Claire McCracken: When do migrants stop being migrants?

GMT 11:00 Monday ,08 July 2013

 Migrant Voice - Claire McCracken: When do migrants stop being migrants?

It seems such a harsh word, "migrant". Labels of any kind can be irreparably destructive when spoken over a person, so imagine how it feels to have lived in a country for forty years; worked, married and raised children there; and still be considered an outsider? I lived in Scotland for eighteen years, then moved to England, and have only been back nine months so, to me, anyone - from any background - who has lived in Scotland longer than me is every bit, if not more, Scottish than I am. Especially when you take into account that all of us are migrants. We all move from A to B in our lives, we are all on a journey, and who in Scotland today can honestly say that they are Scottish through and through? I know I'm not. My mother is Northern Irish, for a start; my grandmother on my Dad's side has an Irish maiden name; and while my great grandmother was from the Scottish Highlands, my grandfather's family were originally English. My own heritage fascinates me, particularly because despite having never lived in Northern Ireland there is something about the accent that sounds to me like "home". At the Jewish feast of Passover, one of the customs involves a child being asked three questions: 1 - "Where have you come from?" to which the child replies "Egypt." 2 - "Where are you going?" to which the child replies "Jerusalem." 3 - "What have you got there?" to which the child replies "Matzah," and reveals the unleavened bread they have been hiding, the bread that the Jews took with them on their exodus from slavery. I love this custom as an image to represent immigration. For many migrants, the place where they have been is a place of tribulation and distress. The place they are going is a place of hope, of refuge, of belonging. What if Scotland were to be that place geographically, metaphysically and existentially? It can be all those things - it can! - but amazingly, Scotland can only be made what it is with the presence of our multicultural society. The positives of immigration far outweigh any scare-mongering negatives that are brandished at us from the headlines of newspapers. We have the capacity to build connections with other nations on our very doorsteps now, the opportunity to learn languages, to sample delicacies, to listen to music and to gain a fuller perspective of the phenomenal world in which we live - being part of that world, as opposed to confining ourselves to just one corner of it. Which brings me to my favourite part of the Passover illustration - the child has something with them, something to bring. There is no doubt we are enriched by this cultural exchange. I felt enriched just by being at the Migrant Voice media workshop last week, to be part of what we deemed to be "a melting pot" of radiant diversity. It was a unique group - an orchestra of accents and a collage of stories, all underpinned by a firm sense of common ground. We are all human, and to be human is to be in community. There was particular excitement for me in part of the workshop being led by Emma Clifford, one of the Glasgow Girls whose campaign against the dawn raids in 2005 saw many families rescued from the threat of deportation. Having seen and been inspired by the "Glasgow Girls" musical last year, it was wonderful to hear from Emma in person. The media workshop was excellent. So often with issue-based work, you're bombarded with horrifying facts and tear-jerking statistics which, of course, prompt you to do something, but fill you at the same time with a defeating sense of hopelessness. Contrary to that, this workshop told us exactly how to get involved: how to go about making and keeping contact with a journalist, and what that journalist will be looking for in a story. They want something relevant and seasonal, and to know about an event well in advance; something real with figures and case studies packed with truth; something unique, most importantly, human; and something topical - linked, if possible, to an existing story in the media. Which got me thinking about all the speculation surrounding the birth of the Royal baby, and how for the first time, regardless of the gender, this baby will be heir to the throne. One of my friends is expecting a baby to be born at the same time as this Royal baby. She is a British citizen, her husband is African and moved to the UK at a young age, and they are currently on holiday in the United States. If their baby is born there, they will be bringing home an American citizen - a migrant. When, hypothetically, will that baby stop being a migrant? I would suggest, when he or she stops being treated like one. And my hope and prayer is for that child never to have that label spoken over them. Claire McCracken is the Co-Founder of StreetLamp Theatre www.streetlamptheatre.co.uk
 
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