Emigration, immigration…worldly interchanges

I’m a second generation Pakistani, born and bred in Denmark. I’m a direct product of international migration as my parents were invited to migrate to Denmark. They, being a curious and enthusiastic young newly married couple travelled extensively in Europe on their Pakistani passport. In the 1980s, the authorities seeing they were active members of the community wondered why they were still travelling on their Pakistani passport when they were exploring Europe more than constantly going back to Pakistan. They were offered to apply for Danish nationality.

With this background, I can say I’m a transnational by virtue of my Danish citizenship and EU passport. I have visa free entry to Pakistan because I have an overseas Pakistani identity card. My passport entitles me to consider myself a global citizen as I can get a 30 days visa upon entry to most countries, and I like to consider the world my home.

There is much talk about limiting migration to the UK. Some say only professionals should be allowed to enter to sustain a vibrant economy. Others say the professional jobs should go to British nationals. My British friends, say the employers would rather employ an English person. That’s just the way it is. As for racism, an African nurse I spoke to was going on and on about how bad the UK is, how bad the white man is;

“I work so hard here and my work is never recognized. I work longer hours than the English person. No one has the experience I do. I’m only here for my children’s education. Once they complete their education I will go back to Ghana and live amongst my own people where I will have some respectability.”

Sure, sure, you will get respectability… not. At least in my case the return migration turned into a never ending nightmare. Amongst my own, my qualifications had no value other than enabling the boss to get a scholarship to study at a prestigious university in the States or a certain NGO get that sought after UNDP funding and implementation partnership. Once that was achieved, I was just a minor casuality they got easily away with, just like someone promised another milk and honey and later broke the promises. I was discriminated against there too. Thus, I say, the racists I grew up amongst were more humanitarian than the community I grew up considering my own. The world is the same and the grass is not greener on the other side, but some places despite the callousness are easier to live in than elsewhere. I’m lucky to amongst those who can move around, rather than remain stuck in a Hell on Earth.

Therefore, even if their complaints are justified they should be grateful for the opportunity. Fair enough, they pay taxes, pay for public services, they are exploited by their employers and supervisors. Yes, they will be treated as substandard, second class citizens because of their skin colour. It doesn’t matter if they have a maroon passport, they are still darkies, blackies, Pakis etc.

Going back to the complaints about racism and prejudice, migrants in Europe are still better off than they would be in their countries of origin, even if they belong to the comfortable middle-class, or so-called elite in their countries of belonging. Maybe, if things had turned out differently for me and I had returned to Denmark after finishing my studies in the UK I would be just like them and complain about not being treated like the majority, although I would be a taxpayer. I would still feel I had to justify myself and my religious association because I belong to an ethnic minority. Instead, I went to Pakistan, for better or worse, but then how could it be worse when I would finally be living amongst my own and I was educated.

Things took an awkward turn. Ironically, in one place I was differentiated against or just casually sidelined for being Pakistani and Muslim and thereby just plain different. In Pakistan, I had to experience the fight against social, economic and gender discrimination. Although I didn’t have a green passport, I was discriminated against by my own. I was overworked and underpaid. Bad remuneration can be overlooked, but the harassment, the bullying, the slander, libel, defamation and general feeling of abandonment by the people who were supposed to be my people, made me wish I had chosen differently when I had the option to follow what I wanted out of life.

In one society, I was nevertheless accepted. I was different from the stereotype Paki spounger offspring and respected by the majority because apart from having a funny name, a different appearance and religious-cultural affiliation and not drinking alchohol, I was pretty much like them. In the other majority community, which I ought to be part of because for once I actually looked like them. Sharing cultural and religious associations, why wasn’t I the confused/disturbed returnee to Pakistan? How can someone who has lived most of her life overseas know about Pakistani culture and ways? Well don’t blame me for having patriotic parents who gave me a Pakistani upbringing in Denmark.

Migration rejuvenates a country, its economy and society. I’m a product of migration and will always support it. At a lecture on ethics in a changing world, the speaker, Baroness Kennedy who is also a human rights lawyer said: “we need migration if our economy is to survive”. Undoubtedly, through migration any country gets the best brains of other countries. However, the best brains don’t just move without any reason. I agree the selfish, ungrateful elements exist, but if you’re qualified, the first priority will always be to give your skills and knowledge to the country of your origin rather than elsewhere. Well in my case it certainly was. Hence, not only countries need migration of minds and skills. The migrants themselves need it.

Migration is survival strategy, a coping mechanism. Not only for the unskilled or semi-skilled people, but for the qualified ones also. Migration is more than the ability to earn money in order to survive. In some cases, migration is the only strategy to maintain your dignity and self-respect because your countries of origin certainly will not allow you to stay sane.