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Racism and xenophobia in migration: explaining discrimination

Updated: Nov 23, 2022

We live in a racist and xenophobic world in which there are first-class refugees and second-class refugees. White migrants are welcomed with open arms, while those of colour are discriminated against.

Last October there was an alert about the finding of a group of 96 naked refugees and some wounded, mostly Syrians and Afghans, on the river border between Greece and Turkey. They had been forced to cross the River Evros.

The Greek government, which had found the group of migrants, blamed the Turks directly, while from Turkey they assured that this was false information and that the only ones responsible were the Greeks.

Both countries blamed each other for inhuman behaviour, and neither took responsibility for what happened. From UNHCR's social networks, a thorough investigation was demanded into what happened and condemned the denigrating treatment that migrants received.

It is not the first time that Greece has been involved in scandals for its rejection of refugees, and they are often accused by different NGOs such as Open Arms of exercising violence on migrants and carrying out returns illegal

Few media outlets echoed this news, but this is no surprise, because for them there have always been first-class migrants and second-class migrants. The migratory conflict has become something political since xenophobia and racism have been used as a tool for the exclusion of those who are different from the larger group.

Although overt racial discrimination is no longer as common in immigration policies, prejudice persists and strongly influences how people are treated when they migrate and the opportunities they have once they settle in a city or country.

The most recent example is the one we are experiencing today with the Ukrainian refugees, who being white are welcomed into Europe with open arms, receiving accommodation and job opportunities instantly. While Syrian, Afghan or Togolese refugees are excluded from this type of reception in which their rights as human beings are protected.

There will be those who say that colour has nothing to do with it, but many black people who fled from Ukraine when the war broke out saw how they were prohibited from getting on the trains and white people were prioritized, no matter where they were from.

The problem arises when racial classification becomes hierarchical and becomes a cause of discrimination, when refugees are classified as first-class refugees and second-class refugees. In this context, although racism and xenophobia are subjective, objectively they affect the lives of many people who are denied similar rights and opportunities, especially when they are forced to leave their country of origin.

Tools to fight against racism and xenophobia

It is evident that we are taught from an early age to feel rejection towards that which is different from us. That is why, as a society, we have an obligation to change discriminatory attitudes so that everyone feels welcome.

The first thing we must do is listen and educate ourselves, we have to understand what racialized people live and suffer, and we have to allow ourselves to be corrected by those who live racism in their flesh.

Once we have started the process of deconstruction, we have to raise awareness among the people around us who continue to have discriminatory attitudes. Racialized people have no obligation to teach people not to be racist, but the rest do have an obligation to correct toxic attitudes of others.

Finally, report racist and xenophobic attitudes, do not shut up in the face of injustice. Whether it's something you experience in your workplace, at your institute or university, or on the street.

Change is possible, a conscientious and inclusive society is possible, but we all have to do our part to leave discrimination in the past.

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