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Diversity finds ‘human face’ on IOM online migration platform

By Camille Dupire - Nov 28,2017 - Last updated at Nov 28,2017

The IOM platform seeks to change negative public perceptions about migration by ‘putting a face’ on the issue (Photo courtesy of ‘i am a migrant’ website)

AMMAN — “I never thought of myself as a migrant before, but now, I realise that we are all migrants in a way,” said Rasha Al Sharqawi, a 24-year-old Jordanian who lived in Germany for a year and a half.

The young woman came to that realisation after she was acquainted with the International Organisation for Migration’s (IOM) global campaign on migration titled “i am a migrant” (IAAM).

Launched in 2015, the project seeks to highlight positive aspects of migration and to create a paradigm shift in the way people perceive the issue of migration, according to Fedza Lukovac, IOM Jordan communication and programme assistant.

“We are all migrants as soon as we start living in a country other than the one we were born in. However, people tend to have the idea that a diplomat or a Westerner living abroad is ‘an expat’ rather than a migrant,” he told The Jordan Times at the Haya Cultural Centre.

With the aim of promoting diversity and more inclusive acceptance of migrants in society, the IOM designed the online campaign to shed light on the diversity of worldwide migration, letting individuals share their stories and personal experiences with living away from home.

“I am even more aware of my privileges, especially the privilege of being able to migrate freely,” said Guillaume, a Belgian national living in Portugal. 

“Every day I think about Syria. It seems that everything I knew there happened in another life — a life I miss a lot,” Rafat, a Syrian living in Lisbon recounted, adding: ”I was born and lived for most of my life in Damascus but, when the war broke out, my family and I moved to Cairo. After three years, we were relocated to Portugal and it was the second time we started again from scratch and this new beginning was more difficult because of the language and the cultural differences.”

By allowing the voices of individuals to “shine through” and provide “an honest insight into the triumphs and tribulations of migrants of all backgrounds and at all phases of their migratory journeys”, the platform seeks to combat xenophobia and discrimination at a time when many are exposed to negative narratives about migration, the IAAM website said. 

“We started the campaign in Amman, to show the Jordanian side on migration. A lot of foreigners live here, and many Jordanians have lived abroad as well,” said Laura Sisniega, communication officer at IOM Jordan.

“When we talk with people about the issue, many people realise that they are or have been migrants themselves, and this is when their perceptions start changing,” she continued. 

So far, IAAM has published over 1,200 profiles, allowing the public to skim through the “good and bad” of migration, the challenges some have faced in their journey and the richness it has brought to others.

“The anecdotes and memories shared on the platform help us understand what words such as ‘integration’, ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘diversity’ truly mean,” the website stated, noting that “diversity finally finds a human face”.

Everyone is welcome to participate by answering a few questions posted at http://iamamigrant.org/ and sending a picture of themselves for their story to be featured, according to Sisniega.

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