UNITES amplifies the voice of migrant people in Prague
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January 22, 2024

UNITES amplifies the voice of migrant people in Prague

January 22, 2024

Your therapist is AMIGA

Thirteen years ago, four women of Russian and Ukrainian origin founded Prague’s ground-breaking Agency for Migration and Adaptation (AMIGA).  Elena Tulupova, Viktoria Golovinova, Olena Beskid and Anastasia Stepanova were inspired to create the association because they realised the city did not offer mental health support for migrants. 

AMIGA’s support extends beyond consultations with psychologists, incorporating assistance from intercultural mediators who help address social issues. The non-profit created ‘Dumka,’ the first multidisciplinary mental health and social support centre for Ukrainian refugees in the Czech Republic, with support from the City of Prague and other organisations.

Credits: Carolina Picot | UNITES study visit in Prague @AMIGA

Despite initial challenges, AMIGA received crucial backing from the city’s local government, allowing them to launch the initiative and establish community centres at a special price. AMIGA addresses integration and conflict prevention by collaborating with the City of Prague, schools, and medical professionals. Beyond psychological services, AMIGA’s support programs cater to diverse age groups and backgrounds, offering individual mental health support, group activities, educational programs, and specialized assistance for specific groups, such as families with special needs and oncological patients.

Volunteers with an Accent,’ AMIGA’s oldest project, connects long-term migrants with tailored volunteer opportunities, fostering adaptation and integration. The organisation, evolving from a voluntary group, has become a significant player in migrant support, benefiting over 7,500 individuals since mid-2022. Internationally, AMIGA engages in projects focusing on youth empowerment, entrepreneurship, women, and migration-related art. In 2012, it became the first migrant-led organisation to join the Consortium of Migrant Assisting Organisations, an umbrella organisation of Czech NGOs working on migrant rights.

The voices of the unheard 

Natallia Allen, residing in Prague, aimed to address the absence of migrant voices in local participatory processes. Alongside four fellow citizens with migrant roots, she co-founded MigAct, the city’s first independent association focused on eliminating barriers and amplifying the voices of individuals with migrant backgrounds.

In collaboration with Prague City Hall, MigAct leads participatory events where people with migrant backgrounds contribute to shaping the city’s future. These events cover topics such as understanding the responsibilities of City Hall and discussions on the local integration action plan. The initiative seeks to gather valuable feedback through co-design techniques, aiding in developing a two-year action plan. MigAct’s activities target a broad audience of people with migrant backgrounds living in Prague. The organisation actively involves individuals with migrant backgrounds in its work. Last year, MigAct researched the challenges faced by residents with migrant backgrounds in the city, particularly in participation and civic engagement. The research revealed that many individuals are interested in being active but encounter various barriers hindering their access to institutions, organizations, or activities. These obstacles include language barriers, lack of information, unfamiliarity with the context, limited awareness of one’s rights, rejection, prejudice, and xenophobia.

Overcoming language barriers

The city of Prague makes it a priority to enhance accessibility for all visitors through its municipal website. Jan Janoušek, the City of Prague’s Specialist for the Integration of Foreigners, underscores the importance of informing migrants in the city through improved communication channels.

The city’s website and Facebook page are available in Czech, Russian, Ukrainian, English, and Vietnamese. The selection of languages is based on the demographics of the migrant population in the capital. Janoušek notes that these nationalities are the most numerous in Prague, intending to reach a wider audience and gather valuable feedback on the effectiveness of these multilingual channels. Acknowledging the diverse linguistic landscape of Prague’s migrant population, MigAct adopts a bilingual approach at its events, conducted in both Czech and English. Natallia Allen, associated with MigAct, explains that this approach aims to make events more accessible to people of various backgrounds.

The Ministry of the Interior reports 430,000 people with migration backgrounds in Prague. Still, the numbers are higher, considering non-registered EU citizens and those not officially residing in the city. Natallia Allen highlights the increased diversity among people with migrant backgrounds in Prague, many choose English as a connecting language due to its widespread use.

Recognising language as a barrier to participation, MigAct ran an acceleration programme to support non-profits and civil initiatives in overcoming this challenge. The programme, conducted mostly in English, focused on mentoring and educational activities, ensuring accessibility for multicultural teams. MigAct, shaped through discussions and community engagement, focuses on supporting civic and political participation among people with migrant backgrounds in Prague. The association’s core activities include capacity-building, networking, and education, providing a platform for citizens, institutional representatives, and NGO workers to connect and discuss common interests.

Janoušek underscores the importance of sustaining services for migrants, particularly considering the extended stays of many of them. The UNITES project in Prague is a testament to the city’s commitment to fostering a sense of community and assistance for migrants. By prioritising systematic collaboration, improving communication channels, and drawing on international experiences, the project aims to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for active migrants living in Prague. As the initiative evolves, it will seek to address challenges and continue its mission of enhancing the overall well-being of migrants in the city. Within the project, Prague has had the opportunity to learn from other cities like Athens and Bologna, sharing experiences, strategies, challenges, and successful implementations. This exchange has been particularly beneficial in shaping Prague’s response to the arrival of refugees from Ukraine.


Would you like to learn more about Prague’s work within UNITES? Read the full article here. 👇

A UNITES story: Amplifying the voice of migrants in Prague


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