What migrants leave behind

Gary Younge writes: Migration involves loss. Even when you’re privileged, as I am, and move of your own free will, as I did, you feel it. Migrants, almost by definition, move with the future in mind. But their journeys inevitably involve excising part of their past. It’s not workers who emigrate but people. And whenever they move they leave part of themselves behind. Efforts to reclaim that which has been lost result in something more than nostalgia but, if you’re lucky, less than exile. And the losses keep coming. Funerals, christenings, graduations and weddings missed – milestones you couldn’t make because your life is elsewhere.

If you’re not lucky then your departure was forced by poverty, war or environmental disaster – or all three – and your destination is not of your choosing but merely where you could get to or where you were put. In that case the loss is bound to be all the more keen and painful.

In Gender and Nation, Nira Yuval-Davis describes how Palestinian children in Lebanese refugee camps would call “home” a village which may not have even existed for several decades but from which their parents were exiled.

You may have to leave behind your partner, your kids and your home. In time, in order to survive, you may have to let go of your language, your religion and your sense of self. [Continue reading…]

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