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Conference: ‘Cultural Mediation in Albania: Challenges and the Future of a New Professional Figure’

On Saturday, February 19, in the premises of the Center for Housing of Asylum Seekers, LIBURNETIK held a conference on ‘Cultural Mediation in Albania: Challenges and the future of a new professional figure’.

This conference was dedicated to the contextualization of the mediator profession in the Albanian reality, which is under the constant influence of the effects of globalization.

Invited as rapporteurs of this discussion were Mrs. Shqiponja Dorzi, representative of the Center for Housing of Asylum Seekers; Mr. Ergys Gezka, Executive Director of LIBURNETIK and Mrs. Blerta Tuci, expert on European Integration.

Initially the discussion discourse focused on the actuality of our country as a host country for migratory flows. Mrs. Dorzi put in focus all the trends of migratory movement, in which our country is seen mainly as a place of turmoil, due to its favorable geographical position. Through a timeline it was noted that the largest influx of asylum seekers accommodated in the Center was encountered in 2019, along which about 6000 people were accommodated. With the onset of the pandemic the numbers have had a significant drastic decrease, where during 2020 the total number of accommodated people was 3000 people, while during 2021 a total of 78 people accommodated. Such a numerical representation acquires the features of a migratory movement anomaly and can by no means be considered a consistent trend.

In a brief retrospect, Ms. Dorzi pointed out the biggest challenges encountered in the process of integrating the accommodated persons. These challenges are initially the result of the emotional load and individual traumatic experiences of the accommodated persons, but they are also challenges which are reinforced by immediate ignorance and disharmony between cultures. Lack of knowledge of the language is the biggest barrier which weakens the communication between the parties. Mrs. Dorzi stressed that usually accommodators are hesitant and do not tend to dynamic communication; moreover they often remain conservative in their linguistic traditions, refusing to communicate in a second language. The reasons for such hesitancy are mainly related to the level of trust that the accommodated people create towards other persons. Consequently non-verbal communication takes special advantage and focus, as an opportunity to create sustainable communication bridges. Recognition of the behaviors and conflicts placed in them by the cultures of the countries of origin are also a very important moment during the work at the Center. Recognition of considered unethical behaviors, recognition of gender and religious frameworks, as well as recognition of cultural clashes carried by the country of origin play an important role in the recognition and integration of the accommodated.

Through his intervention Mr. Gezka brought in the attention of young people that these specific set of challenges are indicative of the need for a cultural mediator in a process of social integration. He stressed that respect for human dignity is an element that should be essential in communication with refugees / asylum seekers / immigrants, as what should be understood correctly is that undertaking a migration project in itself does not make the individual who has take such a step inferior. Further Mr. Gezka revealed some examples from his experience as a cultural mediator in Italy, thus presenting the impact that the display of respect for the culture and dignity of refugees has on the creation of bridges of communication.

Mrs. Dorzi further acquainted the participants with the functioning of the Center for the Reception of Asylum Seekers and her adaptation to the best practices for the social integration of the accommodated persons. Thus this Center is an Open Center, in which the accommodated persons are allowed to move freely from 10:00 to 22:00, inside the Center they can eat only in the canteen which stays open until 20:00. Of special importance is the education of accommodated minors. This education is realized on the basis of a special program defined by the institutional agreement between the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Education and Sports. Albanian language education is a service which was initially intended only for minors, but at the request of the accommodated persons, now this service is offered to all, serving as a catalyst for the social integration of refugees.

At the end of her speech, Mrs. Dorzi stressed once again that the integration of asylum seekers is possible only if they are shown empathy and respect, keeping away prejudices or feelings of mercy, which in the eyes of refugees are offensive and discriminatory.

The conference continued with the greeting speech of Mrs. Ana Ciuban, cultural mediator in Italy and one of the trainers of the training ‘Intercultural mediation and the role of mediator in the social integration process’. In this greeting speech Mrs. Ciuban recalled the expected challenges from the organization of this training, held for the first time in Albania, but did not leave without describing the achievements of this training, expressing a lot of positivity for the future of the role of cultural mediators in our country.

After the video message, the word was given to Mrs. Blerta Tuci, who provided an overview of the future for the role of the mediator in our country, linking this future with international trends in migration and European policies. Mrs. Tuci assessed that migration flows are a trend which will not fade in the coming years. This is because, under the influence of globalization, the movement of individuals towards countries that offer a safer living or a higher quality of life is inevitable, due to human nature which is constantly in search of the best. Linking emigration to a improved living is also noticed by the phenomenon of emigration of young people in our country. Mrs. Tuci pointed out that we should not be negligent about the fact that some emigrated individuals return to their country of origin and at this moment the need arises for these individuals to integrate in their country. This reintegration has been present for a long time in our country, however it continues to be a difficult process which is surrounded by prejudice or labeling the returnee as ‘failure’. At the end of her speech, Mrs. Tuci reiterated that as a country which is predicted to have a future within the EU, Albania is expected to be among the main host countries for refugee emigrants, as it will continue to wait for emigrants to return, therefore our country must increase its cultural mediation capacities and the youth of our country should be invested in the role of mediator which will be one of the professions of the future for our national reality.

The closing speech was given by Mr. Ergys Gezka, who summarized that the role of mediator is a role which belongs to many individual disciplines and professionalisms, being of a cross-sectoral nature. An intercultural mediator can be a person who studies medicine, nursing, foreign languages, social sciences, computer science and many other fields. This diversity of fields and knowledge comes as a result of the fact that each individual can play a role in the social integration of immigrants, an integration which is necessary in providing and receiving any service. Mr. Gezka stressed that the mediator is needed in hospitals, schools, police, courts, markets and any environment where the immigrant has to interact with other people. Exactly the broad nature of interaction and social integration is what according to Mr. Gezka requests from the mediator that they get profiled. This profiling should be at the human level, at a professional level, but also at a patriotic level as the mediator helps maintain tolerance, cultural harmony and the internal order of the country.

At the end of the discussion, the young people participating in the training 'Intercultural mediation and the role of mediator in the social integration process' were certified, who were congratulated for their interest and commitment and were encouraged to invest further in their profiling as cultural mediators.

At the end of the conference, the participants got acquainted with the premises of the Center for Housing of Asylum Seekers, where they learned more about how the Center works.

This conference was held in the framework of the closing of the project ‘Intercultural mediation and the role of mediator in the process of social integration’, implemented by LIBURNETIK with the support of ASHMC. The aim of this project was to prepare the ground for managing migratory flows at different levels, no matter if they are refugees or returned migrants.