The choice to immigrate is not an easy choice to make.
You have to choose to leave everything that you know. The streets that you are familiar with, the neighbours you run into everyday, the language and culture that has nurtured you—you can’t take it with you. Uprooted, the line between home and road begins to blur. You are now a migrant, in the land of in-betweens.
Elana received what she describes as a privileged education with English as her first language at an International School in Southeast Asia. She moved to the UK, attended a well-recognized university, and obtained a Master’s Degree. She has been approved for a work visa since. Even with her credentials, she experiences the animosity against migrants. She considers herself one of the “lucky ones.”
It appears that receiving migrants is not an easy choice for governments to make as well. There have been claims in the UK that migrants, especially non-nationals working lower-wage jobs, are draining the welfare system and costing the government millions of pounds a year. This led to the speculation that perhaps the welfare system was being exploited by EU migrants. The Daily Mail published an article in 2013 discussing the data. Experts consulted didn’t find any reason to believe that migrants are explicitly to blame. However, it did very little in changing the sentiment around migrants.
Five years later, the UK is currently experiencing a sharp decline in migration. With discussions of the UK leaving the EU in early to mid-2019, the Daily Mail reported on this trend and what it could mean for the British government’s future in August of 2018. Coined as the “Brexodus,” the net migration fell down to 87,000 in March 2018 from its peak in 2016, which was at 189,000. As the pound’s depreciation, rising xenophobia, and hate crimes are making the UK a less appealing destination for EU migrants, this trend is projected to cost the UK 6 billion pounds by 2020-21.
An aging population is not an isolated phenomenon. The increase in the share of senior citizens worldwide will double by 2050. The declining fertility rates and improvements in survival makes this trend an inevitability. Governments will have to work to enact policies that anticipate the increase in the average age of their country’s demographic, with new models of implementation that don’t leave anyone behind. The demand for health care, housing, and social services will be impacted by these changes, and one of the biggest tools we have at hand is the equipping of migrants.
Elana has read the articles that point to migrants in a less than favourable light. From her perspective, she feels that most migrants aren’t here to abuse the system and have an easy life. In fact, their working lives are far from easy. Migrants endure long working hours, minimum pay, and racism, struggling to make ends meet while sending money to their families back home. She feels that the media creates misconceptions around migrants and paints them in a negative light.
“All over the world, there are untold stories of migrants, refugees, and internally displaced people who are unable to make the choice to migrate in terrible circumstances, not given the opportunity to display their innovation, their hard work, their entrepreneurship, and kindness.”
Elana recognized that, “there are some bad eggs out there, but such dividing, alienating, and dangerous narratives must be changed.”
One of the things that must change as part of our next step in the adoption of the Global Compact for Migration in December is the perception of migration itself. Elana believes that the perception of migration, both in domestic and international politics, need to be revisited and reformed. As we reap the benefits of our increasingly connected world, we must remember that we can’t pick and choose only the parts we want, and learn to embrace the humanity within each other. Even though the road may be difficult, working through migration issues is one of the most pressing issues at hand in securing our future.
Contribute to the improvement of policy to address the stigma surrounding migrants and the migration process. Let’s make this an issue that’s hard to ignore.