insights on migration

Three insights on migration: Asha, our receptionist

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The Scalabrini team works with migrants and refugees every day. With such deep expertise at hand, we take the opportunity to reflect on migration with them. This month we speak to Asha, receptionist and first face of Scalabrini, who always tells her children to do something that they love – and that is exactly what she has found here at Scalabrini. Asha’s job does not end when she leaves at the end of the day. She is constantly recognised and finds great happiness in speaking to clients inside and outside of work.

1. Migration entails much more than just the movement of people. 

The definition of human migration is the movement of people from one place to another, often over long distances, with the intention of settling. Asha used to share this view of migration. “I used to think you get to a country, you get your permit and it stops there, but it is not just about needing a safe place to live or a job. You find that and then what? Next is to give back to the community you are in.” As a child, Asha remembers lots of moving. “I was born in Rwanda, but left many years ago, from the genocide time. We didn’t know what was happening as kids, the next thing you can’t go to school because it was too bad and then the next thing you’re leaving home, we don’t know where we are going and we don’t know where we are going to end. That’s how we moved.” There are many different aspects that go along with moving and Asha’s experience as a child was very different to that of her parents. There is so much to learn about migration and Asha says she is constantly learning. Migration does not only bring challenges with it, but also opportunities to learn from each other and to broaden our mindsets. “Migration is huge and I really feel like everyone needs to get to know more, get to know each other. I believe most of us are migrants or come from migrants.”

2. Many people’s view of migration is one dimensional and only favours some. We are all migrants. 

People see cross-border migrants very differently to how they see migrants from within South Africa. “If you are in South Africa and you moved here from the Eastern Cape or you moved there from the Western Cape, you are a migrant. We are all migrants. Maybe you are lucky because you are just in your country, but I am sure that if you move somewhere and everyone speaks Sotho and Afrikaans, but you only speak Xhosa and English, you are foreign in that area even though you have your green ID book.” Asha has also seen how migrants from African countries are seen in a very different light to people coming from Europe or America. “We mustn’t see migration from one side – like thinking that if we get these certain people from certain countries our economy will grow. I might come from the States with my money, but with bad intentions. I might come from Rwanda or another African country, with no money, but with my wisdom and my knowledge.”

3. Migrants that come in search of a better life are not necessarily a threat to local people.

Most people do not choose to leave their country and their home. There are many different reasons for people migrating and it is important that we try to understand why. “Someone may be here for a better life, yes, but I am not coming to work against you.” Asha says it is important to get to know people and get to know their different challenges. “I could understand I was here because of war, but how about these other people?  I believe nobody wants to leave a place where they call home, but different challenges cause people to leave. There are advantages of being in your own community, but there are more advantages of getting involved in other communities. You learn a lot.” For example, Asha remembers her father taking time on the weekends to teach people in their community to drive. A positive cycle can be created when we work together.