Alienation and Identity
Alienation is an important topic to discuss when talking about refugees. The feeling of not belonging is always present in the migrant experience and can inflict serious health problems upon the displaced people who fled their home country. When migrants describe Europe they portray it as a dream land. A place where they can feel safe and especially a place to belong. But in reality Europe is nothing but a land of illusion because once reaching Europe the migrants face all kind of enclosure and nothing seems to be as expected. It is at this point where we can say that environment in shaping these uprooted people. This is due to the fact that they were deeply marked by the traumatic experience of war and migration but also dramatically shaped by the rejection of Europe.
To begin with, Europe fear regarding the refugees comes from the inability to relate to their situation people cannot be empathetic towards the migrants because they were never force to flee from a place to another, living with the constant fear that this might be their last day on Earth. Due to the fact that people cannot relate with the refugee’s feeling of insecurity they tend to marginalize them, vehemently demanding them to return to the country they belong. But how to return to a place where one feel not to be a part of it anymore? The discrimination and the fact that refugees are always asked to leave Europe because they do not have the right to live in this “paradise” land can cause loneliness and isolation. The alienation feeling can take any shapes and forms and has its roots in social rejection. Without any doubts we can say that almost all migrants experienced at some point alienation and homesickness. But not always one have to leave their home country in order to feel alienated and homesick. In Morocco people especially males experience homesickness in their native country. They have no roots and feel abroad everywhere. Hence, the men feel like foreigners in their own country. This is due to the fact that Moroccan society has nothing to offer to the young generation. Therefore, Moroccan people try to migrate to Western countries, such as Belgium, where they can hope for a better future and where they put end to the homesickness feeling.
Secondly, when migrants arrive in a foreign country they have to face a totally new experience. They encounter a new society with their own beliefs, culture and history and foremost a new environment. But most of all a new language that might have nothing in common with their native one. Language is an important barrier to cross when trying to integrate into a new society. If the migrant has the ability to rapidly learn the host country’s language he has more opportunities is finding a job and overall integrate to the society.
But in the beginning the only way to integrate into the new society is to use English as the language of understanding. But even if the migrants might know English their accents remains an identifying aspect and this might bring discrimination upon them. Moreover, the migrants cannot just simply learn a new language and adopt it as their own or forget their beliefs and traditions. Thus, this might make them distinguishable from the rest the host country. It is at this moment when the alienation feeling start to develop because these uprooted people cannot find a way to blend with the rest of the population. As a result to this the effects of alienation might engender serious behavioral breakdowns and severe mental health problems, respectively, anxiety, depression, overall stress and even schizophrenia.
Therefore, the post traumatic stress from the process of migration, the constant fear of not being deported or pushed back to the war-zone countries and the constant feeling of alienation might dramatically increase the risk of psychosis among the refugees.
Thirdly, due to the fact that migrants often face racism and persecution they tend to abandon their old identity and adopt the new one given by the European host countries. But even though they try to imitate the Europeans ways of being, they cannot forget their mother tongue or their traditions and memories. Even a small aspect like their name might reveal their identity and trigger discrimination. It is at this moment when a horrible feeling begin to settle in the mind of the refugee which is homesickness. Thus, a feeling of nostalgia starts to emerge and the migrants begin to remember the good old days of living in their home countries. For this reason most of the migrants cannot deal with the idea of losing their identity. For example, the migrants will try to find groups of people from their country of origin and try to use their native language the most as they can in order to feel like home.
Thus, how can the alienation affect the process of obtaining a new identity? This question deal with a vivid problem that refugees encounter once trying to be a part of a new society. But when people are marked as refugees it is quite hard to assume a new identity. Once they divulge that they are refugees they immediately become the target of racism and stereotypes and people start to attribute them into a special category. A group which distinguish itself from the citizens of the host country. Hence, this idea of a group of people emphasizes more on the alienation process because the migrants feel more and more excluded when are categorized as “different”.
Being categorized as “different” does not encourage the refugees to adopt the new identity or to integrate whatsoever into the new society fact which might cause more trauma among the migrant population. For example, even for the migrants who voluntarily left their countries struggle with racism and with stigmas. Moreover, if they come from a post-socialist poor country when they are asked about their country of origin the migrants tend to hide it by adopting immediately the host country identity.
From here we can clearly see the migrant’s struggle to reconcile with their mixed identity when they are the target of social stigma. But the refugees do not posses the luxury of lying about their status, or hiding their nationality since they are classified as refugees or worse as a dangerous group of people. Refugees battles everyday with stereotypes and misconceptions and are usually mistaken by being terrorists. It is absurd to state that a mass of people who desperately try to flee from war and terrorists attacks are themselves terrorists. But fear can easily blind people and refugees became the ones to blame according to the Europeans who stand firmly against them. Therefore, stereotypes and that fact that refugees lost all their personal essence by being identified as refugees and nothing more deepens even further the process of alienation.
In my opinion the alienation problem is a serious issue to take in consideration when talking about refugees or migrants in generally because the idea of being excluded from the society exacerbates the feeling of anxiety, depression and isolation. From my own experience I can say that homesickness is one of the worst feelings to deal with and just because one misses his country he starts to isolate oneself being its own cause of alienation. Therefore, we can see that isolation can manifest in every ways no matter if you are abroad or in your native country and it is in close relationship with the capacity of establishing your final individuality.
Thus, just by being alienated and isolated one might find himself with no identity or no place to call it home. The process of acquiring an identity is something that evolves everyday and the society plays a big part in the process, so if the refugees are isolated from the rest of the community the process of acculturation is doomed to fail as well as the embrace of the new identity. We have seen that every factor matters in obtaining a new status of citizen and not just simply a migrant without papers. Your name, the country you come from, the language you speak, the way you look may provoke different kind of reactions from foreigners. Therefore, the migrant is not allowed to make any mistakes onto the
road of integration because even the smallest deviation from the European path might put in peril his journey to his desired new identity.