Op-Ed: Integration of Refugees is an Investment for Better Society

Migration’s impact on the evolution of mankind is undebatable. Our advancement as a species, our dynamic interaction and cultural diffusion, our ambition to explore the unknown are all enhanced by migration. On the other hand, power imbalances among populations and natural disasters continue to force people to abandon their homes and settle in new places. Current technological advancements and simplified means of movement, coupled with increasing socioeconomic disparities, are taking human migration to unprecedented level.

Demarcation of manmade borders means that resources, both natural and human-generated, are also owned by those who live and work within these borders. Those who are coerced to leave their habitat and try to settle somewhere else face hostilities because they are seen as threats and exploiters. They are deemed a burden to the social system; one that threatens their host’s identity. The current refugee crisis has shown both the best and the worst of Europe and the US. While countries like Germany and Sweden continue to accept record number of refugees, others admit minimal numbers of refugees and their politicians continue to preach fear-mongering messages in an attempt to cast refugees as bêtes noires.

Continental Europe is performing better than the UK and the USA in terms of numbers of refugees admitted. However, when it comes to processing and supporting large numbers of deracinated people, Europe still needs to do more in order to address the daunting challenge of integrating these refugees and their children born in the EU in the long run. Countries that have better resources and lessons learned from hosting migrants should assist others countries with fewer capacities and experience of integration strategies.

It is well-established that refugees and immigrants have significantly worse health status than natives and that they are more likely to live in unfavorable social conditions and remain excluded even after they become citizens. Integration plays a significant role in reducing the health disparities in this group. Language, for example, is one major barrier to employment of immigrants and their utilization of healthcare and other social services – so called Health Literacy.

Refugees should not be alienated when it comes to the labor market, health and social inclusion. Socioeconomic integration of refugees in the long run can be improved by devising and implementing policies which target the main barriers. Encouraging and assisting them to participate in the political process, community networks and institutions, addressing problems related to education performances and housing conditions, and helping them improve their cultural competencies all contribute to attainment of social justice and equity. As the OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria said “….We [Europe] need to scale-up and adapt programmes so that refugees can integrate as quickly as possible in their new homes and make best use of their skills. We should all remember that migration is not a liability, but an asset.”

By investing on their integration now , Europe can prevent and reduce generational social injustices between its inhabitants, and maintain a sustainable welfare system. By integrating refugees, Europe can enrich its cultural heritage and evolve for the better as the dynamic nature of both culture and human interaction means integration has never been one-directional. Afterall, had it not been for the knowledge learned from other cultures, Europe would not have reached to its current technological, economic and social advancement.

If Europe wants to address the issue of migration, it should begin to think solutions beyond securing its external borders. Migration, as discussed above, is a complex issue and its causes are endless. In particular, it should be understood that deracination is an imposed condition with war being its major cause. Thus, genuine revision of foreign policies that have directly or indirectly caused wars and instability in the Middle East and other regions, and trade policies that continue to suppress low income countries will be a necessary start for Europe while it also continues to support those who are already entering its borders. Stigmatizing and marginalizing those who were forced to leave their homes will not curb the problem of human displacement. Instead it creates further tension between social groups, creates extreme elements in the society and aggravates the already steep social gradient of health.

Read more at: http://www.snih.org/op-ed-integration-of-refugees-is-an-investment-for-better-society/

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