About MIG Talks by Caitlyn Lee
The dominant focus on asylum-related migration can shield the actual scale and nature of immigration. Taking this into consideration, the Swedish migration office, Migrationsverket, formed a communications initiative to present the people behind migration statistics. The purpose of establishing MIG Talks is to shy away from the conventional discourse around migration and instead make accessible a tangible representation of what migration in Sweden looks like. MIG Talks creates awareness of the reasons behind migration policies and integration issues by acting as a platform for individuals’ voices and stories.
MIG Talks was launched in March of 2016 with the plan of interviewing and exposing the stories and perspectives of 100 newcomers to Sweden. They release and promote two stories weekly through their website and Facebook group. MIG Talks also hosts a thematic series of discussions between representatives from partner organizations and several newcomers of different backgrounds. Some of these collaborators include the Nordic Museum, the Red Cross, the Stockholm Public Library, and the Swedish Film Institute. By arranging discussions for societal actors, MIG Talks hopes to contribute to a more nuanced and inclusive public debate on migration issues.
In addition to hosting discussions, MIG Talks has also promoted an exchange program whereby participants from partner organizations trade places with newcomers living in asylum accommodation for up to 6 months. The goal of this project is to share perspectives in areas in which participating individuals would not otherwise have access. This gives newcomers the opportunity to understand the environment of Swedish organizations and gives employees of those institutions the chance to empathize with the position that asylum seekers are put in. The exchange also serves as an organized activity for asylum seekers to partake in while they wait months or years for a decision on their residence permit. Lisa Söderlindh, Communications Manager at MIG Talks, said “this exchange is a valuable experience where both parties have equal benefits of learning from one another.”
The main objective for MIG Talks is to share information about migration in Sweden and open up the discussion to those who have experience in it. According to a study by the UNHCR, 50% of Swedish media reporting on migration gives voice to governmental policy making, rather than the immigrants who directly experience the implications. The discussion is often focused on what to do with mass numbers of migrants, rather than why people immigrate to Sweden. Migrationsverket said that seven out of ten people who receive residence permits come to Sweden voluntarily, for family reunification, studies, or for work. The other three out of ten seek asylum in Sweden.
By creating a spotlight and sharing real, personal experiences, MIG Talks hopes to shift the discussion to include stories and facts from Swedish newcomers themselves.
All images © MIG Talks.