatia witnessed a historical migration movement, in which some 670 000 people crossed its territory.
JRS Croatia’s director Tvrtko Barun said how there is no integration system in Croatia, rather different elements and individuals within different Ministries and offices who resort to engaging on a personal level. “There are a lot of holes and bad things where there’s room for improvement so we need to invite governmental institutions to cooperate with NGO’s, because the civic society is implementing quality projects and recognizes the needs of refugees, something which the state system doesn’t know how to do”, said the director Barun.
“We are gathered as citizens around different initiatives to deal with a problem in our society. We consider ourselves successful in dealing with it and setting a good example for people who fear not being able to do anything. We saw the issues and patched things up and we want our good example to be followed as many times as possible, because we have a good recipe for success – good ways of integrating refugees and spreading positive stories, combating racism and xenophobia” – said Zinka Mujkić from “The taste of home” cooperative. It is a project aimed at economic empowerment of refugees and persons with migrant background under which refugees prepare and serve food from their countries of origin at local events and gatherings.
“Food is the prettiest and tastiest medium through which we can speak about the problem we are facing. Everyone likes to eat nice food and try something new. That is exactly what we are offering – new, authentic and original. Our cooks have their own original recipes from their countries of origin, recipes they’ve carried from their homes and which they use to remember their childhoods, family and friends” – said Mujkić.