The Stigma Against Migrants – Aren’t We All Human?

Picture of By Lara Gunturkun

By Lara Gunturkun

We blame history for the hate we spread in the present. However, spiteful actions have only led to detrimental issues for society. Currently, the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East have forced millions of individuals to seek asylum in foreign countries. Many are scared for their current and future lives because of factors which they cannot control. Meanwhile, the rest of the world continues to villainize these people for trying to survive. The news and entertainment media have become platforms that encourage this segregation and further promote the negative depictions of migrants.

The Them-Us Narrative

The media always describes migration using large and scary numbers which paint a picture of people forcefully taking over a region. Since the reasons why migrants are moving is never explained. The current citizens of the area feel threatened, as they believe they are being attacked by an unknown force  Perhaps, this is why residents of countries, mainly right-wing supporters, can be extremely against individuals with different cultural backgrounds settling in their own country. Overall, migrants are portrayed to be scary and futile.

The news contributes to this narrative by displaying refugees as helpless and weak, making migrants appear to lack attributes that could be beneficial for the world. Several news stories have also gone to the extent of reflecting bias regarding the religion and race of the migrants. A European NBC news reporter recently compared Ukrainian migrants to Middle Eastern migrants by stating: “To put it bluntly, these are not refugees from Syria, these are refugees from neighboring Ukraine…these are Christian, they’re white, they’re very similar to people who live in Poland.” Sentences like these show that there are deep societal issues and the definition of “normal” people does not reflect the reality of individual differences, preventing the acceptance of dissimilarities. Wars and conflicts are more validated than cultural variations and the encouragement for the support of migrants.

The Wars and Stereotypes

Wars are not started by citizens of a country but by leaders with ulterior motives. However, innocent bystanders are caught-up in the violence exerted by both sides of the dispute. It is not the people’s choice to make their country a war-zone, nor attack another country, but they still get condemned for the actions of others. Migrants from the Middle East face exceptionally blatant discriminatory attitudes and prejudice. Just because someone is practicing Islam does not mean that they are incapable of being a functioning member of the society or that they are a terrorist. In fact, all religions teach us to be respectful, helpful, and be protective of each other. Religion is just an excuse and a label used to justify the concepts of racism and polarization that we – humans – have created.

Society is encouraged to make negative assumptions about Middle Eastern migrants as news continues to reflect such stereotypes. Recently, while discussing the war in Ukraine, a CBS anchor explained that Europe “isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades,” he said. “You know, this is a relatively civilized, relatively European – I have to choose those words carefully, too – city where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s going to happen.” It is absolutely not necessary to compare the nationalities of migrants; both people from Ukraine and the Middle East are in urgent need of assistance with life-or-death matters. Because of such remarks in the media, general society is so against accepting different nationals into their own country. 

The war in Ukraine forced many individuals to migrate to different countries within Europe. Unlike the migrants from the Middle East, they were openly welcomed by these European countries as Ukraine is a part of NATO (The North Atlantic Treaty Organization). As an attempt to convince the general European public that the migrants from Ukraine should be helped, all the negative attributes related to the word “migrants” were unpacked. However, this “normalization of migration” to European countries stays exclusive to migrants from Ukraine. This ultimately revealed that shortage of help nor lack of resources is the issue when it comes to accepting refugees, but racism. Fortunately, unlike the majority’s beliefs, skin color and nationality do not limit the qualities of an individual; so all migrants from different backgrounds can most definitely become the most successful people you will ever meet. 

The Importance of Inclusion and Integration for Migrants

Although there is a fear about migrants endangering the societal status and economic well-being of regular citizens of a country, migrants can help in preventing economic downfalls. There is a high amount of job openings in Europe, and there is a need for employees in construction and manufacturing. The decrease in employment rates presents a great opportunity for migrants to immerse themselves into the lifestyle of their new home and build a life for themselves. There might be barriers like language, but such cultural aspects are generally taught to anyone that moves to a different country, regardless of being a refugee. Refugees can greatly contribute to a country both socially and economically; and the ongoing financial decline that many countries are experiencing requires all governments to get all possible assistance to prosper economically. 

This way the shortage of employees would be compensated by individuals who truly need to obtain a legal job to benefit from health insurance and earn money to take care of their family. If lack of knowledge of the language or training are an issue, individuals can work part-time while receiving education in their area of expertise. I realize that this is the perfect scenario in a perfect world, but the first step in creating this healthy society is making every single individual understand that migrants are no less worthy of living a comfortable life than people who have a pleasant life right now. Right to life is the most basic human right, it should not matter which country we are from – we are all human

We Are All Human

A person’s race, nationality, country of residence or gender should not limit their rights. No human is more important than any other, and if given the chance, many people have outstanding potential to improve the world. Due to the wars started by a couple of individuals in power, regular people’s humanity is getting ripped out of them. Society needs to understand that migrants are exactly the same as the citizens of any other country. Migrants obviously have the ability to work, learn a language, pay taxes, and naturally socialize. Suddenly having to change your life is unimaginably difficult; this is why we need to be unified and support each other to have a functioning society. Living in ignorance and condemning migrants for escaping the horrors of their war torn homelands to try and build a life somewhere new is inhuman.

Cover: Matteo Paganelli

Edited by: Hana Maurer

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