Middle East

Helping Arab and Palestinian refugees integrate into Chile

Historically, Chile has always been a destination for global migration, currently hosting around one million Arab refugees, many of whom cannot return to their countries of origin. Refugees often wait months, or even years, before receiving language training and other forms of integration support. It is not only the government looking to support refugees’ integration: employers, immigrant associations, community organisations and unions all play a role. Among the institutions serving immigrant communities is the Baladi Foundation, founded and tailored to address the needs of refugees in society.

The Baladi Foundation was established by a group of friends who felt the need to connect with Arab and Palestinian families arriving in Chile with no links to others in society. The foundation’s objective is to protect the rights and promote the social welfare of the migrant population in Chile by implementing government policies, developing mentorship programmes, expanding refugees’ skills and welcoming newcomers to the community.

Daniela Hadwah, communication director of the Baladi Foundation, explains: “In Chile, there are large migratory waves yearly, coming mainly from neighbouring countries. So, the families who arrive in smaller masses are even more unprotected because they are not visible in society. That is why Baladi was born, with the idea of shaking hands with these people and making them believe they can also find a home in Chile. For us, we can learn from their rich culture too.”

The Baladi Foundation hosts activities to promote social and cultural integration, helping the employability of migrants. “The Baladi Foundation’s mission is to promote the economic and social well-being of Arab immigrants and Palestinians refugees in Chile through three pillars: the promotion of social life in their new place, the strengthening of their work capacity and the cultural integration between immigrants and society,” Hadwah indicates.

For The Baladi Foundation, integration into society is very important as it allows citizens to respect other cultures while creating a sense of unity within a community. Individuals that partake in multiple groups gain resources from various cultures, expand their horizons and create an atmosphere of respect and appreciation for others.

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Different refugee communities require varying levels of support. For example, language proficiency is a key factor in immigrant integration. It increases job opportunities and facilitates social and political participation. However, despite its vital importance, many immigrants never reach adequate proficiency in the host country’s language. To remedy this, the Baladi Foundation initiated a Spanish course and reinforced studies with recreational and cultural exchange activities with the support of various organisations, such as the Adolfo Ibañez University and others. “In the case of Arab families, they have a language barrier. Therefore, Baladi offers Spanish courses to them. This course is accompanied by recreational activities for children and adults to promote social and cultural inclusion,” Hadwah explains.

Chile is home to the largest, and one of the oldest, Palestinian communities outside the Arab world. Almost half a million people of Palestinian origin reside there, out of a total population of 18 million. The Baladi Foundation takes care of the Palestinian community in Chile, and any new Palestinian refugees from around the world. Hadwah explains: “Palestinians have greater cultural and religious differences in addition to language, which makes them face more difficulties than others in Chilean society. In addition, it is considered one of the largest communities here, so their engagement with the people of their community is more frequent than with the Chilean community.”

The Baladi Foundation is continuously in contact with Palestinian organisations in Chile that play an important role in promoting Palestinian voices in the Chilean community and outside the country. The Baladi Foundation, in cooperation with these organisations, educates people in Chile about the violation of Palestinian rights in the occupied land. “Hand in hand, we are working to intensify awareness of the Palestinian cause. These efforts can help generate significant international pressure, and it is the only thing that can save Palestine from constant abuses,” Hadwah expresses.

Today, with the increasing persecution from the occupying forces in the land of Palestine and the increasing number of Palestinian refugees around the world, there is a need for foundations like Baladi to boost the morale of Palestinian youth and raise awareness of the Palestinian cause abroad.

“As long as the situation in Palestine is not dignified, we will be prepared to receive all Palestinians who migrate to Chile. We will make all efforts to do better for all refugees in Chile,” Hadwah concludes.

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