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The Erasmus+ Programme is touted as being more open to people from disadvantaged backgrounds than any of its predecessors. In the Programme Guide[1], it was explicitly acknowledged that youth work, non-formal learning activities, and volunteering can significantly contribute to address the needs of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants. In the 2016 Annual Report[2] published in November 2017, it was reported that in the first 3 years of Erasmus+, over 56,000 disadvantaged participants in higher education took part in mobility activities. In 2016, 41% of the 104,000 participants of youth exchanges and more than 30% of the European Voluntary Service (EVS) participants are young people with fewer opportunities.

What does this mean in practical terms? When structural racism is an undeniable fact in European societies (Finland being no exception), what do these numbers really reflect on closer inspection?

In trying to address their needs, how many of these programmes actually involved refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants –who are often racialised– throughout the entire process, from planning through to implementation and evaluation? Are these groups of people only ever the recipients of “help” from the white saviours? Are they rightly acknowledged as experts of their own lives, in addition to having professional expertise and skills outside of their situational identities?

In Finland, there are research which posits that in addition to racism often remaining unrecognised in schools, social work and youth work, highlighting racism is also often considered as problematic by youth workers. This might mean that youth work, among other education institutions, offers only minimal support for racialised youths when dealing with experiences of racism.[3] In light of this, it is not unreasonable to question the inclusiveness of international youth work activities.

Amiirah Salleh-Hoddin

The writer is RKI’s training officer for antiracism and equality

[1] Erasmus+ Programme Guide. Published by the European Commission.

[2] Erasmus+ Annual Report 2016. Published by the European Commission.

[3] Kivijärvi, A., & Heino, E. (2013). Ethnic minority youth and youth work in Finland: everyday anti-racism engendering empowering conditions. Empowering Social Work: Research and Practice, 222.

Souto, A. (2011). Everyday Racism in School. An Ethnographic Study of Group Relations between Finnish and Immigrant Youths.

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