Migratory BirdsThe Migratory Birds is a newspaper that 15 Afghan refugees founded while working with the Network for Children’s Rights Center in Athens, Greece. The paper’s mission is to report the situations and the lives of refugees within the youth center. Refugees have always lacked a voice in the media, which led to Migratory Birds’ goal of providing them with one. Operating out a youth center in Athens, many journalists spanning many different countries and origins are coming together to share the stories of those whose hasn’t been shared before.

Refugee-Led Initiative in Greece

Migratory Birds, a bi-product of the Young Journalists program, which, “boasts a bi-monthly circulation of 13,000″ is the only still standing initiative in Greece that refugees are reading, according to The World.

Each issue of Migratory Birds has articles that consist of first-hand accounts about life as a refugee. This, among others, includes love poems refugees write and recipes for traditional dishes from the author’s home country. The local distribution route of Migratory Birds goes to refugee camps and various humanitarian organizations all throughout Greece.

Founding Voices

Mahdia Hosseini, 28 and Fatima Sedaghat, 16, are the founders of Migratory Birds and work at the Network for Children’s Rights Youth Center in Athens, Greece. These two met in a refugee camp called Schisto, which is also located in Athens. They, along with 13 other refugees, founded the newspaper because they wanted to change the way the mainstream media represents refugees and migrants, The World reports.

The main motivator behind the project was the fear that refugees felt when talking to journalists. A fear that came from not having their stories shown to the world in a proper manner. The goal of the publication is to “empower the social integration of adolescent and young refugees and fight xenophobia.” The publication dedicates itself to the principles of journalism, promoting conversations across a variety of cultures and helping young people express themselves.

Operating from a youth center based in Kolonos, a neighborhood within Athens, the mission of Migratory Birds is to share the truth regarding the lives of refugees in the Schisto camp, “their fears and frustrations and hopes and dreams,” according to The World.

First-Hand Accounts

Hosseini has a desire to show the world who refugees truly are because she feels that most people don’t possess a true understanding of refugees. “I think we needed to be heard and for people to understand us, I mean refugees and migrants,” she said to The World.

The freedom of speech, an essential right to all but especially to these aspiring journalists was an opportunity provided by Migratory Birds. The newspaper gave these refugees something that wasn’t available in their home countries. Abdul Rashid, a 16-year-old refugee from Afghanistan and a member of Migratory Birds said that he’s happy that he gets to write about what he experienced during migration without fear, The World reports.

Morteza, who is a member of the Young Journalists team, described the way that mainstream media often covers refugee stories. “Eventually what comes out is often the story of the ‘miserable refugee.’ I think this is unfair. That is why I participate in the Newspaper ‘Migratory Birds.’ We write our own stories, we get to know the world and we give people the opportunity to get to know us better,” he said.

The Problem

Exactly how does the media represent refugees? Social psychology defines the “identifiable victim effect,” as people interacting differently with words and images that depict the struggles of a single person rather than groups of people.

Western media commonly represents refugees as “anonymous, faceless masses.” The result of this depiction is the audience feeling detached from the hardships the subject has to face. According to The Conversation, a recent study showed pictures of refugees to almost 4,000 Europeans. After showing them images of large groups or images where they cannot identify the individual, viewers showed increased desensitization of the refugees at that point. Some of the responses from the test subjects revealed that they felt refugees are a crisis in the countries that they journey to.

Migratory Birds seeks to share the whole truth regarding the lives of the refugees living within camps in Athens, Greece. Due to a lack of a proper voice in mainstream media, Migratory Birds took the mission of providing them with one onto themselves. By bringing together journalists that come from various backgrounds and cultures, the publication desires to give refugees proper and genuine representation, so the world can know what life as a refugee is truly like.

– Henry Hyman
Photo: Flickr