Human Rights as a tool for integration for migrant communities

Human Rights as a tool for integration for migrant communities

Since 2011 the Folk University in Uppsala has created many pedagogical tools together with stakeholders in other EU countries. This time we created a textbook for newly arrived refugees and migrants. The purpose is to implement human rights at the same time as learning the new language. In this article we aim to present, the background and purpose of the project and share the knowledge and experience of the involved stakeholders that we have gathered through interviews.

As the number of immigrants and residents with other cultural origin than the majority society has grown, many member states have embraced a policy of multi-cultural society, stressing and emphasizing the right of individuals to keep the culture of their origin alive in the new host country. During the last decade, the policy of multicultural society has met difficulties in various forms. Honour Related Violence (HRV) is one form. Our project addresses harmful practises, namely Honour Related Violence (HRV) aimed at raising awareness and changing attitudes through activities, training and dialogue.

It is of utmost importance that the structure for cooperation between language centres and trained individuals from immigrant NGOs is crystal clear to avoid organisational discrepancies. That is why it is important that the educators from immigrant NGOs are certified by the partners at first stage and then work towards a certified reorganisation at national and European level. (Folk University Project proposal, 2015)

Outcome of the project

The concrete result of this project is a special and unique book for language training including human rights aspects intended for different target groups and in different languages depending on each stakeholder’s national need. There are seven themes in the book for language training created by this project. The book includes the following:

  • Introduction to human rights and refugees
  • Right to protection of property, housing
  • Right to marriage, family- life, child-care
  • Right to education
  • Work-related rights
  • Health-related rights
  • Rights to life, prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment

And last, but not least, language training by many different tools for the best result.

The book will be translated to many languages and it will be useful for language training in each country participating in the project. The main challenge is the dissemination.


Historical and legal basis of Human Rights

In the aftermath of the Second World War, the growing awareness of the atrocities committed shocked the world, and there was a groundswell of opinion that this could never be allowed to happen again. It was recognised that there had to be a baseline of inalienable rights guaranteed to all, regardless, of ethnicity, religion, caste or class. Over the years, as society has grown and developed to include gender and sexuality as protected characteristics.

This was the birth of the United Nations, and the Universal declaration on Human Rights, now the Human Rights convention which set the baseline rights such as the right to life, freedom from torture and inhumane, degrading treatment, the right to a fair trial as societal rights in the wider world, and the right to privacy and family life, amongst the more private rights cited.

Over the years, these rights have been refined by the creation of new Conventions such as The Convention for the Rights of the Child, the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, which take the basic Human Rights, then set out how they must be applied to special interest groups.

These rights have been brought into domestic law giving us all a standard to live by and by which to treat others, to ensure that no-one should be subjected to discrimination, or treated differently.

The purpose of this project is to highlight these rights, and explain how they work in practice, to new migrants in our societies.

As society has developed, the Conventions have been refined and clarified by way of directives from the commissioners, known as General Recommendations. Those by the CRDAW Commission which impact on gender violence, in particular, have significance to this project.

The first and possibly the most significance of these was the 1992 GR 19 which defined and extended the definition of VAW to include violence that is more than physical.

GR 31 of 2014 clarified and extended the definitions to include harmful cultural practices such as Honour based Violence, FGM, forced marriage, tribal scarring.

GR 33 of 2015 concerned access to Justice for women, and demanded legal aid for women who need legal assistance and cannot afford to pay.

The most recent GR is GR 35, of 2017which further defined VAW and gave responsibility to member states to consider the inter sectional inequality brought about by political policy, such as austerity, the rise of the far right, and the shrinking of democratic spaces, whilst acknowledging that many states do not even have any legislation against VAW. GR 35 forbids justification of VAW in the name of culture, religion or traditional practice.

Further, GR 35 recommends the abolition of use of protective custody for women at risk (commonly used in South Asia and the MENA countries) an end to joint prosecutions (which recognises that the Police fail victims of VAW when the perpetrator makes a counter allegation) and requires an end to restrictive immigration law. Importantly it requires member states to provide effective education programmes to combat VAW, for women and men, which can be used to assist in acquiring funding t=for the sustainability of this project.


Method and Structure for cooperation between Language Training Centres and NGOs.


While discussing the meaning and importance of Human Rights, the present report further elaborates and situates this engagement with human rights in the context of the minority groups of newly arrived immigrants and refugees in a host country. It illustrates the imperative for these displaced people to obtain practical knowledge on their collective and individual human rights. Special emphasis is given on the impact of human rights discourses and practices on consciousness rising against honour related and gender violence. The report particularly focuses on the ways in which such practical knowledge can be disseminated in light of (and despite) difficulties such as the language barriers that non-native speakers face in the host country. It highlights the Program’s (Human Rights as a part of Language Training to prevent HRV and harmful practices in the communities) commitment to the newly arrived immigrants’ and refugees’ simultaneous learning of the host country’s language and obtaining practical knowledge of human rights. This kind of language training, which is informed by human rights awareness, can become the platform of providing and developing the practical knowledge necessary for a dignified living in a foreign land. The report qualifies how properly designed language textbooks and other cognitive tools and materials, used by properly trained teachers, are key factors in the process of effectively utilizing language for the purposes of fostering and sustaining human rights awareness. NGOs and language centres, but most importantly their enhanced cooperation, play crucial role in the aforementioned parallel dissemination of human rights knowledge and language training. The report makes suggestions on how to establish an effective cooperation between these parties. It also elaborates a structure and an array of best practices for a fruitful cooperation between language centres and NGOs. Finally, it proposes specific ways in which this cooperation can be sustained.





Interviews with stakeholders


Interview with Yevgeniya Averhed head of the whole EU project in Folk University. She considers the concept in the project to be to give tools to really help people. The migrant NGOs and language teachers are the experts. They (FU) did a survey and a pre-study. The creation of the game Human Rights in Practice took one year and is the foundation of this project. The target groups in this project is language trainers and teachers primarily and newly arrived secondary. It depends on the countries and the system they have for language training and how it is regulated. The obstacle is that language courses are different, and has different answers in different countries. The result will be five totally different training books as each language is unique, one to each stakeholder. The main obstacle is to ensure that the quality and the outcome is the same in each language. Second obstacle is sustainability. We want to disseminate it as a systematic integration tool. The material must be accessible for free but courses to use it will be charged with a fee. Time and money and too much voluntary work are obstacles. The benefits are many. Human Rights is a very noble and beautiful concept and we want to implement it by practice. Dissemination is done by stakeholders all the time in different ways. By our final conference in Sweden 2017 we want to disseminate the knowledge and concept in Sweden. The training must be obligatory in the future. The project was written before the refugee crisis and due to the crisis, it is more necessary than ever. When talking about gender perspective, it was originally for women mostly, but we call it family training nowadays. Women are the focus. Women transmit their ideas to their kids but they all need to participate, especially the men. She would also like to distribute the game digitally throughout Europe. Her vision is that the tools for language training would be international used.


Interview with Corinna Ter-Nedden, psychologist at Papatya.

She works at a shelter in Berlin called Papatya. Papatya is run by an NGO and specialises in the protection of girls and young women, who are victims of Honour Based Violence (HBV) and Forced Marriage (FM). Papatya hides and supports them at a flat with a secret address. The intercultural team also runs an online counselling line and a coordination centre against abduction of girls to the home country of their families.

The team has decades-long experience fighting HBV and FM, but lacks expertise in language training, didactics or conception of language courses.

Papatya was the newcomer to this group of partners, who had developed an educational game about human rights in a former EU project together already.

Unfortunately, there was a misunderstanding between Folksuniversitetet and Papatya about the possibility to finance Papatya´s cooperation with German language centres and to include them into the whole process of developing the language course. Since Papatya had no budget for this they thought it not possible – only to learn months later, that Folksuniversitetet had put the financial means for that it into their budget. So, the process to look for German language centre partners, who could get paid for their contribution, started quite late.

In the process of the project Papatya proposed that each partner should highlight the current situation in the respective country: Who comes new into the country? Which structure of language courses for newcomers exists? Are they provided by the government or other agencies? Are there restrictions or can anyone attend? Which professional education do teachers have to have?

All partners agreed to provide this kind of background information, which was necessary to put the results of the questionnaire, which was put out to migrant NGOs and language centres, into context.

Corinna Ter-Nedden thinks that the basic concept of the project is very useful and necessary. Newcomers as well as their new countries can profit a lot if language and human rights are taught at the same time. She regrets that the cooperation with language centres in Germany was delayed. It would have helped the project and Papatya`s contribution.

She is doubtful about the effect the book can have in the fight against HBV and FM. From prevention work it is clear that both cannot be approached directly. But now they are not very visible in the book – even in the section about family life and marriage which was written by Papatya. She thinks perhaps it would be better to focus on HBV through separate courses targeting education and family. In online research, she found useful learning material by the German Federal Centre for Health Education about health, body and sex education, which is specially designed for newcomers to Germany ( available in many languages).

As soon as a German language course book is available, dissemination in Germany will not be a problem. Papatya will advertise the book to its widespread cooperation partners and put it as download on its website. Corinna Ter-Nedden would recommend others to join the project, on certain conditions. The basic idea is very attractive. She hopes for a modern language book which will represent the current situation in Germany adequately. She thinks that changing traditional attitudes will take a very long time. „Unfortunately shelters like Papatya will be needed for years and years and years.“

Interview with Nico’s Pirrulis, managing director of Dimitra, but also member of the steering group of the project. The tasks for this project are to develop the tool; which is going to connect the training, the Fatima game (former project linked to this one) with language centres and NGOs. This project has a task to develop this language course in English with Human Rights involved in the training, and after two pilot projects, Human Rights in Practice and Fatima, we want to evaluate this project to make changes and after the changes it will run. One of the main issues in Dimitra is to develop new tools, methodology and HR projects for HR specifically for Greece. The economic crises in Greece has led to a high level of unemployment and also affected the finances of Dimitra. A lot of labour is imported from nearby countries to work for low salaries. They also have had a large influx of refugees in the past three years and they mostly stay in Greece. Dimitra train trainers in NGOs and language school teachers. They give them language training, and training also to start up their own businesses. Most of migrants keep their principles of their home country. Dimitra wanted to develop the Fatima project, to give them the option to learn about their host country by themselves and adapt to the new rules of the new society. Benefits of the project is to increase literacy in Greece. Some obstacles are lack of funds to invest in the project for the future, lack of time and too much voluntary work. This is negative for the quality. In Greece, there is a coordination committee, a new ministry of immigration policy and a new ministry. Dimitra will try to present this as a national policy for them to help with dissemination. They who are in transit are staying in Greece for years. Dimitra and the whole project need to construct a portal to let them learn about basic cultures in Europe. The game Fatima should be recommended to all organisations working in the human resources sector, universities, language schools, etc. He thinks that knowledge by experience is very important, especially human rights, which is a theoretical approach. The future is this portal. Everyone can go in and it will not be for users, but for trainers or mentors.


Interview with Rita Torre Portugal. She is project manager in Kerigma. Kerigma is a twenty-year-old organisation based on formal and informal education with certified activities. Their focus is Human Rights, Domestic Violence, female internship and a skill validation centre. They also conduct a professional project department where several Human Rights projects are included but also tools for best practices in adult education and vocational training. Those involved in the project are teachers for adult training who train people who were excluded from school or could not achieve the whole language training for various reasons for example victims of domestic violence. In collaboration with ethnic NGO´s they reach a wider target group. Kerigmas obstacle is that most ethnic NGO´s are located near Lisbon while the project manager and office are placed in the north of Portugal. The main obstacle is geographical. The benefits for them are that they already know the game and they are enthusiastic about the book. The target groups are a challenge, some can hardly read or write, while others are on an academic level. Those from former colonies are often in a lower educational level. Time constraint due to travel is another problem. In Portugal, they have a dedicated job tasked with the dissemination of the project. They share responsibility with Dimitra in Greece to for the website. International as well as national workshops to share experiences and learn from each other are very important. In Portugal, the project has been well received for example from the university who wants to print and publish the book. They who work with the material describes it as a success. The material is needed regardless if you are a refugee or not to protect and spread knowledge about our human rights. Especially the parts of women’s rights are needed when it targets all women in the country.


United Kingdom

Diana Nammi project manager UK. She is Executive Director of Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO). Her tasks in the “Human Rights in Practice” project is to manage the UK part of the partnership. This partnership and its´ work has been extremely valuable because it will inform refugees and migrants about their basic rights and by joining this project they will be part of this important work. Their target groups are refugee and migrants living in the UK. The training sessions will be provided through colleges and NGOs that provide education and language classes to refugee and migrants. This has been hugely beneficial as they have had the opportunity to network and discuss ideas in terms of human rights. Another benefit was that they could take the teachers who will be delivering the units on human rights to meet the partners, this was a great way to establish a relationship with the teachers and language centres to ensure they feel involved within the project and the partnership. In the future, they would widen it if they get more funding and to extend the project to incorporate human rights in the lesson plans in the language centres. In dissemination, they have so far had a press release on York Radio in which they were able to publicise the project. The project leaflet will also be placed on their website. It is important that new arrivals understand the laws, rights and entitlements in the UK. They believe this project does need to be extended. Not only will this help them settle into the UK, this will change the refugees and migrants’ quality of life and help them to integrate quicker. It is important to involve more organisations, schools and colleges which have direct access to refugees.

Conclusion and summery

This project is the third to implement human rights and democracy, gender equality for refugees and migrants in their new society. We have interviewed the stakeholders: Germany, Greece, Portugal, Sweden and United Kingdom. The migrant and refugee situation has increased immensely the past few years. During 2015-2016 a lot of refugees came from war zones in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Ukraine etc. but also migrants for economic reasons, mostly from poverty in their home country. Three stakeholders took most refugees, Greece, Germany and Sweden. Greece accepted many refugees despite the economic crises. They are also the outermost frontier to Asia and northern Africa of the partner countries. Germany, and Sweden had generous rules of admittance in the beginning that was later restricted. Sweden took most refugees per capita. United Kingdom and Portugal took less refugees but have a long history with immigrants from former colonies and protectorates in Latin America, Asia and Africa. The uneven distribution of refugees also has geographical and political reasons. Germany has by Papatya contributed with expertise around HBV, an important part in the material. They wished they had closer collaboration with German language centres from the beginning. Portugal has been responsible for the Facebook for the project. Portugal has given EU a very generous offer to admit more refugees to stay, but few has come so far. Many refugees and migrants from Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova are going to Portugal, but also some economic migrants due to beneficial tax systems for retired persons from other EU countries and due to Brexit. Greece is a longstanding partner in all projects on this matter since 2011 and responsible for the website but also responsible for the academic evaluation by Pantheon University. Sweden through Folk University is the initiator from the very beginning and head of the whole project. Most European countries have a decreasing nativity and an ageing population and need the increasing population. For all countries involved, but also others, there is an immense need of language learning and to overbridge culture clashes now and in the future. The experience of work against honour-based violence is essential to include women’s rights in the training and the experience from former project Fatima game “learning by doing” is necessary. Some stakeholders stress the importance of widening this learning to the population in general, especially when it comes to gender equality and human rights. Even in democratic countries the level of knowledge regarding these subjects is inadequate. The stakeholders are all very positive to the project despite lack of resources such as money, staff and time. A lot of work is still done voluntary which all partners criticise. To be sustainable it must be obligatory knowledge in every language training in all countries admitting migrants and refugees. Policy makers and society must be involved. Collaboration between states will be a necessity and the needs will increase. The wars, environment crises and poverty will not end soon, and this is a long-term work for all involved. Refugees and migrants wait for years in their host countries or in transit to get their permissions or to be deported and during this time they should live in dignity. They could learn the language and do some work in the meantime without getting stuck in unworthy conditions. This would be the best way to practice human rights and avoid culture clashes and violence now and in the future. In those countries where many refugees come from, some of the states have made reservations to the Human Rights declarations in general and to Women´s Rights and CEDAW in particular. Women, children and LGBT persons are the most vulnerable groups. The gender perspective in the flow of refugees is another aspect to consider. In almost all figures from the partner countries present the main part of the refugees are around 60% men and 30% women. Portugal is an exception where it is almost equal. The gender gap has a negative impact for both the host country and the country they fled from. The economic crises, affecting Greece and Portugal especially hard, has also created a new group of migrants, cheaper labour forces from Eastern Europe and from developing countries in Africa and in Asia. Some of these people stay long, but many only for approximately six months per time. Greece has proposed a portal to easily get knowledge of your fundamental rights in Europe, and then a further step to those who will stay more permanently. Joint experiences from the stakeholders are that it is not enough funding for this important project, the time is not enough, there is too much work done voluntary which have a negative effect on the quality as well as the sustainability of the project. All stakeholders say the project is important, needed and should be an obligatory part of admitting refugees and migrants into the country. Policymakers must be involved, and a guaranteed funding must be set up on EU level as well as national. The ongoing project by Folk University and others are essential and countries involved. We need to overcome prejudices and violence and to integrate all citizens in the society with equal human rights.


Maria Hagberg, MA in Social Work, Social Educator,Author and International Women´s Rights Activist

Cris McCurley, Human Right Lawyer and Solicitor Advocate

Yevgenyia Averhed, BA in Human Rights and current studies, MA in Refugee Law and Forced Migration and Deputy Director of Folkuniversitetet Uppsala




Folk University project proposal

Questionnaire interviews stakeholders

Pantheon reports:

Human Rights as a part of language training

to prevent HRV and harmful practices in the communities

(HR in Practice)







Tuesday, 15 de October de 2019