The UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights participated in the final event of the EUROSOL project, within the Europe for Citizens Programme, in Madrid on May, 31, 2018. The conference finalized the year-long project, which involved eight countries (Italy, Spain, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Poland, Cyprus, England, and Germany). The scope of the project was not limited to analyzing statistics, data, and the situation of refugees in these countries. EUROSOL also focused on spreading the message of a welcoming Europe.
After a welcome by Mr. Pablo José Aledo Martinez, General Director of Altius Francisco de Vitoria Foundation, and the presentation of the EUROSOL project by Ms. Clara Ubeda, Project Coordinator of Altius Francisco de Vitoria Foundation, the first round table discussion began. Throughout the rest of the morning, participants were divided among four round tables discussions, in which they examined different aspects of what solidarity means to the individual citizen.
The first round table discussion, entitled “The Solidarity from a Political and Institutional Point of View,” gave an overview of what institutions, such as the city of Madrid, have been doing in Spain. The city founded a school to train volunteers to socially integrate the high number of migrants arriving mostly from Syria and Venezuela. There has been a recent increase in migrant arrivals, which has given fodder to cries such as: “They are invading us, and we’re paying for it! They’re stealing our jobs, we can’t afford that!” and “We should help them in their own countries, where they won’t die at sea!” The human sphere tends to be reduced to a financial issue, as if everything can be solved through money.
The second table focused on the topic: “Solidarity from the Point of View of Spanish Companies.” According to a press agent, it is crucial for companies to change how they run their business by creating goods and services within everyone’s reach to remain relevant. Companies have to look beyond their own bottom line and try to find new wide-ranging marketing solutions.
The third round table discussion entitled “Solidarity from the Citizens’ Point of View,” revealed how the Erasmus Plus program of the European Union gives the possibility to young volunteers from the Altius Francisco de Vitoria Foundation to understand the importance of social work and volunteering. Being a volunteer benefits not only those in need of legal, medical, or psychological assistance, but also the volunteers themselves. In other words, volunteers have the chance to increase their capabilities and skills, something important for their future careers. At the same time, they give hope to those who have nothing left.
The project’s partners presented their results at the final round table discussion (see the video below). On November 27, 2017, the Chair had organized a public forum in Rome titled “Debate and Dialogue – Refugees Threat or Opportunity?” as part of the EUROSOL project. Experts, students, and volunteers gathered to discuss the real perception of refugees and migrants in Italy and in Rome. The message that the media delivers is often to create walls instead of bridges. An old idea which fosters those negative thoughts to push away the one who is different, who has a different background, culture, or religion. As an UNESCO Chair that fosters the art and convergence in global ethics, we have the duty to spread a message of tolerance and positive inclusion for those who are living in vulnerable situations.
According to the Cyprus Mail Online, an average of 70,000 people trying to escape the war zones reaching Europe have been stuck in Cyprus, Italy or Spain. These countries share a common path: huge waves of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers who want a better life and thus risk everything they have, even their own life: “It is better to die in the sea than in the desert.” – Mohamed
Since last March representatives of these countries along with UK, Bulgaria, Poland, and Lithuania have been gathered to discuss the migrants’ and refugees’ situation within the EUROSOL project funded by the EU.
On the 16th April, the UNESCO Chair collaborators Serena Montefusco and Kevin Ramirez took part in the conference organized by the University of Nicosia Research Foundation, Cyprus, entitled “Refugee Crisis Background and Solutions” with the European Citizens for Solidarity (EUROSOL) project. Once again the eight partners of the EUROSOL project, including UNESCO Chair, gathered together to discuss the refugee crisis that the European Union (EU) is facing, specifically Cyprus.
After the introduction and greetings by the Rector of the University and the explanation of the progress of the project by the coordinator Clara Ubeda, the day of discussion developed in four different sessions:
“Refugee crisis: States’ Sovereignty vs. Human Rights. Debate by Law Students”
“Refugee Crisis: Psychological Impact on Individuals and Families. Debate by Psychology students”
“Refugee Crisis: Solutions and Interventions Based on Solidarity and Human Rights”
“Refugee Crisis: Towards Durable Solutions”
UNESCO Chair collaborator, Serena Montefusco was involved as a moderator in the first round table in which students of the Faculty of Law presented on the principle of non-refoulement. The three students analyzed both the right to asylum and the principle of non-refoulement under the European law. Giving an overview of the laws, protocols, regimes implemented by the EU it was possible to argue how the law is not transparent and distant from the actual reality. In other words, there are many laws that regulated the right to asylum that are not always clear and followed neither in their integrity nor partially. This concept was confirmed by Montefusco when presenting her collaboration with an NGO (ASCS – Associazione Scalabriniana alla Cooperazione e Sviluppo) in Italy that develops social inclusion programs in favor of migrants and refugees. Presenting the role that the UNESCO Chair has in this project, she also referred to her volunteering experience collected with migrants and refugee in both Rome and South of Italy where the level of exploitation and corruption is extremely high. The round table was moderated not only by Montefusco, but also by Emilia Strovolidou (UNHCR, CY) who gave another detailed perspective of the refugees’ situation in Cyprus. The numbers are frightening considering how many people have been stuck in both Italian and Cyprus coasts and shelters not allowed to obtain the refugee status or threatened to be send back to their country of origin. As pointed out by the psychology students, migrants and refugees face different types of traumas at the different stages of their journey.
The second round table, moderated by Asya Rafaelova-Eneva of the Altius Francsico d Vitoria Fundation (Spain) and Bistra Choleva-Laleva of BIDA e.V Kultur un Bilding (Germany), one of the eight partners of the EUROSOL projects, analyzed, thanks to the Psychology students, the psychological impact that being an immigrant might cause to individuals and family. Indeed, there are a lot of studies that have seen that these people are affected by PTSD that cause panic attacks, depression, difficulties in maintaining relationships, suicidal thoughts, sleeping problems and others. These students presented three different cases of three Somalian girls who were affected by these symptoms due to the tremendous journey that they take to reconcile with their families in different parts of Europe. In cases of traumas, not only the work of psychologists is fundamental to get through the fears, but also social workers play a crucial role in the process of a successful social inclusion.
The third round table moderated by the University of Nicosia Research Foundation Director Stefanos Spaneas and Beata Palac, representative of the Poland partner within the EUROSOL project, presented the impressive work and the role of social workers in refugees related matters. Students of the social work program at the University of Nicosia emphasized the importance of values such as freedom, dignity, equity, and solidarity and rights such as the right to education, work and to have a house. Social workers promote the mutual integration among locals and migrants through a multidisciplinary work (psychologist, lawyers, interpreters, …) to ameliorate the migrants’ situation providing them training courses to find better jobs position to give back to society.
The last session was dedicated to discussing possible solutions and to analyzing some programs that are already implemented and that are better the life of many. Introduced by Dr. Despina Cochliou, the representative of the Erasmus Plus program, the program could share the language courses that the European Union is providing for free. As well known, the knowledge of the local language when one is forced to move to another place is fundamental. Many people in the audience did not know that funds are not only implanted in Cyprus but also in other different countries. Thus, it seems that the European Union needs to improve the way the news is spread. Yet, it is reassuring that there are people that dedicate their lives to this type of work that informs migrants that there are possibilities and accessibility to these programs. Next, Dr. Despina Cochliou introduced an NGO named AWARE (Cyprus) which is a communication and counseling agency which is committed to raise awareness of refugees related matters. They own a constantly updated website and active profiles on social media allowing the share of the latest news and connection among different ethnical groups. The session concluded with the testimony of two refugees that had the possibility to recreate their life in Cyprus. They are both well-educated Syrians, one of whom is working as a leader, mentor and life coaching and the other of whom obtained two bachelor’s degrees in Law Banking and Economics. For privacy reasons, I am not sharing their names, but they serve as an example of a successful social inclusion.
The UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights that bases its values on the 15 points of the Universal Declaration of Bioethics and Human Rights (2005) has the responsibility to pursue the safeguarding of human rights in the recognition of the dignity of both locals and migrants through interreligious and multicultural dialogue. Since 2009, the Chair has been committed to achieving the objectives established since its foundation: promoting the art of convergence and cooperation in global ethics through its areas of interest that allow a continuous dialogue between experts on bioethics principles.
On Monday February 19th, the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights collaborators Serena Montefusco and Kevin Ramirez took part in the event host by BIDA e. V. Kultur and Bildunng, at the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence in Berlin. As part of the eight partners of European Citizens for Solidarity (EUROSOL) project, co-funded by the Europe for Citizens programme of the European Union, BIDA e. V. Kultur and Bildunng gathered different experts in the field of the migrant’s influence in the EU labour market.
The first session opened with the presentation of the Fundación Altius Francisco de Vitoria on the main aspects, aims and prospects of EUROSOL project by the European Director Clara Úbeda Saelices. The event moved on to Javier Jimenez opening the round table introducing the migrant’s influence at the EU labour market in Spain. He pointed out that there is a great number of Romanian migrants due to the similar language and that they are mostly employed in the service sector. The discussions moved on to the presentation of the VHS Hildburghausen, an organization that provides education for adults aiming at improving social inclusion and job solutions. Finally, the representative of the UNESCO Chair, Serena Montefusco had the chance to be part of the round table analysing the migrant’s influence at the EU labour market form the Italian perspective.
Serena Montefusco started giving information how institutions are dealing with the great number of migrants arriving in Italy. At the European level, she saw that soft low and funding activities have been implemented to improve the labour market and integration of migrants. For example, in 2016, thanks to the Action Plan on the Integration of the Third Country Nationals and the New Skills Agenda for Europe, it was possible to implement new tools aiming at helping integrate newcomers and local stakeholders assess their qualifications and skills. Moreover, Europe is offering significant funding for labour market integration. Yet, these funds are granted by each Member State and reach cities indirectly. At National level, institutions are responsible for labour law, social security, and active employment policies. Even though decentralized member states, such as Italy, face a formal devolution of responsibilities, the national government sets out an integration plan, objectives, and managing public employment services.
According to the latest report of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), most migrants, male and female, are employed in low-skilled occupation such as the service sector, agricultural, construction, cleaning, and catering. Their positions have a great impact on the pensions system and in raising the birth rate. It is important not to forget that migrants and refugees cannot be treated as a panacea to address population trends. These can be considered negative aspects of the labour market in Italy since most of the time newcomers are high skilled and not well integrated. Another negative aspect pointed out by Serena, is that migrants are exploited in the countryside during the harvest of tomatoes in the South of Italy. More specifically, she presented the project Io Ci Sto Camp organized by the Diocese of Manfredonia and the Scalabrinian Missionaries. This Camp is an opportunity for service, meeting and sharing between volunteers, migrants and the local community in the province of Foggia. The Camp promotes the autonomy, integration and commitment of migrants in the Italian territory, opposing injustices and breaking down prejudices, accompanying volunteers in a training course in migration, alongside the local Church and civil society to promote the meeting and integration between migrants and the community.
In the second round table, representatives of Bulgaria, Poland, Lithuania, and Cyprus shared their experience in the field pointing out the different issues that their country is facing regarding the flow of migrants. In Bulgaria, due to the different political language it is challenging to address the issue properly. In Poland, the government is against the acceptance of refugees which makes even more difficult discussion and dialogue among the population. In Lithuania, the migration flow is different from the Italian and Cyprus one: most of migrants arriving in Lithuania are from the nearest countries and the acceptance is at a good level. Finally, Cyprus is facing a similar situation as Italy meaning that most refugees and migrants that arrive are Syrian and African who see these two countries as their first aid to move up to the north countries to have a better life, jobs, and education.
Prof. Mirko D. Garasic, UNESCO Chair Research Scholar, published in AJOB Neuroscience:
Why HEAVEN Is Not About Saving Lives at All
“Life extension is one of the main goals of Posthumanism and—though camouflaged as a therapeutic operation—HEAVEN could be the Trojan horse through which it would become acceptable to keep on “staying alive” by changing bodies to our heads (assuming, for the sake of argument, that our identity resides only in the latter). This overlooked scenario makes the operation even more controversial.”
In line with one of the areas of interest of the UNESCO Chair Neurobioethics and the Neurobioethics Reserach Group, led by UNESCO Chair fellow Fr. Alberto Carrara, L.C., Prof. Garasic’s article focuses on some of the key features of the Posthuman ideology in relation to life extension “through all the available biotechnologies [which] would include becoming stronger, becoming smarter, and, of course, living longer— or forever.”
The UNESCO Chair first concern is to cooperate towards the realization of workshops and publications regarding contemporary debates on Transhumanism, Posthumanism, Neurobioethics, Neuroscience, Human Rights, and Bioethics. The Chair persists with its experience in fostering the art of convergence and cooperation in global ethics gathering scholars and experts to promote dialogue and the dissemination of bioethical principles. Click on the link to read about Prof. Mirko Garasic participation to the workshop Ethics and Technology: Some Issues held in Hamburg on November the 15th.