Over the weekend, the city of Cluj-Napoca has been blooming with life. Concerts, parades, street art, confetti, fireworks and a great variety of food have brought people of all ages to celebrate in the heart of the city. This year’s key words were Creating connections. LADO Cluj joined in making these words real through various activities that marked the end of its yearly Festival of Multiculturality.
Multiculturality is a value, but also an experience. The right mood was set early on Thursday, May 25th – on Africa Day. The event was hosted away from the rain by Golfee, a perfect location for the African cuisine, dances, art and fun connecting participants of all ages. From Friday to Sunday, members of various cultural communities in Cluj-Napoca –Burundi, Ecuador, Egypt, Moldova, Palestina, Pakistan and India – have been out and about on Kogalniceanu Street, presenting their country’s traditional art, clothing, souvenirs, interacting and sharing a great time with their visitors.
Simultaneously, a Multicultural Quizz followed by a Journalism Cafe about the media and the refugee crisis with the participation of Gabriela Leu, Information/Communications Associate at UNHCR Romania. The main question of the meeting was How do we break the stereotypes?
The rejection of refugees was connected to the contradiction between a ready-made understanding of the term – as a very poor person, in dire need of help – and the image of strong, young, mostly male young people with a phone seen in the media. Both images are of course, stereotypes. They collide, but they don’t break each other, reinforcing feelings of rejection instead. In the words of Gabriela, this is due to reality not fitting people’s image of a refugee. But how do you tell someone is a refugee? She recalls an exercise where kids were shown a representation of a group and were asked to identify the refugee – some pointed out the sad person, others the isolated one – but soon realised that it could be anyone. There is no recognizable trait that makes someone a refugee, and even more, any of us could become one, if the conditions arise. We might need to leave our town, our region and eventually our country and seek international protection. Scenarios like this are a very powerful tool, points out Gabriela.
The role of quality journalism cannot be understated. Challenges arise, however, even when openness is there. UNHCR Romania and other institutions working in the field need to invest in the relationship with the media, to provide structured, well-prepared, summarized background information whenever they can, to support the work of journalists – who are often expected to play a specialist role in several fields during a single day.
The difference between irregular and illegal border crossing is an example which requires understanding of the legislation – a person can be an illegal immigrant in a technical sense, however, holding the legal right to asylum also when they cannot provide personal documents due to their fleeing conditions. Such nuances are often missing from the media, prompting institutions and professionals for taking a more active and engaging role in sharing information with journalists and fostering long-term relationships with them.
This event was a good opportunity to touch on one of the objectives of a new project implemented by LADO Cluj at the moment – Romanian Research Center of Migration (RRCM), looking at the integration of migrants and their collaboration with the public institutions.
Back to the stage, on Kogalniceanu Street. Pakistani-Indian dances and song performances have just ended. The public is then invited to taste one of the oldest recipes of a traditional Romanian meal, from the 1600s. The festive mood continued on Sunday on Kogalniceanu Street, around the exhibition stands and on stage, where the Latin-American, Pakistani-Indian and Palestinian communities performed again.
We are thankful to the authorities, the City Hall, the LADO Cluj team and all participating members of Migrant Communities who created the necessary connections for Multiculturality to shine in such wonderful colors.