Underlining tensions around the topic of migration, including discriminatory attitudes, such as racism and xenophobia, often result in aggressive behaviors and even violence towards the migrant community. Inequalities and lack of a proper infrastructure, opportunities or perspective within the host country can also heighten fear and intolerance creating a further divide within communities and fuel the migrant’s treacherous journey.
These journeyers find themselves extremely vulnerable to exploitation and violence, many unaware of their rights and protections within their new, often overwhelming, surroundings. Irregular migration also fosters gender-based violence to take place, primarily against women and girls, with incidents being largely underreported.
This constant state of fear and trauma within a migrant’s journey is damaging to their overall health and well-being and detrimental in preventing them from living out their full potential as a contributing member of society.
Despite laws in place, overall cultural divides and prejudices against migrants often diminish or delay a safe and peaceful refuge. Further defining groups within the migratory community, international law recognizes refugees as individuals with a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, social or political affiliation and unable or, due to such fear, unwilling to seek protection from or return to their country of origin. According to the principle of non-refoulement, this refugee should remain in the host country to avoid serious threat to their freedom and most crucially, their life.
How are we helping to foster peace and security for those risking everything to find protection from violence and exploitation in search of a better life? Are we able to see past the migrant label and uphold every person’s human dignity so they can become an integral part of their new community?
Monthly column written for St. Joseph Catholic Church, Tampa, FL