Publicador de contenidos

Back to Opinion_23_09_2021_ISSA_Voz_Migrante

The voice of the migrant


Published in


Ana Belén Martínez García

Lecturer at the Degree in Applied Management - Gestión Aplicada of the University of Navarra

What do we mean by migrant, and by refugee? The so-called migration crisis of 2015 highlighted the ethical, social and geopolitical ramifications of employment of one category or another. 

As a philologist, I cannot help but notice the meaning of words, the connotations they acquire over time and due to their use. In the case of people who cross borders, using one or another nomenclature gives them a nuance that perhaps they neither need nor wish to acquire.

Why should being born in a certain place give people the right to move freely while others are punished for simply trying to do so? Why should they risk their lives trying to survive? Why are the most vulnerable not protected? In this regard, many experts in the field of migration and human rights point to the disparity of criteria applied by states and the absence of legal protection precisely for the most unprotected, such as women and children. In my research I spend a lot of time studying the narratives of these people whose stories deserve to be told. Young women who decide to step forward and become activists, among them the now famous Nujeen Mustafa, collaborator with UNHCR and strong advocate for the rights of young refugees and people with some subject disability, labels loaded with mixed feelings and against which she fights openly. 

The power of the testimonial narrative is evident. They are very personal stories but at the same time key to understanding the suffering of many more people. Thus, in an interview a few years ago with Melissa Fleming, administrative assistant deputy general for Global Communication at the United Nations, we highlighted the importance of personalizing a story that runs the risk of remaining general and, therefore, falling into oblivion. Collecting the testimonies of migrants and refugees and then giving them visibility outside their immediate context could open the door to mutual understanding. 

Every year Pope Francis launches an appeal for solidarity with migrants and refugees. On this occasion, the motto is "Towards an ever greater 'we'". The idea is to emphasize that both migrants and refugees are persons, human beings, whose dignity must be reclaimed. Here it would not be out of place to reread philosophers such as Hannah Arendt or Judith Butler, with their critique of the politics of discarding and their struggle for social justice. To turn around the precariousness of the individual and try to turn it into an engine of change. To meet each other halfway by accepting one's own vulnerability. It is not a subject of speech that triumphs in the media. In fact, quite the contrary. 

The polarization of the public sphere in recent years, evident in social networks, has caused certain voices to gain strength. Voices full of mistrust and a closed spirit in oneself. Faced with an apparent invasion of people arriving from outside, many governments in the Eurozone are closing their borders. In the face of the pandemic, this closed-mindedness takes on even greater importance. It would seem that the core topic of survival is to close.

But perhaps we don't listen too often to the migrants themselves. What moves them? Let them speak out. Let us listen to their testimony. It often comes to us through various mediators, blurred, extremely mediatized, but it is certainly necessary to take it into account. Let us give a chance to those with whom we share more than many think. Only a greater capacity to listen generates possible empathy. Opening the doors of our hearts, our ears, our eyes, to the reality around us should be the way forward. We cannot allow Europe's borders, especially those at sea, to continue to become scenes of death and horror. Let us understand that we are also responsible. We too must provide answers to the great questions of our times.

Others, those who may seem different, are part of a greater us. Let us go out to them meeting, as the American historian Dominick LaCapra argued: "It is in meeting the other face to face that an inner change can come about. By recognizing the humanity of the other, we will find ourselves there".