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Migrants – A Hunger for Belonging

by Ruth Aine - 30 July 2014

Blog-Mig02When I first went to Europe, I was struck by the many people I met that were like me. Being like me, has nothing to do with how I look or anything, it was more to do with the fact that we obviously did not belong. We were different, we may have learned the cultures and got accustomed to the European way of doing things, but we still did not belong. This is something that we obviously knew but made a great attempt to hide.

Unlike me, they seemed to be better off, or so I thought. They had their homes and were able to leave Europe and get back whenever they wanted. I, on the other hand, was a 'visitor' and when the time came I would go back home.

These people were almost everywhere doing odd jobs. At the language school I attended there was a Filipino woman who cleaned the rooms and toilets. At the gym, there was another Asian lady who was doing the cleaning. At the airport, occasionally you will find black people cleaning as well. In the street where I lived for four months, there was a mosque and a school that taught Islamic studies. This was quite an unusual sight. The language I heard spoken every day was different. The kiosk downstairs was run by an English-speaking Pakistani. The cyber cafe was run by Turks who were visibly living as an extended family. They also owned the bakery and Pizza place on the street. Every time I wanted something African to eat like cassava, I would walk to a shop that was owned by West Africans and there I would find dried frozen fish, plantain and cassava.

These different nationalities exist in little clusters across the developed world. Recently there has been a huge influx of them from the Middle East countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Because of the recent wars in North African countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, many of their people were looking for refuge in European and the American countries. They may have become migrants by choice or not by choice. Some of them would love not having to be foreigners and to live in their own countries without having to prove themselves every now and again.

There is also another group or form of stateless people. They are the migrants from one community to another within the same boundaries of a nation. The little district where I come from is known to be home to a very hardworking and industrious people called the Bakiga. They are also known to have very fertile women. As a result, they have many children and this little district Kabale, has over time become too small. The people then started to leave in search of land for cultivation and settlement. They found solace in districts called Kibaale and Kyenjojo, plus neighboring areas. Even when they have been there for quite a while, they are yet to belong. As a result they have taken on the name of “Abafuruki”, literary translated as “the movers”. They occasionally are in the news for land wrangles with the natives of the land.

Refugees, migrants or stateless people all have one factor in common. They are looking to find belonging. For the international ones, they are yet to be incorporated into international legislature. Even with a convention and legitimacy that dates back to the 1950's, the world is yet to find a permanent solution for them. As of 2012, it is said that there were an estimate of 12 million stateless people around the world. When the convening in 1954 happened, the core principle that was fought for, was should a stateless person be treated worse than any foreigner who possesses a nationality? Is that what we witness today? I am not so sure.

Refugees and migrants in whatever form, are looking for some sort of solidarity and normalcy and, of course, their rights.  They then end up living among cultures and, with time, become the minority of certain societies. However much they may have associations and legitimate groups, it is still not the same than it would have been if they were back home. They are unable to defend their interests at times and are not a priority, apart from the international bodies whose work it is to make their lives better.

I keep wondering whether, with this globalization, they will cease to be. Can we end up living as one big family? After all, there are more Chinese in Africa today than on any other continent and we are not chasing them away yet. Instead, they have taken to selling matchboxes in our markets. They are living their dream life, I suppose.  And we spend a lot of money and resources trying to deliberate on who should live where and who isn't supposed to live in another place.

We may instead end up with a globe that has people moving around in search for shelter and protection but who are not necessarily characteristic of a refugee or a migrant. What we see today is a constant desire not only for identity but mainly for comfort. Because as we see it, war and disease are everywhere. Conflicts today take on different forms: different ethnic or religious groups, communitarian and criminal violence. In most of these conflicts, the conditions do not allow people to get the help they need. These conditions obviously present different and many challenges for the people and stakeholders involved.

I am from the Bantu tribe by way of migration. So I am thinking, it is also time I started looking for my roots. I could argue that I am a migrant as well. Question is, who isn't? And do we actually belong? If so, where do you and I belong?


Ruth Aine Tindyebwa
Blogger/Online Communications

Read her personal blog; IN DEPTH which is at www.ruthaine.com

Read more about the author and her view on being a futurist.



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