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Recognize the contribution of immigration
by Thanos Kalamidas
2007-12-18 09:23:51
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Would anybody ever imagine that England, with its language that has spread all over the world and with countries all around the globe that have English as the official language, that the day would come when there will be traffic or municipality signs in English and another language all around England? Could anybody ever imagine this other language would be Polish? I can easily bet that not even in their wildest dreams, but in the beginning of the 21st century this is a reality and it has nothing to do with tourism but with immigration!

For the year 2007, nearly 200 million people have moved country, immigrated somewhere else on this earth. To give you an idea this is half the population of Europe as a continent. 200 million people have immigrated for financial, political and even love reasons; however, it is mainly financial, looking for a better future for themselves and for their kids. Be aware that this movement doesn’t necessary mean people from underdeveloped countries moving to richer ones; it means anything because, after all, with unemployment in some of the rich countries reaching 10% moving to another country is one solution.

The amazing fact is that these financial immigrants literally save the economies of the countries they are hosted, especially the aging west. The biggest problem of the developed world over the last two decades has been the aging population and the possibility that the states won’t be able to pay the pensions. This new human force and the taxes they pay have brought a balance to this problem apart from the fact of a cash flow that kept inflation.

Immigration, of course, came accompanied with a lot of bitter stories, such as racism, prejudice, bad treatment, use of the illegal immigration, slavery and trafficking. However, the states are slowly realizing the positive use of all this immigration and, until the states are activated into defending the rights of these people, we are still in the very beginning. Hundreds of people are victims of trafficking or illegal immigration from Cuba and Mexico to the whole of the Mediterranean, plus the Far East and East Europe, but at least the states, especially of the developed countries, have started doing something.

I said 'doing something' and I remembered the wall the US administration is building on the border with Mexico forgetting how much the neighbour country and Mexican labour has offered the US economy. Again I remembered the tubs that sink in the Mediterranean while desperate people try to cross the waters from Africa or the Middle East to Europe. Doing something with creating immigrant camps outside Europe for a better control on who is coming and who is going and finally the use of the new ‘terrorist’ excuse to cut off people from a better future.

We at Ovi magazine are immigrants, literally! Asa, Tony and I are immigrants in Finland. John is working with immigrants while being an immigrant himself in Indonesia. A big part of our contributors are immigrants from all around the world. We have felt immigration on our skin, we have seen discrimination and prejudice and from this position we fight daily all the above. We know how much good immigration can bring, we have seen it, and we are examples of it. We are part of the change in a new better Europe where multiculturalism is not just another motto but reality, we are part of this reality, and our kids are part of this reality.

Naturally we don’t need a special day to remember the immigrants, but for countries like USA everyday should be Immigrants Day. It is a pity our transatlantic neighbours often forget that they are a nation of immigrants. It's a pity Australians forget that they are a nation of immigrants, as are Canadians, Brazilians and so many other countries.

The contribution of the immigrants is not recognized as it should be and perhaps this is the best chance for all countries to do so, understand, accept and welcome the immigrants that have changed their economies for the better.

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Emanuel Paparella2007-12-18 13:24:47
Here in America, after some 400 years of immigration we are still learning, the hard way unfortunately, to distinguish between assimilation and integration. Assimilation says: this is an Anglo-Saxon country, so if you wish to survive learn English, forget the language and the culture of your grandfather, maybe even change your last name, and become an Anglo-Saxon and join the American dream of someday becoming rich, and maybe even famous. Integration says: welcome to our culture, we expect you to respect it and our laws and mores and learn from it so that you can be integrated into the fabric our society, but we also are willing to learn from your culture because we understand that the more cultures are integrated the richer ours becomes. The metaphor for the former is the melting pot invented as a play by Henry Ford who went around saying “history is bunk” like uncle Scrooge says “Christmas is bunk.” The metaphor for the latter is a symphony orchestra where everyone plays his own cultural instrument and contributes to the beauty of the whole.

I trust the EU will learn that lesson the easy way, which is to consider borders porous like skin which allows the organism to breathe rather than a suffocating suit of armor (the walls) to better defend fortress Europe . But I wouldn’t be too sanguine about it. Indeed, those who don’t learn from history usually repeat it.

Sand2007-12-18 14:55:54
As a former New Yorker I found no novelty in not being able to understand the people around me on the subway. A few years ago I spent time in upper Manhattan where some people understood only Spanish and for scores of years in the last century sections of the city were divided into ethnic groups where local newspapers were published in German, Yiddish, Spanish, Italian, Finnish, Polish, Chinese and probably a few more and conversations in these languages were ubiquitous. One of the marvelous rewards of this polyglot culture was the variety of delicious national foods available in original cuisines. My mother came from Hungary and my father from Austria although they spoke perfect English and never bestowed the benefits of knowing their native languages on me since, at the beginning of the 20th century, people preferred to assimilate totally. That is not necessarily true today.

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