“There are mainly two forms of migration: economic and political. Migrants seek out better lives elsewhere, because the conditions in their countries or regions of origin do not allow them to live decent lives. One of the first experiences that made me consider how I could help others adjust to being away from home came when I lived in Munich. My neighbour’s twelve-year-old daughter needed help with her homework because she was lagging in school. The mother and daughter were Kurdish asylum seekers from Iraq, and the mother's husband was killed in the clashes with Saddam Hussein's forces. I helped the daughter whenever I could, and on one occasion I accompanied both the mother and daughter to a parent-teacher meeting.
It may have been a limited experience but it opened my eyes to many things, and after I left Germany to study, I understand even more about migration and integration. It is essential for those who move to learn the local language. It is possible to have different cultural practices, but it is better to keep them discreet until the host population becomes more familiar with the migrants, otherwise the "fear of the unknown" is likely to cause conflict. Although it is counterintuitive it helps when migrants reach out to locals, for example through festivals and charities, as this will increase the likelihood that locals will act kindly in return (this is because locals rarely feel that it is their responsibility to accommodate migrants.)
Integration means adapting one's behaviour to match that of the host community: their language, food, communication, clothing, cultural interests and so on. However, it must be noted that there is cultural variety in most countries, so it can be difficult for the host population to define objective criteria for integration. Whether the host community decides to accept or reject migrants, it should get to know them well because choices that affect other human beings should be based on facts as opposed to conjecture.”
This story is brought to you in partnership with The Refugee Cultural Festival, 2017 edition. The festival was launched to encourage small, local actions to embrace diversity and support those forced to leave their homes due to war, famine and climate change. Learn more about the festival and donate by clicking here.