New media and Social integration for Refugees & Asylum seekers

6 OCT 2017

BY 3FF 

 

I applied to 3FF as a result of my ambition to gain hands-on experience within the charity/humanitarian sector. My interest in the areas of diversity, faith and acceptance were borne from my personal and professional experiences of dealing with difficult situations and questions concerning my faith. These experiences shaped my own perceptions and misconceptions; and my initial lack of appreciation of the value of fruitful dialogue concerning differences in identity developed into a realisation that it is possible for people to have conflicting views and still get along.

3FF provided me with the platform to educate myself and increase my knowledge in areas where I had overestimated my prior knowledge. Through the interfaith training I became aware of elements that are vital for social cohesion that I hadn’t previously taken into consideration such as language, safe space and self-reflection. 3FF highlighted that these aspects are not simply theoretical considerations but practical necessities to be implemented in our professional and personal lives.

The values and ethos of 3FF were also reflected in my MA thesis which was based on social integration for Syrian refugees and asylum seekers within their host nation. Although I decided on this topic before I joined 3FF, my time at 3FF reinforced and encouraged me to develop a more empathetic approach when dealing with Syrian refugees and the research at large.

Having worked with community activists and supported refugees I became curious as to how a more sustainable development plan could be designed to help these individuals not only economically, but also through improving their social integration within their local communities and by encouraging diversity and dialogue between social groups despite existing differences. Social integration, I believe, is the key to building harmonious and successful relationships between migrants and their host countries. An initiative I came across dedicated to this sentiment is ‘TimePeace’ and their research proved educational in my efforts.

TimePeace is an upcoming mobile phone app created by three women: Charlotte Maxwell, Alexandra Simmons and Alice Carter. The app provides a safe space and a platform for locals to integrate with refugees and asylum seekers based on skill sharing and the aligning of those with similar passions. The app aims to be inclusive and is apolitical. For refugees and asylum seekers who face uncertainty, confusion and unpredictability within their host nations, initiatives such as this aim to foster integration rather than isolate these individuals. It also works to build a network for future support and employability within the community.

Charlotte Maxwell, the creator of the app, considers its existence as a step forward as the initiative is one that has never been pursued in the UK. She considers the notion of social integration the final and most imperative stage within the refugee crisis. She asserts the idea that simple provision of humanitarian aid or mobile phones does not solve the long- term problems of refugees.

In recent years, information and communication technologies have been making a massive impact on the social and cultural integration of refugees. The competencies and experiences offered by communication technologies allows for social adaption and supports the creation of hybrid identities for refugee communities. As communication and interaction play a key role in socio-cultural integration, social change initiatives such as TimePeace that have been developed for marginalised communities can help to bridge the barriers they face concerning social and economic integration within this global community.

On a broader scale, 3FF has taught me why it’s important to participate in discussions about humanity’s differences, and how to do so respectfully; accepting that humans can retain their differences and still coexist peacefully. This learning is clearly reflected within my MA thesis in my research and analysis of TimePeace; critically evaluating it as a member of this global technological community. Lastly, being at 3FF has made me realise that the subject of identity and faith is not limited to one’s political and social background, but is open to interpretations dependent on personal and emotional experiences.

Stay tuned for the TimePeace launch in November 2017!