Monday, February 5, 2018

We are all One: Identity & Integration of Refugees

Wall graffiti in Rome saying: We are all one. Photo Credit: Karina Castro
We are all One: Identity & Integration of Refugees 
By Karina V. Castro, MIMS

The greatest wealth is to be given a second chance to live without fear and have stability. The greatest lesson in hearing the story of another in this case was hearing how this person found wealth not in material things but in being happy and at peace. In telling their story and having ownership of it has given this person the power not only to be resilient but to now create their own non-profit to help the people of their country of origin. Each person’s story is unique and it is their own to share, to tell and decide in which platform to do so. Part of sharing a story is to create a humanity to the migration refugee crisis across the world. As human beings we all deserve to have the same opportunities to live a life with dignity. From the migration studies scholarly perspective there are times in which the focus is the journey of the immigrant or refugee but what is crucial is what happens post arrival in the destination country. Integration is composed of many factors and it is interesting to see how it intersects with identity. There is a duality that immerses in living in the destination country adapting to a new culture but holding onto the roots of the country of origin which is ingrained in an individual's identity. It is being here and there at the same time.

Strang and Alastair have a theory in which the components of integration in which rights and citizenship are a foundation of integration. Language and cultural knowledge are the facilitators and social capital is accessible by establishing connections. The factors and access to integration are employment, housing, education and health care (Strang&Ager, 2010). Although these factors are important to integration of refugees, it is a complex ideal which has deeper roots. Rights and citizenship are a fundamental part of integrating refugees but so is identity and acceptance by the host society. Although citizenship rights include the notions of nationhood and perhaps to some belonging, it is not always sufficient but it is a key element to understanding integration depending on the circumstance (Strang&Ager, 2010).

Awarding citizenship on the basis of successful integration may not be enough. It is also to be defined what is successful integration and if does ever truly happen. EU policies have not been the most welcoming to refugees nonetheless to manage the Mediterranean Refugee Crisis. Can policies really be geared to say welcome? The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) has argued that integration is multi-dimensional, and includes the conditions to participate in society, actual participation in society and a perception of acceptance in the host society. Although citizenship and fully participating in a society is part of integration it also is holding onto one’s identity and roots and being able to in an essence live in two countries at once. It is not always easy to integrate into a society which may or may not be welcoming, which makes each refugees’ story unique and individual.