The two worlds of migration
By Michelle Hough, Caritas communications officer
I’ve just been to Senegal, I live in Rome and I come from England. And today I’m in Casablanca, where I’ve stopped off for a couple of days on my way back from Caritas’s Female Face of Migration conference in Senegal.
Zara, a Moroccan woman I know in Rome, is actually from Casablanca. However, she’s not been able to come here – to her home – for five years. She’d been studying and working hard for a family in Rome. The money she was earning wasn’t enough to go back home with her children for a holiday.
When I saw Zara last summer she was about to lose her job. This would put at risk her ability to stay in Italy. Without a job, she would eventually lose her permit to stay. That would mean living undocumented and in fear of being caught by the police. If she ever tried to go back home to Casablanca, once she got beyond Italy’s borders, she wouldn’t be let back in. But she wouldn’t go back by choice, as she had built a life in Italy.
Zara’s children have been raised in Italy, they speak Italian and not Arabic, they go to Italian schools, and yet they are not allowed Italian citizenship. They will have the pain of living in a country and yet never really belonging there. And yet, if their mother does lose her right to stay in Italy and they are deported back to Morocco, the children won’t belong there either.
“A country cannot be a fortress and cannot claim to be humane and yet have extremely restrictive migration policies. As long as inequality and poverty exist people will move,” said George Joseph from Caritas Sweden when I interviewed him at the conference.
Caritas is working hard on the poverty and inequality that are at the roots of migration and so many other problems in the world. At the conference, the sense of family, of people ready to share and work together was very powerful. Participants from across the world shared experiences and case studies. They identified what was needed to make Caritas’s migration work more effective.
Caritas works with migrants before they leave, during their journey, in their new country and on their return home. However we need a greater presence on borders. We need to know more about migrants’ experiences there and how to protect them. We need to talk to governments more and ensure that important international laws such as the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Migrant Domestic Workers Convention become tools in the protection of migrants.
It is only when we act as one family, taking care of each other rather than turning the other cheek, that poverty, and all the difficulties that arise from it, will be beaten. While there are some countries poorer than others, people will always choose to migrate. If poor countries are given the chance to develop and offer opportunities to potential migrants, they may choose to stay at home. But until that happens, like King Canute, no country will be able to hold back the tide of migrants, it’s just too powerful.