Saturday, October 24, 2015

Modern-day slavery: Nations discrimination by nationality should be wiped out

I pray that one day, in the not-too-distant future, my children's children will not be discriminated agains based on their country of origin or nationality. I pray that one day, our children's children will look back at the history books and wonder why all humans were never granted the freedom of movement that they enjoy.

The shame of nations

Today, we see that your nationality determines who you are and where you can go. If you carry the right passport, you can travel freely anywhere, irrespective of character or your motives. Nobody questions you. However, if you have the wrong passport, your movement is curtailed. You cannot enter some countries irrespective of your good intentions. If this is not discrimination, then help me understand the definition.

Unfortunately, this is legitimate discrimination that is practiced by all countries around the world - rich and poor, powerful and less powerful, democratic and non-democratic. This legitimate form of discrimination transcends all boundaries. That is why we are so complacent about it. We simply accept that this is how things should be.

Today, we consider this injustice as acceptable because this is how we found it. Society has brainwashed us to believe that it is normal and OK. The same way some of our forefathers considered slavery as normal, because that is all they knew. You're born a slave and you'll die a slave. You're born a master and you'll die a master. Your destiny and how society should see you was already defined by your ancestral line.

"Evil prevails when good men do nothing" - Edmund Burke

But, it took some courageous people who had the guts to speak out and change things - slaves who knew in their hearts of hearts that this is not how life was meant to be, masters who knew in their hearts of hearts that this is not how life was meant to be. Some knew that if you were born a slave you should not spend your whole life as a slave and die as a slave. If your ancestors were slaves, that should not sentence you to a life of slavery. Your status in life should be dependent on your character, not on your ancestral history.

I therefore challenge us all to think about the frustrations of millions of good meaning people on this planet who cannot go where they want to, cannot enjoy the beauty of touring different parts of the world, are not allowed to attend important events, simply because they carry the wrong passport.

Let us reflect on this.

I strongly believe that one day, our children's children will wonder how and why it happened. Why should anyone be denied access to a country because of their birthplace? Why should their movement be curtailed because of where they are from or their nationality? Just like in the days of slavery when slaves have to get special permits before they can move, so we are experiencing modern day slavery. All forms of modern-day slavery and discrimination should be eliminated in our lifetime.

I am optimistic. Keep hope alive!

Thanks for reading.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

How to tell a Refugee from a Migrant: Modern day interpretations

UNHCR defines a refugee as follows:

The 1951 Refugee Convention spells out that a refugee is someone who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country."

and a migrant as follows:

Migrants, especially economic migrants, choose to move in order to improve the future prospects of themselves and their families. Refugees have to move if they are to save their lives or preserve their freedom. They have no protection from their own state - indeed it is often their own government that is threatening to persecute them. If other countries do not let them in, and do not help them once they are in, then they may be condemning them to death - or to an intolerable life in the shadows, without sustenance and without rights.

IOM defines a migrant (and economic migrant) as follows:

Migrant - At the international level, no universally accepted definition for "migrant" exists. The term migrant was usually understood to cover all cases where the decision to migrate was taken freely by the individual concerned for reasons of "personal convenience" and without intervention of an external compelling factor; it therefore applied to persons, and family members, moving to another country or region to better their material or social conditions and improve the prospect for themselves or their family. The United Nations defines migrant as an individual who has resided in a foreign country for more than one year irrespective of the causes, voluntary or involuntary, and the means, regular or irregular, used to migrate. Under such a definition, those travelling for shorter periods as tourists and businesspersons would not be considered migrants. However, common usage includes certain kinds of shorter-term migrants, such as seasonal farm-workers who travel for short periods to work planting or harvesting farm products.

  • economic migrant - A person leaving his or her habitual place of residence to settle outside his or her country of origin in order to improve his or her quality of life. This term is often loosely used to distinguish from refugees fleeing persecution, and is also similarly used to refer to persons attempting to enter a country without legal permission and/or by using asylum procedures without bona fide cause. It may equally be applied to persons leaving their country of origin for the purpose of employment

However, in today's world, the difference between a "migrant" and a "refugee" depends on the destination. The definition is now based on the economic status of the destination compared to the place of origin. Irrespective of what or where one is fleeing from, if the person flees to a poorer country, that person is a "refugee". But, if that person flees to a much better country (in economic terms), that person is a "migrant".

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