//Teachers should rewrite migrant stories against dominant media negatives

Teachers should rewrite migrant stories against dominant media negatives

By Lylian Fotabong
A conference at Mary Immaculate college, Limerick, yesterday, heard that children should be taught alternative accounts about migrants to combat the uncountable negatives portrayed on the media.
The event, titled, “Where are we now? Exploring the ongoing response to the refugee crisis” is the fifth of the Open Dialogue Series to discuss the current migrant crisis affecting Europe and the rest of the world.
Group 2
Fifth Open Dialogue Series on the #migrantcrisis affecting 


Europe, held at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick
Photo by: Lylian Fotabong
Lecturer in Primary Geography at Mary Immaculate College (MI) and author, Dr Anne M. Dolan, addressed the event, which was mainly attended by students from the college.
Dr Dolan said: “We need to re-write the narratives about migrants; we need to tell refugee stories of pride, resilience, innovation, courage, integrity, intelligence, and we need to tell the stories of refugees contributing to the economy.


Dr Dolan
MI Lecturer: Dr Anne M. Dolan addressing the Open Dialogue Series 
at Mary Immaculate College,Limerick
Photo by: Lylian Fotabong
“We, as teachers, need to tell the other side of the story against some media narratives that portray messages that are dominantly dangerous,” and “children need to hear these alternatives because the media messages are quite dangerous.”  
These sentiments and observations were also echoed by other presenters, who said “the Irish system is not very welcoming” as opposed to popular views.
According to one of the Directors of Doras Luimni (a Limerick-based migrant organisation), Ms Leonie Kerins, Ireland is the 11nd richest country in the world by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capital, but asked, “how can we not accommodate asylum seekers and especially children?”
The Director said there are about 500 asylum seekers living in Limerick’s four Direct Provision (DP) centres. The biggest unit hosts 250 migrants, 50 of whom are children and most of whom were born in Ireland.
Ms Kerins said the current Limerick profile of the centres indicates challenges for migrants such as: mental health, protracted isolation, reduced self-esteem, idleness and internal conflicts.
She added that new asylum seekers to Ireland are highly likely to face the same problems as those already living here, and called on the country’s Justice Department to replace these centres with a rental accommodation system.
Ms Kerins
Director at Doras Lumni, Ms. Leonie Kerins, at the fifth Open Dialogue 
Series on the migrant crisis facing Europe, at MI
Photo by: Lylian Fotabong
She said the rental system will offer better social support, recreational activities for, especially children, community interaction, better means to learn the English language, and that the proposed scheme is cheaper than the current DP system. 
The NGO worker said the DP system is unquestionably wrong for children: “It is destructive for children when they feel they are different,” and that is why we need an alternative system.
Migrants from diverse backgrounds also attended the event, including a Syrian woman who migrated to Ireland in 1999. This is about 12 years before the armed rebellion and conflicts started in the Western Asian country.
She described her country of origin before the war as “the most beautiful country with each unique city, which was proud of its heritage”, and with “all 32 different ethnicities living in a peaceful setting”.
The Syrian migrant, who is now studying to become a psychotherapist told the audience that, although she has become disconnected from her country for the last six years and “misses Christmas and New Year,” the Syrian way, she also endured a lot of difficulties when she first came to join her husband in Ireland.
“I spent the first six months by myself because my husband had to be at work. I spoke little or no English and it was very hard on me and interestingly, before I came here, I only knew of American and English accents; I didn’t know of the Irish accent, but I am now learning, especially through my children,” the Syrian migrant said.
Photo 2
Left to Right: Dr Dolan, Dr Kashembe, Ms Kerins, Mrs Rula and Mr Ahmed at the fifth Open Dialogue Series at MI
Photo by: Lylian Fotabong
The troubles confronting Syria and the migrant crisis on Europe’s shores thereof formed a major part of the Open Dialogue Series, and the Syrian migrant said: “My heart is bleeding for my country; we were living in peace before, but we are now dying”.
The Coordinator of Development and Intercultural Education (DICE) project at MI, Brighid Golden, moderated the event. She said: “last year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that almost 60 million people had been forcibly displaced by the end of 2014”. This figure represents about five times the number of people living in Ireland.
By the same time in Ireland, there were about 4,280 people in DP centres awaiting results of their asylum cases.
Over the past few years, Ireland has come under intense criticism for its low rate of granting refugee status to asylum seekers and for rejecting and deferring asylum decisions when compared with other members of the European Union such as, Norway, Bulgaria and the United Kingdom.
However, last year, the Government said there was “no upper” limit on the number of refugees Ireland will take.
“So far over the past seven months, the Government has accepted less than 25 people”, Doras Lumni worker, Ms Leonie Kerins said.
The Open Dialogue Series, was organised by Global Peace Foundation Ireland, and in conjunction with the Global Peace Youth, Mary Immaculate College and migrant support Limerick-based group, Doras Luimni.
Where we are now on the migrant situation in Limerick – produced by Doras Luimni
Photo by Lylian Fotabong