Dispatches in Exile: Amplifying the Voices of Migrants and Refugees

Written on February 12, 2021, posted in News

An afghan refugee is seen resting near Bihać, northwestern Bosnia after being pushed back by Croatian police. ©Ziyah Gafic/VII

Over the next twelve months, in part­ner­ship with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Bosnia and Herzegovina, VII Academy train­ers will teach the basic prin­ci­ples of jour­nal­ism, and media pro­duc­tion includ­ing pho­tog­ra­phy, time-based media, ethics and nar­ra­tive sto­ry­telling to a group of about 60 men and women from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East cur­rent­ly resid­ing in Temporary Reception Centres in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Over the next twelve months, in part­ner­ship with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Bosnia and Herzegovina, VII Academy train­ers will teach the basic prin­ci­ples of jour­nal­ism, and media pro­duc­tion includ­ing pho­tog­ra­phy, time-based media, ethics and nar­ra­tive sto­ry­telling to a group of about 60 men and women from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East cur­rent­ly resid­ing in Temporary Reception Centres in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Participants will pro­duce reports and sto­ries that give insight into their frag­ile and ten­u­ous lives. These sto­ries will be pub­lished on a ded­i­cat­ed online media por­tal.

With a few notable excep­tions, the sto­ries of peo­ple on the move are usu­al­ly told through dis­patch­es from reporters who drop in peri­od­i­cal­ly to cov­er the “migrant and refugee cri­sis”. The VII Academy has part­nered with the IOM to mit­i­gate this frag­ment­ed and dis­tort­ed nar­ra­tive, by pro­vid­ing migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina with basic media train­ing and a por­tal through which to pub­lish their own reports and tell their own sto­ries.

People on the move are fre­quent­ly name­less and dehu­man­ised, deep­en­ing the rift between them and the local pop­u­la­tion, cre­at­ing an atmos­phere of alien­ation and antipa­thy and too often, vio­lence.

Everything we know about the peo­ple on the move and their pre­car­i­ous jour­ney is told from the per­spec­tive of out­siders, whether human­i­tar­i­an aid agen­cies, activists, NGO’s or by pro­fes­sion­al jour­nal­ists who are fre­quent­ly lim­it­ed by cul­tur­al dif­fer­ences, lan­guage bar­ri­ers, and atten­tion span.

The project is led by VII Academy cura­tor Ziyah Gafić. “Once upon a time I was a war refugee. Being a refugee is a trans­for­ma­tive expe­ri­ence that nev­er leaves you. The feel­ing of being uproot­ed is hard if not impos­si­ble to heal. Being on the move, leav­ing your home with slim prospects of return is deeply trau­mat­ic expe­ri­ence. Owning your own nar­ra­tive is a human right. Enabling peo­ple on the move to take the nar­ra­tive in their own hands can per­haps help them cope with their trou­bles and expe­ri­ences.”

The IOM of Bosnia and Herzegovina writes: Too often it hap­pens that the voice of migrants is not heard or per­sons are not giv­en the chance to express their feel­ings, desires and hopes.

In this way, we want to pro­vide migrants with a space where they can, through pho­tog­ra­phy and sto­ries, address and send a mes­sage that should help wider audi­ence to under­stand their sit­u­a­tion and needs.

Through the oppor­tu­ni­ty to par­tic­i­pate in train­ings in pho­tog­ra­phy, com­pos­ing and pub­lish­ing sto­ries, our goal is to encour­age migrants to release repressed thoughts and feel­ings of loss and sad­ness and learn new skills

We hope that this space for the mes­sages of migrants will be a space for their cre­ative dia­logue that will help to bet­ter inform and under­stand their needs and fos­ter empa­thy, accep­tance and inclu­sion.