A l’occasion de l’anniversaire de la journée mondiale des réfugiés et du 60ème anniversaire de la Convention de 1951 sur le statut des réfugiés, la Commission des migrations, des réfugiés et de la population de l’APCE et la Direction Jeunesse et Sport du Conseil de l’Europe ont organisé en collaboration avec le Haut-Commissariat des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés (UNHCR) une bibliothèque vivante. Celle-ci fonctionnait exactement comme une bibliothèque traditionnelle, à savoir que des « lecteurs », notamment les membres de l’Assemblée parlementaire, pouvaient emprunter un « livre » pour une durée de 20 minutes. Seule différence : ces livres étaient des êtres humains - en l’occurrence, il s’agissait de réfugiés, demandeurs d’asile et apatrides, ou de professionnels travaillant avec les réfugiés, qui apporteront leur témoignage. Les phrases suivantes reflètent les sentiments des participants après cette expérience.   On the occasion of the anniversary of the World Refugee Day and the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention, the PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population and the Directorate of Youth and Sport will organised in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) a Living Library. The latter will functioned exactly as a traditional library, that is to say “readers”, notably Assembly members but also Council of Europe staff members and visitors could borrow “books” for 20 minutes. The only difference was that in the Living Library books were human beings - in this case, the “books” were refugees, asylum-seekers and professionals working directly with refugees, who will bring their testimony. The following comments reflect the feelings of all those who participated.

A l’ensemble des partenaires qui ont organise cette très symbolique “bibliothèque vivante”, permettant de mesurer en direct les difficultés quotidiennes auxquelles sont confrontés les réfugiés.

What an excellent initiative !! The book I chose was French but with excellent understanding of English and in the space of twenty minutes I obtained a first hand account of what it is like to work in a refugee centre in Hagenau, outside of Strasbourg. We were able to discuss the background to the refugees, the routes that they take to reach Europe and the reasons for choosing Strasbourg as a destination. My overwhelming impression what that France is much more sympathetic and accommodating to refugees and deals with the situation far more compassionately than is portrayed in the media. Many thanks to book No. 10.

Very useful initiative ! To be confronted with individual experiences helps to change perspectives on refugee issues.

It was the first time I could discuss with someone from Ingushetia and see how after almost two decades the experience of becoming a displaced person and then a refugee is still difficult even if accompanied by a great deal of confidence for the future. Informative, touching and much appreciated 20 minutes of someone else’s life.

Une très belle initiative qui donne toute sa dimension humaine à la situation des réfugiés et nous éloigne fort heureusement de la description de ce phénomène en termes de chiffres, de statistiques. Revenons à l’humain.

Rencontre très impressionnante qui fait réfléchir…

J’étais particulièrement touché par l’image du caméléon que représente la personnalité multiple d’une personne qui est réfugiée et les difficultés qu’une personne qui était obligée de quitter son pays doit affronter dans un pays européen… Grand challenge d’intégration, grand effort de solidarité, rencontre humainement enrichissante !

La vie est faite de rencontres, toujours enrichissantes. Parler avec les autres, qu’ils soient réfugiés ou autres, c’est la beauté de ce travail.

Life seldom allows you to take the time to just listen to another person’s story, partly because of refugees as a group often being far away from mainstream society, partly because we’re too busy with all kinds of other things. Thanks to the living library I got to spend some time with an incredibly strong woman, reminding me of the importance to keep fighting for whatever you believe in, and making me wonder whether not most things are possible, after all. A great inspiration to keep up the good work of the youth sector in the field of inclusion & human rights!

A very helpful meeting – thank you for making it possible and keeping us well informed.

It’s a great opportunity to meet people you wouldn’t have met, to learn and to experience beyond reading a newspaper. 20 minutes, however, is short!

An original and wonderful idea to get to learn each other and to hear first hand about the situations the refugees left. Merci beaucoup

Fascinating to find out more about Iraq and about different minorities, militias, and experiences of claiming asylum. Good luck in taking exams in October!

A very humanistic and at the same time emotional meeting with a book. Thanks so much. Just great.

An interesting project which could be repeated in various places.

A very innovative and interesting chance to get a different input on things?

If the Council of Europe have seen my best experience as senator, this opportunity have been my best experience in the Council of Europe. Thank you so much !

A very interesting initiative. Best wishes!

Gracias por la experiencia de hablar con los refugiados y apartidas. Maravillosa y humana sensación…

J’étais bien impressionnée par l’histoire du livre 3. Les gens sont forts. Merci pour cette magnifique expérience !

Brilliant ! Thanks a lot.

This was a very moving description of the difficulties of a refugee. Thank you very much.

Excellente initiative, très instructif, très intéressant. A refaire ! Merci

Thanks for this wonderful initiative and thanks to the brave lady who shared her difficult story with me.

Idée excellente. Mise en œuvre un peu critiquable. Résultat tout de même excellent.

Je trouve que cette bibliothèque est une très bonne idée. Il faudrait plus de temps pour lire tous ces « livres ».

Fantastic idea ! I borrowed a wonderful book and was truly entlightened. Thanks for organizing this.

Thank you very much for listening stories of your “books”. That was an amazing idea!

Thank you very much for such experience! I think that this library is worth to be open to a wider society in order people would become more familiar with problems that refugees/ immigrants faces. I hope that politicians are also involved into this initiative. Wish you to bring this library to as many places as possible!

I want to thank my “book” for opening her heart and her life story to me, for sharing her experiences, her concerns and her hopes. It was enriching and helpful and gave me food for though!

Initiative très intéressante, à renouveler ! Merci à mon « livre » – irano suédois – livre n°18 qui est la preuve vivante que les préjugés sont nombreux et tenaces. Best wishes, bonne continuation.

Un iniziative molto interessante. Peccato che sta durata solo 20 minuti : e stato troppo poco per leggere il nostro ‘best seller’.

This was an excellent initiative. I had a very interesting conversation, and learned a great deal “behind the scenes”. We need to understand the human side of such situations.

For the memory of this occasional meeting and how wonderful an experience it was. Hoping that it takes effects and that people start to realise that a refugee is someone who lost everything and has no place to go or to hide.
Living in Europe gave us and evidence of humanity. Hoping also one day, there will be no refugees and people start respecting human rights and leave in peace.

Je trouve que c’est une excellente initiative qui est très visible et qui permet de voir des gens concrets qui ont vécu ce problème.

I was recruited to act as a dictionary at the living library – a very interesting experience. I also borrowed two – in fact four - books, an their story moved me very much. This is certainly a good exercise to get rid of prejudices.

Wonderful. It’s like to enter in someone else’s life, and have an insight perspective of such hard situation. And my book was really interesting, able to express her feelings and show her experience. Excellent initiative how to change our minds!

C’est un excellent concept! C’est la première fois que j’entends des témoignages dans le cadre d’un programme comme celui-ci. J’espère que ce concept va être confirmé !

Merci beaucoup pour cette expérience tellement unique et enrichissante qui j’espère continuera à se développer !

Thank you for organising this. I had a really eye-opening discussion.

C’est une initiative qui mérite d’être répétée. Vivement une réédition en Suisse !

Super idea, very tempted to take another book… but my book was an interesting story of courage and hope.

Je tiens à remercier tous les participants pour leur courage, leur histoire et leur patience. Ce fut un moment de bonheur et de plaisir d’entendre des grandes personnes partager leur passé. Je leur dis Bravo ! Et je vous encourage à continuer pour changer la situation de tous les réfugiés ! Merci

Merci de m’avoir donné la possibilité de rencontrer une personne si intéressante.

A great pleasure to hear “from the horse’s mouth” about life for migrants and refugees here in Strasbourg, my home town – I learned a lot! Working, as I do, with much paper (documents, reports) and often with abstract concepts and theories, it was extremely interesting to connect this up with real lives, real stories and individual experiences. An excellent initiative, which I hope can be repeated for other domains!

I have spoken with an interesting book that apparently had difficulties to have readers because physically it did not seem that he could be discriminated against (he was Caucasian, blue-eyed but “blackhead” as foreigners are called in Sweden). It was really interesting to speak with him. I thought it was quite a good idea the living library and it would be a good idea to extend it to other fields/persons.

The living library is an excellent initiative. Too often, words on pages fail to impact in the manner of a photo or picture. The living library is a continuous photo/picture and so very powerful. Being able to question, with respect, the “book” creates the ultimate “interactive” medium and should be expanded into colleges and schools. Go n’envi an bother libh!

The living library is a great idea! I’m very grateful for the experience it gave me. You should do that more often, maybe also at schools or universities. All the best!

It is sometimes hard to hear the truth, but this time – harder than most. It really makes me appreciate what I have and am part of. Thank you for a wonderful initiative. I would love to borrow more books. Till next time.

Parole de livre: Merci à mes lecteurs pour leur curiosité… J’ai essayé d’être le plus fidèle possible à la réalité des … de vie des mineurs étrangers isolés que j’accompagne – des jeunes du foyer Les Fougères, à 900 mètres d’ici, ambassadeurs d’espoir. Tänan väga !

La librairie vivante est une très bonne idée et une très bonne expérience pour les lecteurs. On attend d’autres évènements comme çà de la part du Conseil de l’Europe. Cà peut s’organiser peut-être dans d’autres grandes villes. Merci beaucoup et bonne continuation.

It is always better to listen to the people’s experience than just read. You can at least ask questions.

La bibliothèque vivante est pour moi une expérience inoubliable et à renouveler. C’est une contact direct entre les décideurs (parlementaires) et les acteurs du terrain.

L’idée d’une bibliothèque vivante me parait géniale. Le fait que les décideurs vont à la rencontre de la réalité des problèmes au lieu de toujours travailler avec les experts et les statistiques, permettra, je pense, d’orienter leurs décisions sur des portes plus utiles. L’expérience en tant que « livre vivant » fur très intéressante. J’avais l’impression que mes « lecteurs » s’intéressaient et n’étaient pas indifférents. Parfois çà ne m’a pas été facile d’aborder des points, mais le « truth telling » a toujours été un facteur important sur le chemin de la thérapie lorsqu’on a connu des souffrances morales. L’organisation était sympa, en plus !

The living library was a great experience that I had and learned a lot from my readers, despite the questions not easy to answer such as : “Will you call yourself a European or an African?” - I had to pause a bit and then the reader could continue to read the next page. As a book I was not damaged at all and II will be in the library until someone comes to borrow me again.

For my third and final book of the week I found out more about Rwanda and some of the history of the country. I understood better how being a refugee can follow you round like a cloak or even a dark shadow and even turn you into a double refugee! Many thanks to my book and all the books making up their rich library of humanity.

It was fascinating to hear the experiences of someone who works every day with asylum-seekers and refugees in desperate circumstances. I had not realised how many aspects of life could be problematic and how complicated it was to find lasting solutions. It was also very moving to hear about how people could change through the process of claiming asylum. It was enlightening to compare the experiences my ‘book’ described to what happens in my own country. I feel honored to have had this insight into such a valuable job.

L’entretien avec mon « livre » m’a profondément touché. J’ai eu l’occasion de connaître son pays l’an passé et notre rencontre m’a enrichit davantage. L’initiative mérite d’être renouvelée à la prochaine session.

The living library idea is a great one and could be – and should be – easily reproduced at local level all around the world that we may go back to a direct and personal way of hearing each others stories!

Notre mémoire est la boussole de notre vie et de la société que nous souhaitons bâtir.

Une expérience très enrichissante pour les livres et pour les lecteurs qui a attiré tant de monde d’horizons divers. Je pense que cette expérience restera gravée dans leurs esprits. Merci à tous !

It was a fascinating experience to hear about the experiences of persons who have had to leave their country and start a new life, or who work with minors. I would like to have more opportunities like this!