Who are migrants?

As we come to the 19th annual International Migrants Day, it’s important to remember that there are many definitions of migrants. Since they could be a person seeking opportunities elsewhere, or one searching for better living conditions for their family. Alternatively, they’re a student attending school internationally or looking to develop certain professional skills abroad. Maybe they’re fleeing war.

Regardless of their reason for moving, migrants or immigrants are a largely vulnerable population that deserve our respect. There are nearly 250 million of them in the world as of 2015, with almost half being women. As they work to escape poverty, natural disasters, political instability, lack of opportunity, or racial discrimination, they can be targeted by human traffickers or illegal smugglers. Still, migrants carry on bringing entrepreneurship and valuable work to their adoptive countries. In addition, their efforts enable knowledge to cross borders, but their integration brings innovation and diverse experience to the workforce.

How migration contributes to societies.

The EU predicts that there will be a shortage of workers in the next 50 years as the populace ages. As a result, we need migrants if we want to sustain growth and productivity. Furthermore, it’s equally important to recognise that the resources they send back to their home countries help disadvantaged populations better than donations or governmental aid. In 2017, immigrants sent over 466 billion dollars to family and friends. This means that their loved ones are able to afford better health care, food, and education, thus improving quality of life worldwide. The support they provide trickles down through generations.

The perception of migrants and immigrants.

Unfortunately, many migrants that emigrate from third-world countries are greeted with hostility and discrimination, while first-world migrants are often welcomed. It’s important that we dispel some of the myths surrounding migrants, particularly those from disadvantaged circumstances.

Firstly, there aren’t that many of them.

According to the International Organization for Migration, migrants represent only 3.4% of the world’s population. Refugees represent an even smaller fraction. Despite the recent influx of forcibly displaced individuals received by the EU, the vast majority of people in need are currently hosted in countries that are less able to provide aid. That said, all countries seem to be struggling to integrate those seeking asylum. That’s why refugee and migrant based organizations are so critically important to creating a more harmonious transition. Another point to consider is that migrants, as opposed to refugees, often prefer to return home. This is great for spreading knowledge and cultural understanding, and it aids in developing states.

They move because they have to.

Immigrants don’t tend to move to countries where there aren’t enough jobs. Migrants move to improve their circumstances. Relocating to a city where there aren’t opportunities available doesn’t help them or anyone. That’s why many go to places where there is an employment gap, some space that they can fill. Throughout the world, they have become essential to agriculture, construction, and services sectors. Their presence has a positive effect as well on the native populace as it frees them up to receive higher education.

How immigrants have helped the culture.

Thirdly, immigrants are responsible for so many things that we take for granted. We should be thinking of Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, or Jerry Wang of Yahoo! Consider your Indian take-out, and actors like Charlize Theron who stars in your favourite movies. Authors are not to be forgotten either, like Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. He’s written over thirty books in his lifetime and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. Many immigrants in the course of history have spent their lives innovating and spreading compassion.

Our support to migrants around the world.

That’s why we’re celebrating with the United Nations this month. We support the dignity of these brave people and their unique strengths through our mission to share language. Join us in celebrating diversity and hope.

Author: Catherine Tremblay

Catherine Tremblay (or Cat to her students) is an American who is enthusiastic about travel. Her degree is in film and writing from Grand Valley State University, and her favorite hobbies are cooking, painting, and playing Dungeons & Dragons with friends. This past year, Cat has lived in China as an English teacher and part-time app designer.

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