- The Federation of Migrants of the European Union (FORUM) is a non-profit Spanish association located in the city of Seville, Andalusia founded en 2001.
- According to the Spanish National Statistics Institute (INE), in 2018 618,791 foreigners were registered, representing 7.4% of the total population of Andalusia.
- FORUM promotes the participation and presence of ethnic minorities in the political, economic and cultural life of Andalusian society. Therefore, the association is defined as a place where “everyone has a place, where equality and respect for differences are promoted”.
- To achieve this, the organization sensitizes the population and carries out training actions and projects of cooperation for development.
Norberto Masa Akapo, FORUM’s coordinator in Andalusia, spoke with Words Heal the World in Spain.
Norberto Masa Akapa was born 62 years ago in the island of Fernando Poo in the African Atlantic, today known as Spanish Guinea (or Equatorial Guinea). Already settled in Spain, he presided over the Collective Cultural Association of Independent Immigrants for ten years; he was director of “El Colectivo”, the first newspaper made from the perspective of diversity and migration; and is co-founder of the Platform of Immigrants in Andalusia and the Federation of Migrants of the European Union in Andalusia.
What are the main actions carried out by FORUM?
“Right now, for example, we have a project underway that is called” Rostro” (Face) that focuses on the visualization of Andalusian diversity. Andalusia is not a single skin color, history is telling us. Andalusia is several skin colors and several ways of seeing things.”
To whom the FORUM provides assistance?
“FORUM serves all people, it is not an entity that is exclusively dedicated to the immigrant population, no. (…) We serve all the people who come and who have any idea or project, need some particular support to the Federation as aids to courses or other social outlets that we have here.
FORUM does not work with a specific nationality or immigrants exclusively, we serve the Spanish population. An entity dedicated exclusively to the immigrant population would be an excluding entity, and we believe entities should not be exclusive but opened to all people and all needs that can be met at that time. Why? Because the projects change, we do not always do the same thing since most of them are financed and this means that we work more on those that are approved.”
So, anyone, even not being an immigrant, can go to FORUM?
“Anyone. The example is in the course that ended a week or ten days ago, where there are people of all nationalities and also native people.
Our attention will never be just for the next immigrant person. Let’s suppose a Spanish person comes and asks us for help, and we deny it. What will this gentleman or lady think? It would be exclusive. We believe all entities, whether immigrants or not, must work for the entire population in general. It is the only formula that makes people know each other and at the same time it helps the visualization of the other.
Isn’t it normal for a person from any Spanish city to be treated in a store by another person who is not originally from this country? That is normal. Therefore, in the political sense when politicians talk about immigration, it is often not immigration but Andalusian diversity. There is an error, which really is not a mistake since politicians know what they say and what they do.”
INTEGRATION AND THE ANDALUSIAN VOICE DURING ELECTIONS
Finally, Masa Akapo also addresses the last elections in Andalusia in which a right-wing party, Vox, won an important victory.
“Politicians provoke situations of inequality to then be able to say that they have taken steps towards diversity, and it is not true. Let us talk, which is what a politician has to do. Let diversity speaks, not them. Not talking about us from their mouths, because you cannot be hungry from someone else’s stomach.
Currently, we reflect what needs to be done, for example, with the Vox theme. Vox is not a problem for the immigrant population, nor will it ever be. […] Vox is a political party without information and without government. Vox is not our problem, our problem is the system, which is uneven. Now they tell us that the lion is coming, but who was taking care of the flock? It was a wolf. ”
STUDENTS SUPPORTING MIGRANTS
Interested in the immigrant community, the Social Education student María Padilla Muñoz decided to have an experience with this community, working as an intern at the FORUM.
“Here we teach courses and we also create awareness posters, we serve users who ask us for help with food, legal aid, training, curriculum vitae, and job offers.
Recently we finished a course of Geriatric Assistant to the immigrant community. The theory has already been given and now the participants are in day care centers and residences carrying out the practical part of the course. ”
Why is an organization like FORUM important?
“People who need resources often go to the FORUM. Either because they do not have access to different types of papers – for example, a person recently came asking for the Law of Dependence – or they come asking for information to train or get food aid.
Right now it has been seeing that there is very little empathy with immigrants and the existence of a place where they feel welcomed and protected is very important. There they find the support of the foundation. ”
At the FORUM I also met a social work student from the Pablo de Olavide University in Seville. Paula Marchena Berjarano is interested in the immigrant community in view of the current social response to the migratory situation in Spain.
“When someone comes to the FORUM for help, they always feel very grateful for the minimal help you can give them, and I like that a lot. Help as much as you can, even if it is to listen to that person, and refer her to the lawyer or whatever she needs. They are very grateful people.
I have been at the FORUM teaching the course of Geriatric Assistant and the Occupational Therapy module. The practical part consists of coordinating, filling in agreements, etc., and we also carry awareness posters and some radio spots. ”
What function does the radio have in FORUM?
“On Radio [FORUM] there is a program dedicated to issues related to immigrants that is quite interesting because society does not know much about the real situation of these people and it is a way for people to listen to us and know a little more about the situation of the collective.
An organization like FORUM is important because the collective of immigrants is the order of the day, as well as the issue of refugees, etc. There are so many people who left their country seeking a better life, that from here we give our bit to help these people. I think it is very necessary, especially nowadays, due to the problems they have faced. ”
By Paula Rubio (Spain)