On request of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, Bálint Jósa of UNITED for Intercultural Action (Netherlands) remembered the stages of establishment of the Forum’s brandnew Working Group “Migration” in 2016 and 2017:

In 2016-2017, UNITED has been working within the Open Call Mechanism aiming at bringing together organisations working with migrants from both EU and Russia. We wanted to define common challenges and find solutions on migration topics. This goal is not easy nor immediate to reach, as the agenda and speeds in the EU and in Russia sometimes significantly differ.
The process started exactly one year ago, at the Conference “Moving Stories: Narratives of Migration Crossing Europe” nearby Torino, Italy. We were focusing on such topics as the gap between the mainstream narrative and the hard facts on migration and asylum in Europe; possible ways to understand and challenge this narrative; opportunities to ensure that refugees and migrants are granted the full rights they are entitled to as members of the European society.
The knowledge, expertise, and input of participants were invaluable. Around 70 NGO representatives from more than 30 European countries reviewed different perspectives on the situation of migration and asylum in Europe, explored various tools and methods for challenging narratives on migrants and refugees, shared best practices and got to know other activists and organisations from every corner of the continent.
An important output of the Torino conference was the #Lifeseekers campaign – designed by young people for young people. While the campaign was conceived during the conference and further elaborated by a small working team, the graphic materials were developed by young scholars of the Vocational Public Institute Albert Steiner in Torino.
The #Lifeseekers campaign was launched on 20 June 2016, the World Refugee Day. It is a Europe-wide international campaign to challenge the narrative on migration in Europe. With this campaign, we want to stop the misuse and abuse of the tragedy of hundreds of thousands of people to cover the failures of policy makers. We call for European governments to promote an honest, transparent, and inclusive discussion on the challenges faced by young people today.
In the second half of 2016, UNITED worked a lot on monitoring and evaluating the campaign and its results and impact, discussing and sharing them with all NGOs that took part in it, collecting feedbacks and information on the lessons learned. Another meeting in Torino took place in November 2016.
Finally, the latest step in this path has been the Conference “Rewind Radicalisation: Building up Strategies against Extremism” on 7-12 April 2017 nearby Prague, Czech Republic.
The topics discussed included radicalisation and de-radicalisation. Both of them are extremely complex, so we tried to break them down understanding, what they are about and how radicalisation starts. Throughout the last few years, a rising level of interest in far-right ideologies has been noticeable in almost all European countries. This has not only been the case with the Brexit referendum and the growing influx of refugees in Europe. Xenophobic and homophobic associations are no longer on the fringe of society but originate from the middle of it, and support for such movements has become normalised. This dangerous development leads to even faster radicalisation and to a lower inhibition threshold for violent actions.
As usual, the real added value of the conference were the participants themselves – around 80 persons coming from more than 30 countries and representing organisations from all over Europe working together for a common result. We were leaning on our supporters from the conference in Torino and the #Lifeseekers campaign.
On top of that, a deeper collaboration with the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and its lately established Working Group on migration was discussed. All that allows us to be looking forward to interesting discussions, actions, and solutions within this new structure in the future.