Latest on Partnerships
- Knowledge Library
- Contact Us
[EPISODE 3] Migration: A Problem or a Reflection of Societies?
By Jacques OULD AOUDIA*
What are we going to discuss? International migration, diasporas, development, migrants’ territories of origin, host countries…and links that migrants forge each day involving all these elements. We will discuss these issues in 8 posts. Please feel free to comment, criticize, make suggestions, question, agree, or disagree. This is a space to make your voice heard.
Migration is an issue that evokes strong emotions in all the countries concerned, be they the country of origin, the destination country, or the transit country; in other words, virtually all countries in the world.
It is almost always addressed as a problem, a difficult issue for which societies have not found a solution. What is the real significance of the departure of migrants and how can the loss in the home countries be offset? What impact does the arrival of young migrants have on ageing societies and falling birthrates, and how can the destination countries control this influx?
In the shared space in the host country, migration raises the issue of ‘otherness.’ The South is in the North! A confrontation with the ‘other,’ migration raises the question of identity for the residents of the host country and for migrants, and produces a mirror effect for all. It assesses the capacities and dynamism of each society: in home countries, their development capacity and ability to keep their young people from emigrating, while in the host countries, their ability to face the future confidently and open up to the world. It calls into question the identity of all societies.
In a commune in northeast France where all the factories have closed and no new businesses have opened up, an association is visiting junior high schools to make realistic and vivid presentations on the migration issue. A migrant is invited to accompany students during several meetings scheduled throughout the year. After meeting a young Malagasy immigrant, a 17 year old boy from a French family in the town told him: “At least you know where you are from!”
So this young French man, with no prospects, and living in a depressed region, considered himself to be someone “without roots!”
In developed countries beset by a deep-seated identity crisis and facing a challenge to their global hegemony and a deepening multifaceted crisis, public policies are weak and/or constrained by concerns that far transcend the migration issue.
This reference to serious concerns involving society’s perceptions explains why migration is so easily exploited for political purposes in situations where there is growing cultural isolationism in both the North and South. The issue of migration has therefore been greatly oversimplified in discussions about the phenomena at play, and often in the resulting public policies.
In my view, the solutions to most of the “problems” that pin the blame on migrants for the hardships being experienced in developed countries cannot be found within the strict confines of migrant communities but in the society as a whole. This is also the case with palpable tensions in such areas as schools, housing and urban development, and unemployment and employment, that require solutions for all of the country’s inhabitants, which public policies have failed to provide and implement because they remain circumscribed by powerful, short-term portrayals of migration.