Last Friday, I was thrilled to have Dr. Serena Parekh, Dr. Immanuel Ness, and Dr. Reenee Singh join me for an hour long webinar discussion on the Syrian refugee crisis and the wider implications of global migration.
The three panelists discussed the refugee crisis in terms of children’s welfare, globalization, media coverage and bias, government aid, and the impact of these types of crises on families. Parekh, Ness, and Singh all made insightful points. Dr. Parekh discussed the relationship between concepts of statehood and boundaries, and how borders become permeable in our digital age and are a form of exclusion – harmful to human rights. Dr. Ness pointed out that government aid from neighboring countries and the countries of the UN is great, but there should also be a burden of aid on the countries that are forcing refugees to leave in the first place. And Dr. Ness shared her experiences as a family therapist in helping families address new the culture in which they are now living, and how to manage the stress of new multicultural lifestyles.
I want to thank our panelist for an impactful discussion. During the roundtable, we answered a few questions from our listeners, but we didn’t manage to answer them all. Below are two more questions from our listeners, answered by our panelists.
How are the receiving local authorities handling the pressure of such influx and are they readily equipped? -Marjory, Student, South Africa
IN: Destination countries have a range of policies on migration, depending on labor skill, population shortage, and causes of population shifts. In the European context today, the passage of migrants is creating political pressures on the governments in the Balkans and in Eastern and Central Europe, due to growing xenophobia against foreigners of Muslim dissent. We are even seeing growing nationalism in Germany, with the growth of the right-wing social movement, Pergida. In response, tensions are rising and government leaders are scrambling to arrive at coherent policies through imposing border control or persuading sending countries to create safe havens for refugees.
Can you speak to the cultural shock and differences that arise between refugees and the nationals of the hosting country? – Mary, PhD Candidate, Canada
IN: Those refugees who have traveled as far as Europe are likely to have higher levels of education and skills and often the same religious traditions. Eastern European leaders have permitted the migration of Catholic and Eastern Right emigres from Syria but are reticent to allow Muslims to enter and settle in their countries. However, Germany was a recipient of tens of thousands of Turks in the post-war years who filled job shortages, and many stayed permanently and have been absorbed into the national fabric of the country. The new wave of migrants are refugees, and may also contribute to the economic expansion of Central and Eastern European economies. However, it is also possible that they could tighten labor markets and work for lower wages, expanding unemployment and the reserve army of labor.
RS: Refugees suffer from what Renos Papadopoulos would describe as ‘nostalgic disorientation’ which is about missing the sights, sounds and smells of home. Everything in the host country can seem strange and confusing. Many refugees do not come from welfare states and do not know how such complex systems in the Western world work. This is compounded with language difficulties. Sometimes, one family member (often the man) can remain loyal to their country of origin while women, especially women with children, tend to adapt more quickly to the host county. Children will often take on the roles of translators and cultural guides for the families, creating inversions of gendered and generational roles. Further, the notions of how ‘the family’ is constructed and what constitutes mental health, problems and their treatment varies greatly from one culture to another. Refugees may experience the lack of fit between their belief systems and those of the host country.
Keep checking back on the Philosopher’s Eye next week, where we will be posting two more blogs from A.M Findlay, editor of Population, Space and Place, and Antipode.
Samantha Green, Marketing Manager, Wiley MA candidate in Children’s Literature, Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science