December 18 is International Migrants Day. It will pass without much fanfare today in the United States, and millions of immigrants will continue their everyday work, many probably not even aware that such a day was ever declared by a coalition of international political bodies.
For most of the migrants this day purports to celebrate, life goes on, the crops get picked, the assembly lines keep whirring, the hotel rooms get cleaned, exams are taken, graduation caps get tossed, wedding rings exchanged, new citizens born. Migration itself, as a means to an end, typically isn’t something to celebrate; it just is.
But a phenomenon so embedded in our social fabric is worthy of at least a short pause, so that migrants–whether they’re immigrant workers, refugees, internally displaced people, undocumented students–can be appreciated as more than just people who came from somewhere else. Their stories and journeys represent a point in time and space in which cultures clash, intersect, and fuse together. They mark the passage of human progress and measure of our collective history.
Here are some of the stories we’ve gathered from around the world that help illuminate the many facets of migration and the struggles migrants face around the world.
As a foreign mineworker on the South African mines, Thabang Matsora has known deep suffering and abuse. Today he looks back, and sees that there are two sides to every story. (Produced by International Organization for Migration Southern Africa.)
Working Guests in Kazakhstan
Working Guests, a film by Ruben Kazaryan and Auroa Foundation in collaboration with UN Women and Unesco Almaty, “addresses the situation of migrant workers in Kazachstan by letting migrants themselves telling their stories.”
A Life on Hold: The story of a teenage refugee
At 13 years old Omar was forced to leave his home in Somalia because of war. He then worked in Libya until the conflict broke out in 2011. He fled across the border to the Choucha refugee camp in Tunisia. He was 17.
In 2012, there are 170,000 refugees around the world, like Omar, whose lives are on hold whilst they wait for resettlement to a safe country.
Only half of them will get the chance to restart their lives unless governments make more resettlement places available. (Produced by Amnesty International)
Labor Trafficking Of Undocumented Migrants In San Diego
One in three unauthorized immigrants working in San Diego County is a victim of labor trafficking, according to a report funded by the U.S. Department of Justice. In addition, half have suffered labor abuses or exploitation at the workplace. … Zhang and his team found that far fewer migrants suffered abuses by smugglers while en route to the U.S. than abuses by employers in San Diego County. They also found that those who can speak only “simple sentences” in English are at much greater risk of being victimized. (Produced by Jill Replogle at Fronteras Desk)
Domestic Workers Read Their Poetry
Unified by the motto, “We have a dream that one day, all work will be valued equally,” Domestic Workers United is a guild of New York nannies, housekeepers, and caregivers, organizing for power, respect, and fair labor standards. At PEN World Voices, they emerged from a five-month writing workshop led by documentary poet, global labor activist, and 2010 Guggenheim Fellow Mark Nowak.
Performed by poet and journalist Musa Okwonga as part of the Migrants’ Rights Network’s new campaign, “Our Day: Standing together for International Migrants Day”:
“We are asking as many organisations and individuals as possible to get on board and show a united front in support of migrants. Share this video and go on our website http://www.our-day.org/ to add your voices of support.
“The Migrant Manifesto was created in collaboration with immigration academics, activists, politicians, and community members at a convening at the Immigrant Movement International headquarters in Corona, Queens on November 4th and 5th, 2011. Thanks to Tania Bruguera and her team for sharing.”