ICTJ Writing Contest Invites Young Migrants to Share Their Stories


Overseas Writing Contest - English Poster

New York, September 18, 2023—The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) is pleased to announce the “Overseas: Writing Contest,” an open call for young migrants originally from or currently residing in Lebanon, Libya, or Tunisia to share their personal experiences of migration in the form of a short, written testimony.

Lebanon has grappled with unending political gridlock and economic turmoil since the country’s 15-year civil war ended in 1990. People’s hopes for a decent life dashed, countless Lebanese have left the country and now live abroad. “The multiple crises in Lebanon, the failure of the political system and the slim hope for change, have forced young people to leave their homeland longing for a better life and desperate to find opportunities, safety, and a sense of security abroad. Unfortunately, many young people are also forced into irregular migration exposing themselves to risks and threats. This contest will allow young migrants to recount their stories of migration. It will also help shed light on the root causes of migration and its impact on migrants and their families,” explains Nour El Bejjani, Head of ICTJ’s Lebanon program.

Libyans have been fleeing their country in droves seeking safety and opportunities, ever since it descended into violent conflict in 2011. “A huge number of Libyans left their country to look for a better life but the country itself has become a temporary shelter for thousands of refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers fleeing war and poverty.  What is seen as a solution for migrants is perceived as crisis from others; multiple restrictive measures have been put in place are pushing people to risk their lives to leave Libya through the Mediterranean Sea, making that body of water the deepest cemetery of migrants’ dreams and aspirations over the past decade. We hope that this contest will highlight different perspectives of regular and irregular migration, the crisis and the solutions,” says Reem El Gantri, Head of ICTJ’s Libya program.

Innumerable Tunisians left during Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s 23-year dictatorship, but as the 2011 revolution that toppled him began failing to deliver on its promises and as the country backslid into consecutive political and economic crises, many others soon followed. “We hope that the Overseas writing contest reveals the invisible side of migration in Tunisia and other countries where people could have been an engine of change instead of just numbers crossing the sea or individuals struggling to find themselves a place in a country that is not originally theirs,” explains Salwa El Gantri, ICTJ Senior Expert.

The Overseas writing contest will help explain and give a human face to the cold numbers that statistics are made of. It aims to encourage young migrants to come forward and to use storytelling as a powerful tool to make their voices heard and their perspectives and demands known. This contest aims to spotlight some of these stories of either regular or irregular migration. It invites young people originally from or currently residing in Lebanon, Libya, or Tunisia, up to 35 years old, and who have left their home countries for political or socioeconomic reasons to share an original written piece about their migration experience, the challenges they have been facing, and their hopes for themselves and their own countries.

Those who wish to apply should submit a completed application form by October 18, 2023. Submissions will be evaluated by a jury of distinguished writers, artists, and human rights advocates based on their creativity, originality, and potential to trigger relevant and meaningful reflection, debate, and change.  Following the contest, winners will be invited to an international conference organized by ICTJ that will bring together policymakers and experts to discuss migration and its close relationship to human rights violations.

These testimonies can inspire, inform, and influence public and policy debates around migration and its root causes, and it can stimulate change and contribute to impactful solutions to the political and socioeconomic problems that forced individuals to leave their countries of origin in the first place. Together with other justice-related initiatives, these testimonies can help pave the way for needed political change and institutional and legislative reforms.