EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ve heard many sad stories before about guest workers and migrants who are invited to come into New Zealand on the basis of skills and qualifications only to face many disappointments. For sure, New Zealand does a good job selling itself abroad as a great destination to start a new life and one where opportunities abound. But, the realities on the ground are entirely different as soon as they arrive. Noel Bautista, who maintains his own blog website, is a young and talented Filipino migrant residing in Wellington. He is currently employed as an assistant miller in Lower Hutt and, among his other skills and talents, likes to write. In this piece, Noel explores the subject of migration from a first person’s point-of-view and reveals the disconnects between migration and employment policies as it affects new migrants during this period of recession.
FROM SHORE TO DISTANT SHORE
The history of migration is, inextricably, the history of humankind. It is a complex subject that includes both voluntary and involuntary aspects – ones that depend on historical setting, circumstances and perspective.
Whether by outright conquest or by slow cultural infiltration and resettlement, the migration of peo-ple have affected the grand epochs in history; transformed land and therefore, the world itself.
The story of humankind includes numerous episodes of migrations that include, citing just a few:
- the Israelites of biblical times brought forth into Egypt, enslaved by Pharaoh, emancipated by the inspired Word of God through Moses, who then guided a generation of 12 unruly tribes through the desolation of the Sinai Desert for 40-years before reaching the Promised Land of Canaan;
- the waves of migration of the Austronesian people into every nook and cranny of the archipelagos, peninsulas and the spattering of near and far-flung islands of Africa (Madagascar), maritime Southeast Asia and the vast Pacific Ocean, culminating in the settlement of Aotearoa by a small group of Polynesians sailing their ‘waka’ and who are now collectively known as, the Māori;
- the Atlantic Slave Trade in the 17th and 18th centuries that caused the global diasporas of captured West African tribesmen and their kin shackled together in droves onto cramped slave ships bound off towards distant shores of the New World; and, of the thousands upon thousands of European peoples living in the Mediterranean coasts captured during waves of raids conducted by the Barbary Pirates from the 16th up until the 19th century, and auctioned off in the slave markets of the Ottoman Empire.
- the mass migration of Chinese village people starting from the 19th century caused mainly by wars and starvation in mainland China, who emigrated for work to countries such as the Americas, Australia, South Africa, Southeast Asia, Malaya and other places.
- the millions of people who departed from the British isles to populate the colonies of the British Empire, including large numbers from the sub-continent of India emigrating to those parts aforementioned.
- the list of examples continues on and on even up to this present day.
WHY THE MOVEMENT?
Lack of enough jobs, few opportunities, poor housing, poor climatic conditions, pollution, congestion, famine or drought, lack of political or religious freedom, persecution, death threats, security, better education, better medical care, better living conditions, loss of wealth, natural disasters, discrimination, better chances of marrying and family links – all have had significant roles in spurring people to migrate from one to other parts of the world.
Migration is so wedded to the drama of human history that it’s unthinkable to write any story of man without it.
Through these and other forces of circumstance or be it just wanderlust, in some cases, migrants of all stripes and colour find themselves arriving on unfamiliar shores; beholding unfamiliar people; and, having to abide by the tenets of a still unfamiliar culture.
Since it is in the nature of most humans to be wary of what change brings, particularly when in uncharted waters and surroundings, most would hold off embracing the many nuances, quirks, peculiarities and cultural norms of their new host country, lest they forget their own. This is perhaps because too rapid an assimilation has a high cost. It forces them to abandon the very blueprint that has molded their character and mindsets, ones learned from birth in their country of origin.
Still, if it’s true that travel broadens our horizons, then it must likewise follow that migration, for whatever reason and in whatever shape or form, broadens our perspective.