Voices of the Unheard

Perspectives of migration that are usually probed are those of policy-makers, academia, media, employers, corporations and the general public. Contrasting perceptions borne out of these perspectives are contentious contemporary issues. The narrative of the exploited migrant has been established nationally, regionally and globally. His contribution has been acknowledged by some and dismissed by others. His worth has been assessed by sending states through remittances, and by receiving states through labour output. For the low-skilled migrant workers, remuneration does not commensurate with work hours. Yet, the overworked and underpaid make a conscious choice to continue their pursuit of employment in a foreign land in order to fulfil their needs and responsibilities. Do they actually have a choice? What is the common sentiment pertaining to migrant workers? Xenophobia and class discrimination are thriving in a supposedly culturally and technologically advanced global society. Has society actually advanced? Prevailing modern perceptions of human beings who happen to be migrants, betray traces of ancient, medieval, and sometimes even colonial mindsets.

What is the other side of the coin? Given that migrants are not commodities, is there sufficient knowledge on how they perceive perceptions of them? Do enough people know how migrants feel? Do enough people know the impact of discrimination on migrants’ emotional and psychological well-being? Do enough people know how migrants feel about their host country and its citizens? Do these feelings matter at all? I suppose not. It is comfortable and convenient to forget where we came from; where our forefathers came from; and what they did for a living. If roots were to be traced, perhaps we would then realise that we are not ‘supposed’ to be wherever we are now. How would we feel if we’re discriminated against because of the way we look, dress and speak? How would we feel if we’re looked down on, for the work that we do? Migrant workers are no exception, but they are more vulnerable and sensitive than us, to negative perceptions. They have to live and work in an environment where they know that they will never be given due respect and acknowledgement. They know that their feelings of attachment and loyalty to the host country do not matter. They know that the country that they’re building and the economy that they are boosting, have no place for them. This is not a one-country situation; rather, it is representative of a global misfortune.

Despite hostilities, migrant workers have somehow managed to retain positive feelings of their host country and its citizens. Money cannot be the only reason, for they know that they are underpaid. They have learnt to see the good in people who treat them badly. They have learnt to be proud of the country that they have built. They have learnt to accept that their present state will not change anytime soon. They have learnt to adapt to unfounded hostilities. They have learnt that they will be looked down on, for the work that they do. They have learnt to be grateful for the few who appreciate them. These attributes reveal a profound and unique migrant culture and resilience, which ought to be recognised, appreciated and praised. If migrant workers cannot be treated well, at the least, they should not be treated poorly. We have had a glimpse of their disillusionment and hurt. This is only the tip of the iceberg. If we cannot make things better for them, let us at least not make things worse. Let us constantly and continuously remind ourselves never to forget that after all, they are human beings, just like us!

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