Citizens Of Nowhere

“One in every fifty human beings – more than 150 million persons live outside of their countries of origin as migrants or refugees. They are highly vulnerable to racism, xenophobia, and discrimination. But even when their movement is legal and authorized, non-citizens face high levels of discrimination.”

Have you ever been at a job interview and at some point you were asked whether you are a citizen? Have you ever tried participating in a national competition and on the form, you read “only for citizens”? Have you ever been in a situation where you showed your naturalized ID and they still look you blank in the eyes and call you a foreigner?

I could go on and on, however, what many forget is that every human is somehow a migrant descendant. People tend to downplay these subtle discriminations that foreigners go through daily everywhere around the world, the simple fact that you have to constantly justify your origins over and over again says it all. For those of us living far away from our homeland due to one reason or another, if there are many questions that we dread and it makes us feel uncomfortable before answering, it’s the ultimate: “Are you a citizen?” If yes, the following inquiry will be to know if you are citizen A or B (a way to differentiate natives from naturalized.) Why hesitate when asked the latter question, because you know for sure in some cases your answer decides whether you get a yes or no.

First, let’s define the word migrant, then look at the many reasons as to why people migrate in the first place. The international organization for migration (IOM) defines a migrant as, “A person who moves away from their place of usual residence, whether within a country or across an international border, temporally or permanently, and for a variety of reasons.” The organization also has migration categorized based on statistics as the following: Labor migration (164 million in 2017), Forced migration or displacement (70.8 million in 2018), Human trafficking, and modern slavery (25 million in 2016) Environmental migration (17.2 million in 2018).

Early human migratory movements can be traced as far back as when the first homo sapiens appeared in Africa, however, these movements are triggered by so many other factors based on the era and time frame we are talking about … The massive 21st century movements are usually due to three major factors such as push, pull & obstacles:

Push factors are conditions (lack of opportunities, poverty, war, Instability…) that forces people to leave their homes and move somewhere new for better living conditions while Pull factors on the other hand as the word indicates are conditions existing on the other side that attracts the migrant such as job opportunities and the better economy last but not the least, Obstacles, they are what the journey entails such as violence, possible death, diseases due to poor sanitary conditions.

Secondly, being a migrant is not always by choice, although some cases might be. Most of the time, people find themselves facing situations that are way beyond their control and all that can be done is just to go as far away as possible. Migrants go through so many ordeals as foreigners. They find themselves at a high disadvantage in the host countries such as the communication barriers, cultural barriers, difficulties getting a proper job without a work permit, filing for documentation to be legal, difficulties accessing health services, children facing bullying in school due to their differences… There’s a total readaptation that happens once at the destination, finding it hard to readjust to the new environment meanwhile others fit in just fine.

Finally, citizens tend to have several prejudices as to why migrants are the problem, to name a few: …they are the reasons behind the rising crime rates, expensive housing & schooling, increasing population, lack of jobs … They are quick to dismiss the possible idea of benefits that migrants bring to their country.

As bittersweet as this may sound, migration does have its pros and cons, only that people often choose the bad and bring it upfront at any given time. To name a few: some of The pros of hosting migrants are as follows:

Diversity and richer culture

Reduction in a labor shortage, especially for countries with an old population

They often take the low paid jobs that most citizens turn down

They pay taxes


Nadjath Akanni

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