ETP Slovakia PhotoVoice team met 16 persons interested in the integration of TCN in Kosice on Wednesday, 25 July 2018. Participants of various origin - coming from the Ukraine, the U.S., India and Slovakia were asked to recall and share situations experienced in Kosice as a multicultural city where foreigners settle – to study, find a better or a unique job opportunity. Others are asylum seekers or wish to unite their families, etc.

All these people have to go through various official procedures as well as numerous invisible personal experiences that help them to succeed in the integration procedure on the local level. Some of the situations are easy, others not at all.

By means of pictures we tried to illustrate how the public spaces, public services, social & cultural facilities and the city atmosphere help TCN to integrate. The PhotoVoice team consisted of young people - students, volunteers, NGO and media representatives, members of religious groups, psychologists and other professionals. The pictures taken are diverse, some of them describe how the public transportation works, they show issues linked to usage of the local language only. Some photos show cultural events and their posters taking into consideration an international audience they wish to attract, other posters are only in Slovak. Certain images show safe and well maintained public spaces, public initiatives of some minorities/communities (activities of some communities are hidden), missing information in the premises of public institutions, attitudes towards TCN and so on.

At the end we put together a blend of feelings, personal experiences and opinions about real integration process in Kosice. A selection of pictures from this event (and previous PhotoVoice + City walk event held on 26 June) and their interpretation will be incorporated into the Kosice Audit Report and will be used for the development of the City Integration Agenda.

At the end of June (26. June 2018) and at the end of July (25. July 2018) ETP prepared two city walks in Kosice. First city walk (people divided into smaller groups) started right after we finished Focus Group meeting, and the second one after PhotoVoice workshop, so participants could reflect on thoughts from previous discussions. We talked about places with potential of higher concentration of TCN. Kosice is the second largest city in Slovakia (around 250 000 inhabitants) and there is roughly 2% of TCN (about 5 000 people).

TCN are scattered among the majority population and there are actually no specific zones or streets, which would be typical for TCN or specific migrant community. Typically, at universities/some secondary schools, dorms and their premises there is higher concentration of foreign students and teachers (incl. TCN). However, at the time when city walks were held, the semester had already finished and majority of them were not present at these places. Naturally, we could meet some TCN around stations, in the city centre, but those were mostly tourists.

Results of the questionnaire-based survey highlighted some topics, which need more attention, e.g.:
       • Availability and access to information and advice at public offices, considering the particular language needs or specific status of an individual.
       • The city itself (public offices) does not provide any services to migrants through one-stop shops, online portal or cultural mediation.
       • Public rental housing appear as one of the biggest challenges, as commercial housing is rather expensive. Many TCN who (especially at the beginning) suffer from the language barrier or lower qualification hardly get well-paid high-level jobs. The city has only limited number of social housing, which appears as highly insufficient.
       • City-supported initiatives and community-wide events, which encourage intercultural dialogue and exchange between different city communities in the host society, were evaluated as partly working. However, most of them are not initiated by the city. City provides just formal or financial support.
       • Respondents also haven`t noticed any public communication initiated by the city which would target positive or negative image of migrants in the city (publications, website, press releases, interviews, public statements, public campaign). Actually this is connected with the missing local strategy of the TCN integration.

The positive evaluation can be shortly summarized as following:
       • At Adlerova street (“Furca” residential area), there is an apartment building with social housing and five flats are inhabited by TCN families (asylum seekers or people with subsidiary protection status). Other TCN live all around the city, so the city does not suffer from spatial segregation of TCN communities.
       • Most of TCN come from Ukraine, Vietnam and China and their reasons for settling in Kosice are mostly economic. Step by step they integrate into society, they work, run own businesses or study. So far, there have been no known security incidents related to presence of TCN.
       • Public transport is safe, affordable, reliable and frequent, including at nights and on weekends, it includes also announcements in English, trams were reconstructed recently.
       • The city provides formal or financial support for TCN/migrant self-organizations, capacity building and activities – if there are any. This is currently relevant more for “traditional” minorities’ organizations (Hungarians, Ruthenians, Ukrainians, Roma…), but as Kosice has always been a multicultural city, there is a will and tradition to promote cultural exchange.

This project is funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund

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