Dialogue with Refugees in Norway
Anti-refugee politics is on the rise all over the world, but we can counter this trend by daring to ask questions and get to know those who are being spoken about.
Norway, Northern Europe
Story by Lene Mortensen
Published on May 12, 2020. Reading time: 3 minutes
“Talk to us, don’t talk about us, and definitely do not speak in our name.”
Those were the words of Rouba Mhaissen, a human rights defender helping Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Her words stuck with me. Globally, discussions about refugees are increasingly politicized. This is evident in Norway, where advocates are demanding the country to accept families from refugee camps in Greece, while right-wing political parties claim that bringing migrants will encourage more refugees to come to Europe. As a facilitator of encounters between Norwegian students and refugees, I believe that dialogue is key to mitigating these political trends. To better understand the complex situations of refugees, it is vital to make space for refugees to tell their stories - especially as the number of people seeking refuge is increasing globally.
In my role as a teacher of human rights through dialogue at the Rafto Foundation in Bergen, Norway, I offer classes on the topics of human rights and migration to Norwegian students age 13-19. At the end of the migration class, I ask the students what they would ask if they could meet a refugee. After listening to their questions, I reveal that we will have a visitor: a person who had to flee from her country and is now residing in Norway as a refugee. The students get to listen to her story and engage in a dialogue. They are talkative and profoundly interested to hear what she has to say. Building relationships between strangers through dialogue is paramount for host country citizens to understand the need to provide refuge, and defend the rights of those who have lost their safety and security.
I strongly believe that the best tool to decrease the politicization of refugees in Norway is to facilitate dialogues where participants and people seeking refuge are able to ask each other questions. In my class, I have experienced that such an encounter creates a bond between the students and the refugee. In this setting, the students encounter a unique perspective, which then fosters new perspectives for discussions outside of the classroom.
Rouba’s words resonated with me because I have observed both the positive effects of making space for refugees to tell their stories, as well as the dangerous rhetoric that arises in media discourse when the voices of people seeking refuge are silenced. Anti-refugee politics is on the rise all over the world, but we can counter this trend by daring to ask questions and get to know those who are being spoken about.
How does this story make you feel?
Talk about this Story
Please enable cookies to view the comments powered by Disqus.
Subscribe to our Monthly Newsletter
Stay up to date with new stories on Correspondents of the World by subscribing to our monthly newsletter:
Connecting with People through Calligraphy
A story by Choi Lucia
I Wish Home Was a Better Place to Live In
A story by Noosha
Immigration is difficult. Being away from family and friends, learning a new language and always being a second-class citizen (especially if you are from the Middle East). And if you get old, starting again from nothing. Read more...
Notes From the Puerto Rican Limbo: Introduction
A story by Javier A. Román-Nieves
In my upcoming series of stories, I will share my take on the most pressing issues and the ideas we use to tackle them, filtered through the triplethink lens of the Puerto Rican limbo in times of COVID and civil unrest. Read more...
Explore other Topics
At Correspondents of the World, we want to contribute to a better understanding of one another in a world that seems to get smaller by the day - but somehow neglects to bring people closer together as well. We think that one of the most frequent reasons for misunderstanding and unnecessarily heated debates is that we don't really understand how each of us is affected differently by global issues.
Our aim is to change that with every personal story we share.
Correspondents of the World is not just this website, but also a great community of people from all over the world. While face-to-face meetings are difficult at the moment, our Facebook Community Group is THE place to be to meet other people invested in Correspondents of the World. We are currently running a series of online-tea talks to get to know each other better.