Take a look at the video above. It’s about a young man, Massoud Hassani, who grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan, and who found himself and his family being accepted as refugees in the Netherlands. He graduated university in Holland and is now a product designer. His unique and personal experiences that shaped his childhood in Afghanistan have served him well as a designer and he has invented a wonderfully simple, cheap and highly effective tool for clearing mines scattered across the desert floor surrounding Kabul.
What’s my point, I hear you ask? All too often, people in the developed world (and I hate that phrase), view economic immigrants and refugees as a drain on resources and a negative addition to the social fabric and make-up of the host country they move to. But this gentleman has shown that if a government, a nation, or just a single person, throws off the shackles of stereotyping and pigeon-holing of a person, if they actually look upon that person and their family as human beings. If they would only acknowledge that the education, training and experience that an immigrant or refugee brings with them is truly valuable, rather than forcing them to PROVE that their education is as good as ours, then that country, that nation and those people stand to benefit in very real ways.
Immigrants, of which I am one myself, truly add value. Sure, they might not adopt 100% of the social cultures of their host country. But then, if they did, then we probably would never have adopted curry as a nations favourite food, or adopted a sport such as football as a truly global phenomenon, or added new words to each nations lexicon, such as pyjama and bungalow in the case of the English language I believe that 100% assimilation is never the answer, but a simple understanding and acceptance of the guiding principles, culture, history and values of ones host country IS necessary in order to be accepted in ones host country. But at the same token, openness and acceptance is a two way street, and ones host neighbours should cherish the idiosyncrasies that, for example, made me ME, or Massoud MASSOUD.
Right now there is an ever increasing right wing ultra conservative backlash against refugees and immigrants all across Europe. I found myself wondering why. As a proud Irishman, we’ve grown-up with stories and experiences of friends and loved ones getting on the boat or plane and heading off to find their fortune and salvation abroad. It’s been a theme of our beloved country for centuries. And we’re experiencing yet another wave of emigration right now. It’s something we though unimaginable during the heady days of the Celtic Tiger, which saw the boom times roll in, and sights of newly minted Celtic Warriors jetting off to Dubai and New York on fanciful shopping sprees for the latest $800 pair of Manolo Blahniks.
But now that emigration is again a reality of life in urban and rural Ireland, I wonder what kind of welcome the “Tribe” get these days. Stories abound of “Irish need not apply” adverts found in the Australian job ads. But in Europe, the backlash has extended to include those who used to be considered “one of us”. Eastern Europeans get no end of harassment in places like Holland and Belgium. Moroccans are considered fair-game for abuse and open racist taunts amongst the Dutch. And God forbid you be of African extraction should you find yourself in Spain or Italy. But why?
Well, I honestly think it has EVERYTHING to do with HOW we process the refugee applications. It’s typical in Europe (Holland and Ireland being two good examples) to house families and provide them with subsistence money to feed and clothe their families whilst their applications are being processed. All the while, those in the family have degrees, skills and trades and who COULD work, and in turn contribute to the exchequer and actually add value, are PREVENTED from working. They are left in refugee detention camps to rot away until their applications are either accepted or rejected. Those lucky few who are housed in normal homes and start to slowly integrate with local life are live hand-to-mouth, their children however already soaking up local life like sponges.
And society resents them for the very fact that they ARE being housed, they ARE getting social welfare hand-outs and they ARE getting something for nothing. But it’s not of their own choosing. If you went to a refugee centre and asked anyone of them, would they like to work or sit on their ass, what do you think their answer would be?
It’s time that we, as fellow humans, stopped this immoral, inhumane stereotyping of our fellow man, and changed both our opinions of refugees and the manner in which we get them through the system and contributing to society. That way, they will never be considered a drain on an economies resources, but rather a very real benefit and a net contributor to a nations ability to grow and add value to all her citizens.