Mobility: A Matter of Choice?
Words by Margarida Azevedofirstname.lastname@example.org
The main difference between forced and unforced migration is not the will… it is security.
Some migrants are trying to improve their socio-economic conditions, whilst others want to study and many are forced to flee their country. Over the years we have seen regular migration, but the reasons why migrations take place are varied. Sometimes it’s voluntary and sometimes it’s forced and involves a difficult and long process.
In Portugal, migrants tend to be voluntary rather than forced. “Forced mobility”, refers to people that need to leave their country for security reasons, for example refugees and Portugal is one of the countries with the lowest number of refugees. This is due, in large part, to its geographical location: it’s further from the Mediterranean routes, there are no direct flights from countries in unstable situations and the overland access is difficult. It is because of these geographical constraints that Spain and Italy have a much higher number of refugees than Portugal.
Migrants are too often forgotten, misunderstood and the reasons for them seeking refuge is misinterpreted. Refugees come from contexts where there are serious violations of human rights and are generally in violent situations. For example, in 2014 the statistics indicate that the number of Ukrainian refugees in Portugal increased reflecting, of course, the politically unstable situation in Ukraine.
Refugees’ main concern is to find a safe place to live. Of course it is difficult to imagine ourselves in that situation, but the reality is that security is vital to any of us. What would we do if we felt that our country is not a safe place to live in?
Other big issues that migrants face is to be assured that their family is safe, then learn the language of the country where they are, so that they can begin the process of building a new life. The process of integration is complex and long-term from the often difficult administrative procedure; to their integration in the workplace – everything is a challenge!
The CPR helps refugees’ integration with a team of lawyers accompanying the legal process, by providing housing, giving Portuguese classes and providing social support. It’s a two-way relationship in which the host community and the refugees are in constant interaction.
The number of refugees worldwide currently stands at its highest ever point since World War II, with about 50 million refugees. This represents the difficult side of mobility. But there is, of course, another side; the CPR welcomes students under the Leonardo Da Vinci Programme for internships, promoting voluntary mobility and opening doors to students to see, understand and experience the reality of refugees in Portugal.
Voluntary mobility is presented as the positive solution for a different life. The Erasmuslisboa, a platform supporting foreign students under the Erasmus program, talked to YO!Mag about how Portugal receives young people seeking to study in the country. Their priority is not security but to experience new cultures, absorb knowledge in different educational establishments and enjoy a period experiencing a new reality. They commented: “because it is a temporary situation, young people make the most of every moment. The integration is easier because they know they will be in this city with these people for a defined period. There is more openness and spontaneity. They learn a new way of seeing life.” Despite leaving voluntarily and for a short time, “these students are faced with monetary and domestic issues that sometimes lead to stress”. The Erasmuslisboa tries to help them in this integration.This is the positive side of being in another country, but we must never forget that mobility is not always voluntary and easy. Mobility is not always a matter of choice.
Photo by Ricardo Leiria.