The Home and Displaced People

Like many of you who read this blog, I myself am a person who lives in a different country from the one in which I was born. In my 36 years of life I have already lived in 6 cities in 3 different countries, but I have done so seeking to grow personally and professionally and having the certainty that I can return to my country when this international experience has fulfilled its expectations. It will not be easy, because that is what those who have already returned say. I will not be the same person who left home in 2003 to study a degree, nor the same person who established her home in 2012 outside her hometown, nor the same person who packed her bags in 2015 to live in the UK, but the sum of all the new experiences, the people I have met, the difficulties and challenges, will have forged the person who freely decided to move.

Unfortunately, this is not the experience that people who migrate or move under compulsion usually have. As we are seeing with the Russian invasion, Ukrainians flee the bombs, with no prior physical or mental preparation, leaving everything behind and not knowing what life will bring. This uncertainty, this insecurity, this fear, is affecting the deepest part of the human being. We have seen Afghans, Venezuelans, Syrians fleeing and many more on our screens in recent years. We also see those fleeing poverty, risking their lives, crossing paths with mafias who blackmail them and whose only aim is to reach Europe, the land they long for, the land of the footballers who, like them, have also crossed the world to fulfill their dreams. There are those who are lucky, those who meet good people when they arrive and survive until they get papers that allow them to work. But there are those who are less lucky, who are forced to commit crime in order to put something to eat in their mouths. People who end up hating the country they arrived in because it did not give them the opportunity they had hoped for.

Movements, displacements, comings and goings, dreams fulfilled but also broken dreams. Opportunities for some, despair for others. Uprootedness in many cases that can sink a person or give them wings to achieve a better life.

Over the last months we have been working on our Experts Meeting The Home and Displaced People to be held in Washington DC in September, supported by the Social Trends Institute.  Our academic director and meeting leader, Professor Sophia Aguirre, has assembled a panel of key contributors on the issues and impact of migration. Experts who understand what it means for people to leave their homes and roots and start a new life elsewhere.
Suzan Ilcan, Professor of Sociology at the University of Waterloo, and editor of Mobilities, Knowledge, and Social Justice, will be one of the experts contributing to The Home and Displaced people. Her work with refugees underlines the precarious nature of leaving and seeking home and some of the ways in which to understand the broader picture of an increasingly mobile world. Finding a place to call home and to feel at home is key to human thriving: at the heart of the vision of HRF and all those searching for home today.
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Where are you setting up your home?

Let’s do a very basic exercise. Think about the people who live around you, relatives, neighbours, colleagues and list how many of them live and have set up their current home in the city where they were born. How many of the people around you come from and live in the birthplace of their grandparents?

In my case, I find very few examples… I live outside my home country, and in an apartment building where there are people of many different nationalities. In Spain, I know people who come from countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Romania, Pakistan…

We use the word ‘migrate’ now, without any prefixes, so as not to offend anyone. We are no longer emigrants or immigrants, we are now migrants in the strict sense of the word. There are a variety of reasons why this change in the way we live has come about.  As we all know from media reports, it is one thing to flee your country, probably for good, and quite another to leave knowing that you will be able to return because your family is still there, waiting for you with open arms, trusting that this journey to another part of the world will allow you to grow personally and professionally.

Undoubtedly, although it is not comparable, there is a common link. You leave your home, the place where you felt comfortable, to start a new life. Difficulties arise, you have to set up a new home in a different environment, probably in a different culture, and on many occasions, unfortunately, integration is not easy due to a feeling of rejection from the country of your destination.

Uprooting, leaving one’s comfort zone or fleeing from a country at war, the instability experienced, are aspects that worry us. How all these details affect the person, their well-being, their mental and physical health, their development… Are these people ready to take on this suffering? Success stories are often shown in the media – people who crossed the ocean and today are elite sportsmen and women or were taken in by a family and are now pursuing a successful career, or left their country and managed to become leading politicians abroad. But many lives are cut short, and in most cases, the dream of achieving a better life is not fulfilled.

All these topics will be discussed at the next Experts Meeting, with more details available soon. If only something good could always be drawn from these life experiences: leaving your country to open up to a new one, leaving your family to find friends who will be like brothers and sisters, leaving your culture to get to know a new one that can open up new horizons. In a word, if only the desire or necessity to uproot ourselves and move elsewhere could be a life-enriching experience.