The intense public debate on various social policy issues in Poland that has been carried on for the last several years indicates that economic and socio-cultural developments in the country have accelerated significantly, although not equally for everyone. Some people experience those processes to such an extent that they increasingly demand substantial stability and a fixed direction in the rapidly changing reality. This also applies to the question of socio-cultural diversity, especially the issue of migration.
According to the statistics, opinion polls and simple observations of everyday life, never have foreigners living in Polish cities been as numerous as they are today, just as the discussion about their presence has never been so lively, polarised and ubiquitous, involving all actors in public life – politicians, media, church officials, activists and the general public – taking a stance. At the same time, we are witnesses the increasing role of urban activism that is encouraging a particular kind of socio-environmental consciousness of the interrelations between our personal and collective decisions and the general quality of life.
Unsurprisingly, those changes are met by both popular anxiety and expectations. They could turn out to be a desirable benchmark, resulting in a tangible and pluralistic debate on the conditions, goals and future directions of our society’s progress. Unfortunately, the conflicting approaches towards those processes tend instead to lead to intense socio-political tensions – in Poland, as well as other European countries. Those tensions, in turn, find an outlet in the rising numbers of violent incidents and reactions directed against foreigners – as they most visibly embody the symptoms of socio-cultural change.
In the face of those new challenges, what seem to be crucial are educational initiatives – and this is why the Heinrich Böll Foundation and Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights decided to join forces on a new project directed towards monitoring legislative changes in Polish migration law and organising workshops on both legal and more general aspects of migration for various audiences. The aim of the project is to provide administration workers, police officers and young people with a broader knowledge on and counter-strategies to issues of migration, refugees, intercultural communication, stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination mechanisms.
Along with representatives of public administration, experts from the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights will examine the Polish migration law’s consistency with the approach of the European Union, the European Convention on Human Rights and judgments issued by the European Court of Human Rights and the EU Court of Justice. Workshops dedicated to youth will be based on methods of active participation – exercises in small groups, discussions, mind mapping, presentations and short educational films – in accordance with Kolb’s methodological cycle of experience – reflection – theory – practice (i.e. learning through experience).
More information on the project and possibilities to take part in it can be found on the website of our partner organisation, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights.
The project is co-funded by the European Commission, within the framework of the programme “Europe for Citizens”.