To mark International Migrants Day, we are pleased to welcome a blog from the team preparing new IFLA Guidelines on Library Services to Refugees, Immigrants, Migrants and Asylum Seekers. We encourage all libraries to fill in the survey on this.
272 million people around the world, according to the statistics of the International Organisation for Migration, are migrants. One in ten people in developed countries are foreign-born.
They are working to build new lives and livelihoods for themselves in other countries, often far from home, leaving behind danger, poverty or discrimination. With the effects of climate change, the phenomenon of displacement linked to extreme or changing weather patterns is set to become more and more common (see this report from the Environmental Justice Foundation, or the work of the UN High Commission for Refugees on the topic).
Yet migration has always been a feature of human life and society, contributing to the emergence and spread of ideas, technologies and progress, and the development of the communities in which they settle. Yet successful migration is not just a given. Newcomers need support and opportunities to integrate.
This stretches from both the first weeks and months, when migrants can find themselves in a very foreign country, with few resources and references. But it also stretches over time, with women from immigrant background in particular at risk of facing lower employment rates (OECD).
When this happens, the potential of migrants is wasted. Social and economic divides, left unclosed, risk turning into political ones.
Libraries Can – And Should – Act!
This makes the case for action strong. And libraries can and should help, just as they have long helped local populations for years, through providing the spaces and skills to enjoy meaningful access to information and participation in cultural and scientific life. Crucially, as democratic places, they address everyone.
Many libraries around the world have started to design and offer services to migrants, based on their needs and aiming at their inclusion in the society they chose to settle in.
Thanks to this energy, there are many great ideas and services out there which could inform and inspire others. IFLA and the Goethe Institut have therefore decided to join forces in order to bring the experience together and turn it into international guidelines for Library Services to Refugees, Immigrants, Migrants and Asylum Seekers.
Surveying – and Sharing – Practices
To do this, an international and multi-disciplinary team has been created. This team wants to make these Guidelines as helpful as possible to all types of libraries serving communities with refugees, immigrants, migrants and asylum seekers.
To do this they have launched a global survey with a deadline of 22 December 2019. This survey aims to gather examples of services, how they are developed, staff responses, and what cooperative alliances exist to deliver these services.
We therefore encourage all libraries around the world to respond, even if they provide only limited services. Your contributions will help libraries ensure better services, and outcomes from migration, both for migrants and the communities that welcome them.