Migration and Identity 

Migration and Identity 

In an increasingly unequal world in which instability and conflicts over resources affect multiple regions, the phenomenon of mass migration arises. The destination preferences of any person seeking a better future are usually focused on industrialised countries, which are perceived as a better opportunity for success and prosperity. As an example, more than 5,5 million Syrians have fled the country due to the war. This has created a humanitarian crisis and a big movement of people. Another example could be the unstoppable migratory flow between from Africa to the UE or from Central America to the US. The biography of the person who lives such an experience is most times, not an easy process. Those who succeed in the mission will sooner or later find themselves in a strange country, with different customs and face multiple impediments that will challenge their whole journey, regardless of whether they do it legally or illegally, by force or willingly.

When migrants arrive at the new societies, they find themselves in a completely different reality, to which they have to adjust in the best way. However, depending on how close the hosting culture is from that of the sending nation complications are more likely to arise both from the minorities towards the dominant society and vice versa. To the host society, elevated number migrants that start to establish in ‘their’ original lands can be seen in some cases as a threat to the culture and to identity. To the migrant population, a continued effort to fit in the new context could be frustrated by a lack of empathy or understanding from the dominant group. And it is here where generally migrants start to question about their choices. In this sense, let us consider the following points regarding the steps or stages of a migration that every migrant normally experiences.

The stages of migration generally follow the same phases. The first phase starts before the journey in the country of origin. This phase is characterised by the idea of great plans for a better life. The second big phase happens in a relatively short time after arriving at the target country. This phase is, in the majority of the cases, characterised by disappointments after seeing how the dreams that the migrant had before the trip clash with the reality of the new society. The third and the last phase is usually marked by a process of stabilisation of the journey of the migrant. During this later process, there are several options for reaching that stability, among which is the possibility of assimilation of the migrant into the dominant group, assimilation into the subordinate group or accommodation between the two groups.

Regarding those last three possibilities within the last phase, the migrants that have assimilated into the subordinate group tend to develop strategies in order to ensure social and cultural conservatism so as to keep their identity alive within their community. This can be isolating sometimes and contributes to a more segregated population, as the subordinate community would be enclosing and isolating itself socially, culturally and linguistically from both the predominant group and other minority groups. By this way, achieving social promotion is really difficult. On the other hand, assimilating to the dominant group implies to deny a big amount of elements representing their original culture and society, and the subsequent identification with the values and customs of the dominant group.

Talking about the last main choice, it is when migrants find the way to accommodate between the two groups or even other minorities. By doing that they will be facing one of the main challenges of the migration process, which is the gain of a marginal status in both the original and hosting societies. However, the larger part of the migrants ends up choosing the role of a marginal person in one of both cultures.

To this regard, countries apply their particular policies and approaches when it comes to dealing with immigration. In this sense, there are several modes of integration of immigrants. In the first group, there are countries that apply an exclusionary model of integration. These kinds of states make it really difficult for migrants to access to citizenship and have political rights. In these countries, the segregation of the ethnic groups is an actual trend and they are characterised by unequal access to public services (education, health, etc…). In the second group, there are countries that apply an assimilationist model of integration. Migrants can opt to obtain the citizenship but there is still not an actual encouragement of any minority political organisations. However, minority communities have equal access to social services and there is a trend towards desegregation in education. The last model of integration would be that multiculturalism. In the multicultural states, apart from being able to access citizenship, migrants and minorities are supported by political organisations. Additionally, public institutions are accessible for anyone regardless of their origin, and opportunities in the labor market are equal. In what refers to education, minorities can study in a language other than the state and there are special curricula made for minorities.

It may be understood, hence, that the experience of the migrants will depend in a big way on the model of integration that the hosting country is applying. In the states where a national identity has always been fused with the ethnic identity, more inclusive nationhood is hard to achieve. This kind of countries would tend to develop exclusionary mode in which relates to ethnic minorities and migrants will be more likely to face complications.

Mario Fernández

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