The world is made up of communities and people who come from many different backgrounds, experiences and beliefs. Working with vulnerable migrants where people from different backgrounds are coming together, mixed with the often highly traumatic situations they have experienced, can often result in conflict and disputes. This is also heightened by the migrants trying to integrate or settle in a country which may be very different from what they are used to. This will often display in areas such as parenting, view of children, religion, food, relationships. Everyone holds prejudices, we will not even be aware of prejudice that we have, but they will inform how we react to others. It is very important for anyone working with vulnerable migrant that they try and be aware of diversity and be sensitive
to situations which may result in conflict. Workers should also try and be self aware about their own prejudice, especially any negative ones, which may impact on their work with vulnerable migrants.
What is Diversity?
Diversity means difference, and people’s differences can be many and varied.
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Working with diversity means that rather than ignoring the differences between people in terms of their gender and race, this diversity should be recognised and respected. By valuing the varying qualities that different participants bring you may create an environment where everyone feels valued.
What is culture?
Culture is often described as a common set of human activity, customs, ideas and beliefs within a group of people. We all belong to many different cultures; some we can clearly distinguish by the way we look and dress, others are a set of values which we have. Culture represents itself in the way we behave or the opinions we have. Culture is a very strong part of a person, even if they feel they don’t have much culture it will be something which is hidden in their attitude and way of viewing the world.
Culture is not static; it is something which is changing all the time as society changes.
Common issues vulnerable migrants face
Resettling in a new country
Migrants are moving into or through countries for many different reasons. Some are fleeing from war or conflict, others are trafficked and some may be moving to look for a better standard of living. Whether they are passing through a country or looking to settle, there are many factors which need to be thought about and it can become very complicated. A lot will depend on their legal status in that country, how much money they have or links they have to that country. People will need to find housing, support services, financial support, social connections, education, religious connections and other elements to build a new life. It may be that they do not have rights to access support in that country or that there are barriers such as language or ignorance of systems. This leaves some vulnerable to destitution and exploitation.
Language and communication
To be able to resettle into a new country a person needs to be able to communicate. Language can be a huge barrier for migrants. This affects day to day activities as well as understanding official letters and communication. Many countries will have access to interpreter, but this is often very limiting as they may be from the same country, but speak a different dialect. If someone has been traumatised or trafficked by people from their country, they may not feel comfortable with talking about their experience with that interpreter there. The language support in a country may vary and it could be some time before a migrant feels comfortable speaking in the local language.
Aside from language, there may be other barriers to communicating. For instance, in some cultures it is not polite to make eye contact. That may be misunderstood as someone being rude or lying. For children in particular who come from cultures where they have to respect their elders and have been taught not to speak unless spoken to, this may mean that they do not get their needs met. They may be asked what they want and not feel able to respond. This may result in them being overlooked.
Impact of Trauma
Module 4 of this training manual highlights the impact of trauma on vulnerable migrants. Refugees and victims of trafficking in particular may have faced particularly traumatic experiences. Moving your life from one country to another is also very stressful and will result in migrants being more stressed than usual.
For those dealing with the impacts of trauma, settling in a new country will entail extra challenges. It may affect their behaviour in such a way which result in them isolating themselves and unable to access services. They may be aggressive towards others, which may cause conflict and problems for them. They may not trust anybody or be prone to unhealthy attachments, which can affect how they fit into services or a community.
For children in particular, they may find it challenging fitting into school, sticking to the programme or interacting with others. They may also find it hard in the accommodation they are placed in whether that be foster care or semi independent. They may not have the ability to regulate their emotions.
Key Points to think about when working with diversity
Never assume anything
Even if people are from the same country, village or have the same job, never assume that they will have the same opinions and reactions to the training. Everybody’s experience is different and you can never make assumptions about someone based on the experience that you have had with someone you perceive is the same.
Be aware of yourself
You should be aware of your own views, values and opinions. Everybody will have certain things, which they feel strongly about. We all hold stereotypes and prejudices, and it is important to recognise and be aware of your thoughts when working with vulnerable migrants. Your personal view should not influence any decisions you may make about someone.
Be open, transparent and fair
When working with people from diverse backgrounds and especially those who have been through traumatic experiences, you need to be honest and upfront about what your limitations and what they can expect from you. Many people may have been tricked and deceived and unlikely to trust anyone offering help. It is important to set boundaries and stick to them so that everyone is treated equally. Also receiving someone with openness and sincerity will help them to feel respected and be more willing to trust you.
Culture or religion should never be an excuse for abuse
Many practitioners find it hard when they are working with people who have strong cultural or religious beliefs. Practices that are abusive to adults or children are sometimes ignored by professionals because they are seen as traditional practices, resulting in no action and no intervention so the person remains at risk. All countries in Europe adhere to human rights legislation and all countries in the world (excluding
Somalia and USA) have signed the 1989 UNCRC. As someone working with or for children you should be aware of diversity but first and foremost ensure that children are protected.
This training manual is designed to be used by those who come into contact with vulnerable migrants. It aims to promote good practice in the identification and prevention of abuse and exploitation, including human trafficking, female genital mutilation and forced labour, whilst equipping those who use it with basic training skills. The exercises are developed from the lessons learnt and experience of ECPAT trainers. It is designed to be adapted and delivered easily without the need for extensive resources.
This manual is aimed at identifying people entering or living in a country where they were not born who are vulnerable to exploitation. It is important here to define which people we are targeting through this manual. These are short definitions which are explored further throughout the manual.
Asylum Seeker is someone who is fleeing persecution and has lodged an application for protection on the basis of the Refugee Convention or Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, ECHR. http://rightsinfo.org/the-rights-in-the-european-convention/
Human Trafficking is the movement or harbouring of a person, through the use of force or coercion for the purpose of exploitation, typically for work, sexual exploitation, criminal purposes or organ removal.
For the full definition, refer to: UN Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, 2006. https://ec.europa.eu/anti-trafficking/legislation-and-case-law-international-legislation-united-nations/united-nations-protocol-prevent_en
Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are people or groups of individuals who have been forced to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of, or in order to avoid the effects of, armed conflict, situations of generalised violence, violations of human rights or natural or man-made disasters, and who have not crossed an international border.
Refugee is a person who ‘owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.’ (Definition quoted from the 1951 Refugee Convention) http://www.unhcr.org/uk/1951-refugee-convention.html
Third Country National (TCN) refers to individuals who are in transit and/or applying for visas in countries that are not their country of origin (i.e. country of transit), in order to go to destination countries that is likewise not their country of origin.