Mothers’ Migration Motivations

By: Brandy Cochrane, PhD Candidate, School of Social Sciences and Researcher, Border Crossing Observatory, Monash University.

This post is part of the joint blog series on ‘Gender and Migration’ co-hosted by Border Criminologies and COMPAS. Posts in this series will be published on both blogs every Friday until the end of June. 

Summing up mounting pressures and trying to find a way to leave Iran, Sabeen, a mother of three, stated:

Don’t push me to go by boat… I’ve tried my chances and unfortunately I couldn’t find a way. The only thing that I found is this. You say to me it is a terrible way. You say it is not a safe way. You say to me it is a dangerous way. Everything you say I believe in it, but I have no other way. Sabeen (45 years old)

Problems of Push

BC_1Triggers of movement are complex for refugee mothers and, as the above quote makes clear, many feel they have little choice other than to migrate. There’s no one reason, nor can the decision to move be boiled down simply to fear. Examining these migration motivations isn’t to say that mothers don’t cite fear for their lives as a reason for migration. However, there are specific gendered triggers of movement for these mothers which are also affected by other factors, such as country of origin and class. Theory around push and pull factors is often credited to Everett Lee’s work on migration in which he outlines how people (in this case, men) decide to leave ‘origin’ countries and move to ‘destination’ countries. Push factors can be defined in a multitude of ways, on levels from macro to micro reasons (see, for example, work by Silvia Pedraza and Saskia Sassen-Koob) which contribute to life situations which cause, in the words of Guido Dorigo and Waldo Tobler, someone to ‘be dissatisfied with one’s present locale.’ This definition cannot fully encompass the complications around why people migrate and how these may culminate in a migratory journey. Push factors as a terminology may also dismiss the agency in decisions to migrate. Beyond these issues, women travelling with children clearly extend the framework of decision-making beyond an individualised model of push and pull factors which have been previously discussed within the literature. Due to the problematic nature of the push/pull dichotomy, I’ve chosen to use ‘migration motivations’ and ‘triggers of movement’ instead of ‘push factors.’

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Italy’s oldest and newest migrants: Challenges for second generation Somalis

By: Giulia Liberatore, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, COMPAS and Ismail Einashe, freelance journalist and researcher

Long known for its history of mass emigration Italy is today one of Europe’s migrant hot spots, with an estimated 4.6 million foreign nationals residents amounting to 7.5% of the total population. Yet Italy has struggled to define a path to deal with this historic reversal.

Italian arrowRecent media attention has focused on migrant arrivals on Italian shores. The country has been depicted as a transit zone for migration to northern Europe—a place of arrival and reception—as migrants aspire to reach more prosperous economies and welfare states. What is often forgotten is that many do remain and seek (and struggle) to make Italy their home. Although migration to Italy began in the 1970s, it was not until the 1990s that mass migration set in, attracting a diversity of migrant groups to work in the northern factories, agriculture and in domestic spheres. Filipinos, for example, stereotyped in the public imaginary as docile migrants, took up many of the jobs in the care sector. They now constitute one of the largest migrant groups just behind North African, Eastern European and Chinese communities. The second generations have grown up in the 2000s and are now entering the work force with Italian qualifications in hand.

Colonial ties

But another group of migrants who constitute some of Italy’s oldest and newest migrants has almost been forgotten. Italy was once a colonial power in Somalia, Eritrea and Libya, and it occupied Ethiopia, a fact that is rarely acknowledged in Italian public debates.  Italy’s history had been intertwined with that of the Horn of Africa long before the recent arrival of East African migrants on its shores.

In March this year we conducted a short stint of research with Somalis in Rome. Somali communities in the capital city are polarised between the more established communities—who came to study and work in Italy after the 1970s—and recent arrivals that escaped the civil war that broke out in 1988 in Somalia. Many of the latter are referred to by the more established Somalis as ‘titanic’, drawing parallels with the mass emigration of Italians in the 19th Century. The label is also used to evoke the perilous journeys on which Italians once embarked to reach the Americas, and those that Somalis endure today to cross the Mediterranean. In retaliation, recent arrivals have developed their own names for these older communities: ‘mezze lire’ (half liras) is used to deride Somalis for having lost their roots and culture in becoming ‘half Italian’.

The mezze lire

The more established Somalis are mostly professionals working as doctors and engineers. Among them was Yusuf Ali now 75 who grew up in Mogadishu under Italian colonial rule, and looks back fondly to this time. Having spent some time in Italy prior to the civil war in Somalia, he resettled his seven children and wife in Turin in 1993, where he worked as an engineer in a large factory. He is now retired and lives near Rome’s Termini station, where he spends his days at the local run Somali café. Most of his children have now left Italy, but he prefers to stay, regarding Italy as his home now. Many like Yusuf who were raised during colonial rule had ties to Italy through the colonial educational system and moving to Italy was seen as a homecoming. ‘Italians and Somalis are the same’ Yusuf remarked.

la mia casa e dove sono_GLpostYet many did not share Yusuf’s sentiment, having settled in largely white Italian urban areas during the 1970s and 80s and confronted with racism and discrimination. They quickly came to realise that Italians did not consider them co-nationals. This has continued for many second generations born and raised in Italy. Novelist Igiaba Scego, whose father was a former Foreign Minister in Somalia who came to Italy for study and training, describes in her books and articles the difficulties of being accepted as Italian. Her autobiographical book La mia casa e’ dove sono (My house is where I am) deals with her enduring attachments to Somalia, and her own struggles of growing up in a country where she was considered foreign for the colour of her skin.

Race and Italianness

During our stay we also met with Amin Nour a young Somali actor recently featured in Spike Lee’s 2008 film Miracolo a Sant’Anna, Claudio Noce’s 2009 Good Morning Aman. He spoke little Somali and preferred to talk to us in Italian. He moved to Italy when he was 3 with his mother who worked as a housekeeper for an Italian family. In his primary school in Colle Verde, a residential area outside the city centre, he was the only black student. His Somali childhood friends have all left Italy for the UK and Norway: ‘they left because they didn’t have anything here… what are you going to do in Italy, they don’t accept you’.  But Amin has made a point of staying in the country: ‘I never wanted to leave. I’m Italian and I don’t want to be the millionth person to leave without having given anything to the fight… the struggle’ he told us. Through his art he hopes to change the situation for future generations.

Although Amin has been in the country for most of his life he only recently applied for citizenship. Citizenship laws were made more restrictive in 1992 and children of foreign nationals born or raised in Italy are not granted citizenship and must wait until they are 18 in order to apply. Amin’s mother had never considered acquiring citizenship, so Amin only applied for a study visa when he turned 18. This, however, limited the number of hours he could legally work, and he was forced to turn down job offers in film when employers realised his visa restrictions. Having grown up in Italy he suddenly realised he was a foreigner. In recent years the second generation campaign group ReteG2, and other initiatives, such as the change.org campaign supported by hip-hop artist Amir Issaa, have been calling for a change in the law.

But Amin like many others realise that being Italian is more than a legal status. Despite identifying as Italian he knows that he will never be recognised as such. According to Amin the term second generation is unhelpful as it denotes foreignness: ‘I hate the concept of second generation, I don’t feel it…my origins are Somali but I feel black Italian… I grew up here’. Mario Balotelli, the Italian-born 24-year old Liverpool striker has endured a similar fate. He was not eligible to play for the Italian national team until he applied for citizenship aged 18 despite having been fostered by Italian parents, and has endured all manner of racist attacks in stadiums across the country.

Amin struggles to break free of the stereotypical roles he is given in Italian cinema. ‘In Italy black people always play the losers, the victims…’ In one of his recent auditions they were looking to cast an African who spoke Italian with a foreign accent and Amin put it on for the audition. ‘When I was on the set a week later I spoke Romanaccio (with a Roman accent)! That was my revenge!!’ he giggled.

He has recently set up his own production company which produces, what he calls, ‘politically incorrect’ films. His recent Babylon Fastfood explores the ways in which Italianness is essentially a matter of race. In a scene where Amin is cooking on an outdoor grill a bistecca fiorentina (steak Florentine style) he is approached by a group of recently arrived migrants who are on their lunch breaks. They ask why he is cooking his steak in this way rather than according to his own tradition and Amin defends himself with ‘I’m Italian so I want to cook this way!’ as the others laugh at him incredulous. As a black man he is not recognised as Italian despite talking and cooking as one.

Mass migration to Italy is a relatively recent phenomenon, and migrants have been largely invisible, working late night shifts or in domestic settings away from the public gaze. But young people born and raised in the country, such as Amin, have begun to make it onto Italian TV screens. They have challenged Italianness as a racialized identity and worked to loosen the cultural definition of what it means to be Italian in the 21st Century. In March this year over 30 associations presented a Manifesto for the Second Generations to the President of the Senate with suggestions on improving integration in the areas of work, education, culture and civil society. Perhaps there is hope that Italy is changing and beginning to recognise that migrants are here to stay and that those like Amin really are Italian.

Giulia is currently working on a manuscript on changing religious engagements among two generations of Somali women in London and Ismail is writing a book on Somalis in Europe. They can both be found on Twitter: @liberagiulia and @IsmailEinashe

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Twenty years later the refugees are back

By: Carlos Vargas Silva, Associate Professor and Senior Researcher at the Migration Observatory and Isabel Ruiz, Official Fellow and Tutor in Economics at Harris Manchester College

In two recent papers we explored the long-term labour market consequences for Tanzanians of hosting refugees from Burundi and Rwanda. These two countries experienced violent conflicts in the mid-1990s and hundreds of thousands of its residents sought refuge in neighbouring Tanzania. Our analysis uses data from the Kagera Health and Development Survey (KHDS), collected in Kagera, the northwestern corner of Tanzania. The last refugee camp in Kagera closed in 2008. The longitudinal data was collected in 1991 and 2010 (i.e. before and after the “end” of the refugee shock).

In a shorter paper published in the American Economic Review we showed that Tanzanians who were employees and were more affected by the refugee shock had a higher probability of subsequently being in professional occupations and being part of a pensions program. In a longer paper forthcoming in the Journal of Economic Geography we find that greater exposure to the refugee shock resulted in Tanzanians having a higher likelihood of working in household plantations or caring for household livestock and a lower likelihood of working outside the household as employees. The latter effect was particularly strong for Tanzanians doing casual work before the shock. This coincides with anecdotal evidence of refugees concentrating in casual waged work and competing directly with Tanzanians for those jobs.

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Gender, class and migration governance: a labour sending country perspective

By: Hiranthi Jayaweera, Senior Researcher

This post is part of the joint blog series on ‘Gender and Migration’ co-hosted by Border Criminologies and COMPAS. Posts in this series will be published on both blogs every Friday until the end of June. 

In February this year, the Ministry of Foreign Employment in Sri Lanka issued a circular titled ‘obtaining a Family Background Report of the women who aspire to go overseas for employment’ to administrators responsible for implementing the migration regulatory framework at a local – district, village – level. This family background report is specifically for women who ‘aspire’ to migrate as domestic workers or for any ‘non-professional employment’. The circular stipulates that on the basis of the report women with children under age 5 will not be ‘recommended’ for migration and those with older children will only be recommended if the officials are satisfied with the arrangements for the care of their children while the women are abroad. The circular simply formalises requirements and arrangements that have been in operation since 2013, the rationale for which is given as a concern ‘to prevent various difficulties and social problems that may be caused … when women migrate for employment without confirming the protection of their children.’ In the case of each woman, the official now needs to send a text message to the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment with her passport details and a code ‘R’ if recommended and ‘NR’ if not. A similar reporting requirement does not exist for male labour migrants, or presumably for women leaving for ‘professional’ jobs abroad. The restrictions on migrant domestic workers with children have been criticised by women’s rights organisations in Sri Lanka as interfering with the freedom of movement of women enshrined in international human rights conventions. It is of concern that despite all these criticisms over the past two years, the new circular simply reinforces the content of previous versions.

Broom and waste basketThis discriminatory policy – in terms of both gender and class – extends a series of restrictions on (some) women’s right to migrate abroad for work, that has included age restrictions and periodic bans on migrating at all to some labour-receiving countries particularly in the Gulf region, and has been a common policy and practice across many Asian labour sending countries including Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines in recent years. These restrictions have arisen out of stark examples of capital punishment to some migrant domestic workers in Gulf States and by the continuing failure of some of these countries to ensure decent working and employment conditions and welfare protection to migrants in low-skilled jobs. But despite the evidence on the appalling conditions faced by male migrants working on construction sites for instance in Qatar at present, there is no move by sending countries to restrict their freedom to migrate for work. Nor is there a requirement for the relatively large number Sri Lankan men migrating for manual work in South Korea, to be selected according to whether there exist proper childcare arrangements for their children while they are away. The main non-medical sending country requirement for these men to apply for jobs is that they pass a Korean language proficiency test.

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The Waiting Game: An experience with a point

By: Ida Persson, Research & Communications Officer, COMPAS and Marieke Van Houte, Marie Curie Research Fellow, International Migration Institute

Various forms of theatre can be used to engage and inform audiences about political and social issues. For example, theatre is used in the COMPAS project “Exploring Migration: Research and Drama in Schools” to inspire school age students to consider issues facing undocumented migrants. This takes a fairly serious and structured approach, devising a performance through workshops and discussion, producing a final piece of “traditional” theatre. But how do you make a point to an audience that doesn’t know that it is watching a performance? Or, indeed, one that is not necessarily interested or engaged in a particular issue?

We aimed to do just that with two performances on behalf of the International Migration Institute at the Social Animals LiveFriday at the Ashmolean Museum on 15 May. The event presented work by the University of Oxford social sciences to a wide audience of thousands. They were invited to wander through the museum watching, listening, and having a go at exhibitions, performances and activities that represented the wide variety of social sciences, from politics to anthropology at the University.

Doing this only two days after the students from Capital City Academy performed their piece “Undocumented Migrant Children’s Lives & Stories” as part of the “Exploring Migration” project, (see previous blogs on this here and here) at the Goldsmith’s Grad Fest 2015 on 12 May highlighted the benefits of both forms of theatrical tools.

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