Leaving your country and going to live in another is never easy, no matter the reasons why you do it. All the preparedness in the world cannot automatically supply you with a tough skin to face the cultural chock, the language barrier or the dreadful isolation (especially if you are already going alone).
With all the economical and environmental changes occurring in today's world, migration has reached one of its highest peaks. Migrants have to face not only the more or less difficult adaptation but also the weight of economical instability and even the whims of unpredictable weather.
A report on migration from the OECD (Policy Insights, 2006) states that“Migration is good for growth and poverty reduction (…) but it can also aggravate income inequality, cripple health and education systems”. Surely we have seen this occur in Europe, where the southern countries are facing the collapse of healthcare and educational systems due to the immense migration, while northern countries are creating new structures, not all of which are popular, to accommodate the immigration flux.
Adding to this is the underlying agitation of the receiving countries, where it is feared that jobs are being taken away from citizens, and that the invasion of too many cultures that will threaten their native cultural expression. This seems to be a common misconception in countries with high immigration numbers: immigrants are stealing “our” jobs and using “our” social services to live off the welfare state. However, according to Brain Keeley's article from the OECD Insights “The Impact of immigrants – it’s not what you think” (June, 2013), this idea could not be further from reality. Citing new research done by the organization, Keeley reports that the amount immigrants pay in taxes balances the benefits they receive - in another words, immigrants are just like everybody else.
This leads me to think the perception some people have of immigrants results from a mentality of scarcity associated with a perspective of “us” versus “them”. The common European sentiment of separation and dualistic view, of which I spoke about in my last article, may be a factor of the way the views of immigrants are shaped. Surely, cultures are different, habits diverge and some languages are easier to learn than others, but there must be some sort of similarity which can be found between natives and immigrants, some sort of familiarity that comes from being mostly European and fundamentally human.
In the report from the Migration Policy Institute Europe “Facing 2020: Developing a new European agenda for immigration and asylum policy” (2013), Elizabeth Collet advises European institutions and countries to revise their immigration policies in order to better serve both natives and immigrants. She urges the European Union to connect with its citizens in a real sense, by improving the flow of objective demographic and economical information, working along with local governments as well as with the private sector, to reconsider the immigrants' position in European society. Collet stresses the need to present more than statistics: human stories, to remind how increasingly important the way immigrants are treated is, as the inflow of population from other continents into Europe is likely to decrease in the wake of the economical development of other regions such as Brazil or Mexico. Immigration objectives should, in the Collet’s opinion, not be considered in isolation but rather integrated with other relevant issues like education and external affairs.
Undeniably Europe will suffer its fair share of emigration with a potential brain drain to more prosperous economies lurking beneath the fearful voices concerned with the growing immigration numbers. All the while, studies point in the same direction: integrated immigrants are an economical driving force, contributing to the development and progress of the host countries, and to the eradication of poverty. So what’s there to be afraid of?
Edited by: Izabella Lobinska