Category Archives: Migration

Europe needs to do more to prevent human trafficking

http://www.unmultimedia.org/radio/english/2015/10/europe-urged-to-do-more-to-prevent-trafficking/#.ViU0g36rSM9

This snippet highlights another consequence of the migration of refugees from the Middle East and Africa.

According to the article, human traffickers are taking advantage of refugees’ vulnerable state, often smuggling them via “unseaworthy vessels.”

UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, is urging Europe to help trafficked victims through not allowing immigration policies to negatively affect anti-human trafficking laws as this could lead to an increase in human trafficking and exploitation.

Gendering the Immigration Debate

In today’s New York Times, there are two pieces regarding immigration and Latinos — unrelated articles, but developments to pay attention to.

First is the announcement that Obama is going to recruit Latina actresses to help promote his ideas for immigration reform.

Second is a piece asking for a discussion over whether the U.S. needs a museum on the national mall to the history and culture of Latinos. Many of the bloggers are positive about the need for this, but at least one predictable comment was posted:
“What have latinos done to contribute anything to the US. I’ll tell you. Nothing, nada. Why should we spend dollars we don’t have for a museum for latinos?
They pour over our borders, pump their women full of new born babies who instantly become US citizens just because they were born here. The 15 to 20 million illegals contribute no tax dollars, but somehow manage to get welfare money and free medical care. When they stop committing international crime of illegally entering our country, then maybe one day they may deserve something like this. And for the US government to even consider it, in the face of the worst economic times since the 1930’s, Is a slap in the face to every American who at least tries to get work, pay taxes, and obey the laws of the country. Latinos do none of these. Instead they should use this money to shore up the borders. We cannot afford any more free rides.”


Let’s connect the dots here. Obama has selected three individuals (noticeably, they are women) who contribute to our national culture and economy; this is the tip of the iceberg — the examples can be found in any city across the country these days. One does not need to look far to find them. Contributions to this country date back to the Spanish colonists. Secondly, in this blogger’s comment, xenophobic fear of the foreign “other” is taking on a gendered frame. Equally present in such commentaries are the masculinized frames–such as the unemployed Mexican hanging in a parking lot to take jobs from Americans. The “anchor baby” construction is the latest example of the “welfare queen” myth that African American women have suffered. It turns out that Latinos (which includes millions of native-born Latinos/Latinas) pay plenty of taxes and Social Security, as do immigrants of all nationalities. The “crime” mentioned here is a violation of civil law, not criminal law, but today’s climate treats our immigrants as presumed criminals. (Witness our own class member who was racially profiled in a recent police stop for doing nothing wrong.)
There is much to discuss about the broader societal context of these issues, including flawed or failed policies such as NAFTA and CAFTA, a history of courting Mexicans for manual labor legally and then closing the doors, a restricted visa policy that doesn’t allow enough visas for the number of jobs needing to be filled, and the coyotes and traffickers who exploit the situation. Closing the border has not worked — it has promoted more, not less, criminal activity. See Lee Maril’s new book, The Fence. Women are among the most vulnerable to these practices. Further, research has consistently found no correlation between immigration and crime; immigrant neighborhoods usually have lower crime rates than other neighborhoods.
How can we see our foreign-born neighbors, teachers, bosses, assistants, farmworkers in more textured ways that recognize the diversity between them, the contributions they make to the country, and the problems that arise from a broken system, not from individuals? Part and parcel are the contributions of immigrant women. As my co-authors, Elizabeth Clifford and Reena Tandon, and I describe in our new book Immigration and Women: Understanding the American Experience, the women usually disappear in the popular imagination of the immigrant, with the exception of the “anchor baby” scenario. But the majority of the housecleaning and home child care work is now performed by women from such countries as the Philippines, there are many Caribbean and Filipino nurses in our health care system, small local businesses and large architectural and law firms are run by immigrant women, and the special vision of these women is enriching our art world. The front lines of immigration-rights activism are boldly led by women. Further, if our country, as our colleague Mona Russell has written, justifies colonialism by judging how other countries treat women, would not this logic be used to welcome “oppressed” women through a gender-sensitive asylum and refugee policy?
I am reminded of the question asked by the United Nations report that our class just read, “Who Answers to Women?” and we might add, “Why is this question almost never asked?”
Susan C. Pearce is Assistant Professor of Sociology at East Carolina University

“Amreeka” Film Showing 4.18.2011

On Monday, April 18, 2011 the Ethnic Studies Program hosted a film showing of the film Amreeka. Amreeka is the story of an immigrant family’s journey to the US and their introduction to American culture. It also a continuation of their lesson in raw prejudice. Amreeka first deals with problems that many immigrants to US struggle with upon coming to America. Firstly, the audience sees the family, a mother and son, Muna and Fadi dealing with immigrating to America in a post-9/11 world. It is most important to understand that because living in and trying to get into a post 9/11 America is very difficult for most Americans and people of other countries, particularly those who were from the Middle East, were of the Muslim faith or were of Middle Eastern descent. However, the scene where they and their goods are being examined should be regarded with caution. It is easy to say that they are being questioned and searched because they are not only foreigners but also Middle Eastern. However, the counterargument to that is that they being searched because they are foreigners entering the US and that their particular race and presumed religious ideologies have nothing to do with their examination. In fact, as we later learn, the family is actually Christian. Not Muslim. In the beginning of the film, when the mother and son are finally settled into the home of their family, they must immediately deal with money problems. Unbeknownst to him, Fadi allowed the airport security to take away a tin of cookies containing $2,500 dollars, all the money his mother had. Fortunately, her brother, had given Fadi $200 dollars, so they at least had some money with them. Also, Fadi and Muna deal with American culture. Another family member takes stock of Fadi’s clothes and notes that he wears particular clothing, he will be considered “F.O.B.” or “Fresh Off the Boat”, meaning it will become immediately obvious that he is an immigrant because of his older attire. Quickly, Muna and Fadi attempt to ameliorate their attire. Also, Muna experiences feelings of discomfort with her body type. Fadi deals with being a new school and the education system of the US. Also, Fadi is bullied by members of his class, who are not accepting of him because of his Middle Eastern heritage. Also, it is noted that these boys have family members in the military who are in Iraq. During the setting of this movie, the U.S. invasion of Iraq has just begun. The family also deals with discrimination in finding jobs because Muna’s ethnicity, even though she is not Muslim. She is well educated with 10 years of work experience in a bank but she is forced to take a job at a White Castle restaurant. This is a point of humiliation for her, being both a proud immigrant and an educated woman. Also, Muna and Fadi deal with language barriers as they navigate American culture. Colloquialisms are difficult for them to understand. Also, Fadi tries smoking “Mary Jane” and gets into a fight with a classmate over causing his mother’s slip and fall at work and is later arrested, briefly detained and unrealistically released after some bargaining with a Jewish principal who befriends them despite the “serious allegations” against him. Muna also gets suckered into trying raise money for herself with one of America’s many weight loss scam products, “HerbalLose”. Not only is Muna dealing with being an immigrant, she is also dealing with being a divorcee. At the end of the novel, it is clear that Muna and the Jewish principal may have chemistry between the two of them. As Muna notes “We are a minority there (Christians) and a minority here (Middle Easterners).”

This movie is far from being the best movie to handle such an intense and thick debate but it works because it’s easy to follow and sends to message to audience. It does however reinforce and create new stereotypes as it crushes others. For instance, the whites in the film are racist. Members of the military (or at least their family members) have problems with Muslims, Middle Easterners and others not like them and they are so ignorant they cannot even spell names of terrorist organizations correctly. Also, the black boy who is in a relationship with Fadi’s outspoken female cousin, dresses in “ghetto” or “gangsta” clothing, smokes weed, listens to rap, and skips school and seems generally disinterested in school. This movie also has a nice, clean and “happy” ending with a Jewish man and a Middle Eastern family coming together and having dinner together. While not entirely unrealistic, it was certainly corny. The same is true with the husband’s medical practice failing because of uncomfortable patients changing to practices without Middle Eastern doctors. Also, Muna decides that she does not need to diet and is happy with her body. Again, while not unrealistic, that conclusion is much to neat and sudden for film, where even the pre-America scenes showed Muna unhappy with her body type and yet suddenly, in the last minutes of the film she expresses a love of her body.

Humanitarian Organizations Must Involve Refugee Women in Planning Reproductive Health Programs

–Rachel Girmus

In 2009, the UN Refugee Agency reported that 21.8 million worldwide are “persons of concern;” these include refugees, internally displaced persons, and stateless persons, spread over 140 countries. Of these, 80% are women and children who fled their home countries due to conflict and human rights violations. Women are disproportionately affected by every stage of conflict–as conflict begins, as they are forced to flee their communities, and during periods of seemingly interminable exile in camps. During these stages, women lose the protection of their families, on whom they are dependent for physical and economic security. They often become the victims of violent unprotected sex that results in unwanted pregnancy and contraction of disease, while humanitarian services offered in camps do not adequately meet their reproductive needs. Women and adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence in the form of rape during wars of nationalism or ethnicity. Because their bodies are interpreted as symbols of the collective motherland or culture, they are likely to become targets due to citizenry, religion, ethnicity, race or class. The use of rape as a weapon of warfare effectively terrorizes a society’s women and humiliates its men, causing whole communities to flee their territories in search of safety. During the disorganization of flight, women may also become separated from the protection of male family members, leaving them vulnerable to assault, robbery, harassment, and sexual violence by strangers they meet along the way, including army and militia units, police, pirates, highwaymen, border guards, peacekeepers, humanitarian aid providers, and other male refugees. Once settled within refugee camps, security may be lax leading to further assualts on women by other refugees or the security police themselves as recent reports on Haitian refugee camps document. In addition, women who are separated from male partners often bear the burden of providing for their families and may be forced to exchange sex for food and protection. Even when male partners are present, the stress of dislocation and the lack of economic opportunities lead to documented increases of domestic violence and marital rape. Frequent unprotected sex, moreover, poses significant risks to the one fourth of refugee women who are of reproductive age; most obviously, unwanted pregnancy and contraction of sexually transmitted infections. Adolescent girls are at particular risk of unprotected sex, early pregnancy and exploitation by older males in camp settings. While humanitarian organizations provide many important services to refugees, they sometimes fail to provide adequate gender and culture- appropriate ones because they don’t ask refugee women what they need. For example, despite the prevalence of forced and coerced sex, which is usually unprotected, services for women in the camps tend to focus only on basic family planning and antenatal care and those services are limited in comparison to the numbers of women who need them. As a result, many women have no option but abortion when faced with unwanted pregnancy. As a result, unsafe abortion is responsible for between 25-50% of all maternal deaths in refugee camps. Even though the majority of pregnancies and infections are not the fault of the women themselves, they risk death by trying to gain some semblance of control over their lives. Why are these reproductive services so woefully inadequate? The surprisingly straightforward answer: women refugees are not consulted about their own health needs. At the most basic level, addressing women’s needs effectively in refugee settings requires the inclusion of refugee women in the planning of programs and their implementation. Such an approach has the potential to create both gender and culturally sensitive outreach. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees even agrees that “programmes that are not planned in consultation with the beneficiaries, nor implemented with their participation, cannot be effective.” Assumptions and generalizations by aid organizations about how to serve female refugee populations do not work. There are myriad documented cases of interventions undertaken by relief organizations with the best intentions that ultimately ended in failure because the attempted speed of the response prevented any gender and culture sensitivity during implementation. Cases include instances of food and shelter distribution in the camps being under the sole control of men, resulting in malnutrition and mortality in female-headed households; counterproductive female income generation programs that alienate men; and male-dominated health service provision and lack of female health workers, which lowers women’s access to healthcare. To address issues of reproductive health, women should be involved in needs assessments and all stages of health care services including their planning, provision and implementation. It is the responsibility of agencies that work with refugee populations, including non-govermental organizations, reproductive health organizations, and government health officials to inform themselves of refugee women’s reproductive needs, as cultural taboos may prevent them from being openly voiced. Contextual understanding of the restrictive, overwhelming circumstances of camp life under which the women live is crucial. For example, one simple way to prevent sexual violence against refugee women is their inclusion in the distribution of necessities so they will not be forced into transactional sex to provide for themselves. Many women are under societal pressure to hide the fact that their pregnancies are the result of rape or transactional sex. By discussing reproductive health in culturally appropriate ways and settings, aid organizations could better understand that the challenges of daily life and social repression may be prohibitive to a woman’s self advocacy, but her silence does not indicate her lack of need for certain services like safe abortion. No one knows what refugee women need more than the women themselves. Any ‘top-down,’ generalized programs by humanitarian organizations that do not welcome the knowledge of the beneficiaries themselves risk becoming nothing but ‘feel-good’ operations. There is a massive need for effective reproductive health care in refugee settings. The only way to bring tangible benefits is to involve the women in the planning and delivery of services in more than a token way. Rachel Girmus is a graduate student in her last semester of the MA in International Studies program at East Carolina University. She is pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Economic Development, and is interested in foreign languages and literatures, social justice, development and Africa. Rachel Girmus In 2009, the UN Refugee Agency reported that 21.8 million worldwide are “persons of concern;” these include refugees, internally displaced persons, and stateless persons, spread over 140 countries. Of these, 80% are women and children who fled their home countries due to conflict and human rights violations. Women are disproportionately affected by every stage of conflict–as conflict begins, as they are forced to flee their communities, and during periods of seemingly interminable exile in camps. During these stages, women lose the protection of their families, on whom they are dependent for physical and economic security. They often become the victims of violent unprotected sex that results in unwanted pregnancy and contraction of disease, while humanitarian services offered in camps do not adequately meet their reproductive needs. Women and adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence in the form of rape during wars of nationalism or ethnicity. Because their bodies are interpreted as symbols of the collective motherland or culture, they are likely to become targets due to citizenry, religion, ethnicity, race or class. The use of rape as a weapon of warfare effectively terrorizes a society’s women and humiliates its men, causing whole communities to flee their territories in search of safety. During the disorganization of flight, women may also become separated from the protection of male family members, leaving them vulnerable to assault, robbery, harassment, and sexual violence by strangers they meet along the way, including army and militia units, police, pirates, highwaymen, border guards, peacekeepers, humanitarian aid providers, and other male refugees. Once settled within refugee camps, security may be lax leading to further assualts on women by other refugees or the security police themselves as recent reports on Haitian refugee camps document. In addition, women who are separated from male partners often bear the burden of providing for their families and may be forced to exchange sex for food and protection. Even when male partners are present, the stress of dislocation and the lack of economic opportunities lead to documented increases of domestic violence and marital rape. Frequent unprotected sex, moreover, poses significant risks to the one fourth of refugee women who are of reproductive age; most obviously, unwanted pregnancy and contraction of sexually transmitted infections. Adolescent girls are at particular risk of unprotected sex, early pregnancy and exploitation by older males in camp settings. While humanitarian organizations provide many important services to refugees, they sometimes fail to provide adequate gender and culture- appropriate ones because they don’t ask refugee women what they need. For example, despite the prevalence of forced and coerced sex, which is usually unprotected, services for women in the camps tend to focus only on basic family planning and antenatal care and those services are limited in comparison to the numbers of women who need them. As a result, many women have no option but abortion when faced with unwanted pregnancy. As a result, unsafe abortion is responsible for between 25-50% of all maternal deaths in refugee camps. Even though the majority of pregnancies and infections are not the fault of the women themselves, they risk death by trying to gain some semblance of control over their lives. Why are these reproductive services so woefully inadequate? The surprisingly straightforward answer: women refugees are not consulted about their own health needs. At the most basic level, addressing women’s needs effectively in refugee settings requires the inclusion of refugee women in the planning of programs and their implementation. Such an approach has the potential to create both gender and culturally sensitive outreach. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees even agrees that “programmes that are not planned in consultation with the beneficiaries, nor implemented with their participation, cannot be effective.” Assumptions and generalizations by aid organizations about how to serve female refugee populations do not work. There are myriad documented cases of interventions undertaken by relief organizations with the best intentions that ultimately ended in failure because the attempted speed of the response prevented any gender and culture sensitivity during implementation. Cases include instances of food and shelter distribution in the camps being under the sole control of men, resulting in malnutrition and mortality in female-headed households; counterproductive female income generation programs that alienate men; and male-dominated health service provision and lack of female health workers, which lowers women’s access to healthcare. To address issues of reproductive health, women should be involved in needs assessments and all stages of health care services including their planning, provision and implementation. It is the responsibility of agencies that work with refugee populations, including non-govermental organizations, reproductive health organizations, and government health officials to inform themselves of refugee women’s reproductive needs, as cultural taboos may prevent them from being openly voiced. Contextual understanding of the restrictive, overwhelming circumstances of camp life under which the women live is crucial. For example, one simple way to prevent sexual violence against refugee women is their inclusion in the distribution of necessities so they will not be forced into transactional sex to provide for themselves. Many women are under societal pressure to hide the fact that their pregnancies are the result of rape or transactional sex. By discussing reproductive health in culturally appropriate ways and settings, aid organizations could better understand that the challenges of daily life and social repression may be prohibitive to a woman’s self advocacy, but her silence does not indicate her lack of need for certain services like safe abortion. No one knows what refugee women need more than the women themselves. Any ‘top-down,’ generalized programs by humanitarian organizations that do not welcome the knowledge of the beneficiaries themselves risk becoming nothing but ‘feel-good’ operations. There is a massive need for effective reproductive health care in refugee settings. The only way to bring tangible benefits is to involve the women in the planning and delivery of services in more than a token way.

Rachel Girmus is a graduate student in her last semester of the MA in International Studies program at East Carolina University. She is pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Economic Development, and is interested in foreign languages and literatures, social justice, development and Africa.