Language is a means to communicate our thoughts as well as our feelings. However, the words are insufficient to capture the complexity of our thought processes and the deepness of our emotions.

The word “immigration” like many other words carries the weight of being too broad and yet too reductive to accurately describe the concept and the issues that connect with it. When used in media, the word “immigration” is often deemed negative. It is portrayed to depict the struggle of refugees and how wars and political issues force many people to leave their home. Often the political question we face is whether or not immigrants should be helped and for how long. In that sense, the word “immigration” has become destructive and harmful. For me, the result is that we are all becoming sceptical, excessively intolerant and insensitive towards strangers and their struggle.

I am an immigrant but I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around immigration as an issue. In fact, I’ll never fully understand, because my life experience is specific to me and I cannot relate to every question connected to immigration.

When I moved from Cameroon to Luxembourg, I was only seven years old. I feel as if I was an observer to the whole immigration process. My grandmother was taking care of the whole administrative process. I just remember the both of us waiting in line to enter the embassy of Cameroon. I can remember my grandmother explaining to me that I would join my mother in another country far away. I don’t remember the details, it’s too far in the past. Understanding what I went through as “immigration” is a far too complex a notion for a 7 years old anyway.

As an immigrant, I feel really lucky! If I hadn’t immigrated or more specifically, my mum hadn’t immigrated, we would not be living the life we have now. My sisters and brother would not have come to this world and I wouldn’t have grown the way I did nor, met with the people in my life. Given my life experience, I regret the way our politicians and people in general deal with matters relate to immigration. They tend to only portray immigration as a problem.

In the media, immigration is designated as those from “third world” countries or those who leave war or authoritarianism regimes as fleeing refugees to “a more advanced and peaceful society” i.e. Europe and the United States of America. I agree, immigration has its challenges but it is also a beautiful thing. I think those politicians and the media omit that immigration is also a global movement especially in our modern society. We tend to forget that humans were nomadic before becoming sedentary. Immigration has always been part of our shared history. So why stigmatize it now?

Immigration of course has juridical and political consequences and especially for immigrants from non-EU countries it is a huge challenge but immigration is also the freedom of moving therefore, I think it is important to value the person behind such a complex and nuanced word. Humanity should be the only criteria to consider when talking about immigration, seeking to differentiate is damaging.

The word immigration also refers to a person permanently moving to a country in which they don’t have the nationality. In that sense, I believe that the word “immigration” is discriminatory as it underlines the difference between a national and stranger. It draws a line and makes a clear distinction between who belongs and who doesn’t. In a globalized world where we basically deal with the same political issues, where diversity is growing steadily, a world in which we wear the same clothes and listen to the same music and generally aspire to the same life and values. Basically, in a world that is more and more universal, I wonder: is the word “immigration” still relevant? Is it still accurate?

I do not wish to impose my perception on to anyone but We as a collective should not judge others. Some of us become migrants because it’s the results of our life choices (our studies, an urge to see the world, a work or the hope of a better life). Others immigrate because they have to. In this particular context, I refer to war or political refugees and especially the situation in Afghanistan. Imagine being one of those people trying desperately to flee their country in order to save their future. Some afghan women who have worked for twenty years to build a life now see all their efforts being destroyed in a matter of days. With more compassion history could be different. If tomorrow the “wealthier” population that lives in Europe/USA would become the immigrants, how would they want the situation to be handled?

I suggest we banish the word “immigration” and embrace freedom. By freedom, I mean the ability to define oneself and the means to create our life and world. They say two minds are better than one, well how about a million or billion minds? If we learned to live with others, if we accepted others who knows what an amazing world we could build.

The authorMarie

This post is the result of reflections of the group of young peer researchers at the University of Luxembourg. In the UL MIMY team peer researchers bring their unique experiences of migration, own perspectives and different backgrounds mirroring the diversity of Luxembourg.