The itinerary of a refugee

It is true that the Josefa House has chosen to host refugees, in particular, in order to facilitate their integration within the Belgian society where they would like to settle and build a life on a long-term basis...

Even if the Josefa House does not directly reach out to "illegal immigrants", it is well aware of the painful and often perilous journey that is common to most of those who manage to arrive in Europe, in Belgium, at the risk of countless dangers, before obtaining, in a few cases, their refugee status, or more likely, having their claim for asylum rejected and often ending up "illegal" as a result.

After the difficult decision to leave one’s home and country, comes the separation, willingly or not, from one’s family; then, for most, the journey begins on all kinds of vehicles, across arid regions, or even deserts, and where, already, some lose their lives; next, any job they can find in the transit countries to cover the costs of their transportation; the racketeering and extortion from smugglers; the overcrowding in makeshift boats; the crossing, under the sun and rain, with no protection other than the sky; hunger and cold; parsimonious water and food; shipwrecks with thousands who drown...

In the country that they "dreamed" about, what kind of welcome awaits the survivors? It is one of queues and lengthy administrative procedures, without knowing the outcome of their claim for asylum. The European Union Member States are imposing more and more restrictions with respect to migrants: it is true that Europe "cannot take in all the world’s poor...". However, more stringent regulations and laws will lead to more repressive measures that instead of responding to the pressure of migration will only further exacerbate the problem. In order to strengthen Frontex, an agency set up to control the movements of migrants, a large police operation took place at the European level in October 2014, under the name of "Mos Maiorum" (meaning "custom of the ancestors"). The purpose of this operation was to carry out police checks on hundreds of people in order to collect information and thus strengthen policies regarding migration: what information? For what purpose and to what end?

Public opinion in European countries is not more favourable to migrants, influencing politicians to further limit migration, and with an apparent xenophobia, even demanding the deportation of foreigners. There is moreover a correlation between public opinion and policy decisions on migration, in a sort of mirrors game, each side magnifying the other. But what do we think? Beyond the polls, which reveal the same tendency, the outcome of recent political consultations in several European countries is indicating the same trend: the majority of people are becoming increasingly inward-looking and only concerned with their own identity and security. Basically, for countries as well as for their citizens, the migrant, the other, is a multifaceted threat: people are afraid of him.

While it does not underestimate the problem posed by migration in the world today, the Josefa Foundation, with others, is convinced that, far from being a threat to our societies, the refugee, the foreigner, welcomed as he should be, that is to say, with the respect and dignity that every human being deserves, brings to the host country a wealth of attributes: his personality, culture, skills, experience, including the richness of his migration. Even the refugee’s vulnerability can shake our self-assurance and overconfidence based on the technical achievements of our civilisation and reveal our very own vulnerability: are we not all mortal and equal before death which makes no distinction between the rich and the poor, between foreigners and natives, "all of whom are migrants"? This meeting of the other, in fact, calls us to expand our minds and our hearts, too often occupied and preoccupied with immediate and sometimes trivial concerns. It invites us to change our personal opinions and let go of our prejudices, to change our behaviour, in short, to mutually renew our view. It also invites us to get down to the bedrock of our societies and work with others, thankfully numerous, in order to eradicate the roots of indifference, suspicion, fear, racism, and hatred undermining it.

This is why the Josefa Foundation has decided to place, not on the outskirts of the city, in "ghettos" where "immigrant communities" are often relegated, but in the heart of Brussels, in the heart of Europe, the Josefa House which will soon be hosting refugees, along with people not made vulnerable by forced migration. The Josefa Foundation is not trying to be provocative, but is simply fulfilling its mandate, this peaceful living together that is rewarding for each other, for all of us migrants.