Feeling Welcomed?

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Photo credits: Tereza Nvotova, source: Facebook

The “migrant crisis” is one of the most discussed topics in European media in this recent period. There is a huge diversity of opinions on how we should help or not-help the flood of immigrants coming mostly from the Middle East.

In Slovakia, my home country, the situation is even more discussed, as the polls are coming in 5 months and the governing party SMER-SD starts to make all the well-known and much-favored populist decisions and promises once again. One of them is the claim of our prime minister that we are not going to accept any quotas given from the EU for distributing immigrants. His strict attitude towards quotas legitimated by the claim of protecting the country from economic immigrants, is raising the chances for his party to be reelected as the governing party for the next term. On the other hand, going to court and challenging the refugee quotas at the European Court of Justice could damage the country´s reputation and can lead to some sort of isolation in Europe. However, our President is presenting a completely different point of view, which is shared by many other Slovak citizens. According to quotas, Slovakia would be obliged to accept 802 immigrants within one-year period, eventually 656 more within two years, which in total represents 0,026% of Slovak population. That means that most of the Slovaks wouldn´t ever meet any of the immigrants, even if they settled down in our country forever. For each of the immigrants, the state will receive 6000 € from the EU. According to our ministers and prime minister, money is not an issue. Reportedly, they are ready to support the countries of the first contact financially, but strongly reject accepting immigrants for a longer period of time.

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Photo credits: Tereza Nvotova, source: Facebook

The European migrant crisis affected the political preferences in whole Europe. Germany´s chancellor Angela Merkel is losing points, because of her decision to accept all refugees coming to Germany. In Eastern Europe more protective decisions are popular. Slovakia is not an exception. According to the results of the political preferences research from FOCUS, SMER-SD is rising since August, when our prime minister strongly declared to be against quotas. According to FOCUS, 34, 6% of Slovaks would vote for SMER-SD in August this year. In September their popularity increased to 37, 7%, followed by 39, 1% in October. Although SMER-SD have originally had different intentions how to increase their preferences, they were able to use the migrant crisis for their own benefit. Obviously, the support of SMER-SD is rising constantly, however, nobody is sure if the migrant crisis will remain as the most important and influential topic during the upcoming winter.

Huge role in this game is being played by the media as they influence the common people. Most of the people have information only from news or social media and they haven´t witnessed anything on their own. Consequently, many misinterpretations embrace. For example, the two terms “migrant” and “refugee” are exchanged and this result into many confusions. People can´t distinguish anymore between an economic migrant and a person who is fleeing away from a war. Incorrect facts and twisted information are often used in favor of political parties and lead to radical opinions. It is in human nature to be afraid of the unknown. However, misinterpretations in media can encourage the spreading of fear and xenophobia in the society. Therefore, it is unacceptable that the government or political parties are spreading incorrect information that almost 95% of people seeking asylum are economic migrants, who are looking for a more favorable place to live, or that they are dangerous for us. As the result, people´s fear and hatred are rising.

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Photo credits: Tereza Nvotova, source: Facebook

Finally, to illustrate such a political action, which resulted into emotional discussion and pointless worries, let´s take a look on following example. In previous weeks, a great story, which illustrates the conflict between our natural humanity and groundless fear, happened in a refugee camp in southern Slovakia. In the town, where the camp is located, a local referendum about immigrants was held. Over 90% of the participating residents declared to be against placing immigrants in the camp. Disregarding the results of the referendum, some immigrants have been accommodated in the camp. The first fear was overcome by curiousness. Some people were stopping by the camp, watching the newcomers and sometimes having a small talk with them. No riots or other problems have been noticed. In my opinion, this is a great example of how prejudice and stereotypes can be outdone. It is just a small step, but still gives me a hope that people won´t let the government and intolerant extremist people to manipulate them and they will save their humanity and share it.

Article by: Dominika Vadurova
Edited by: Stefan Alijevikj

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