Friday, October 17, 2008

Invisible Inflows

Two Latin American women who've been living in Spain without papers - Source

We recently had some family visitors from Germany, and at one point I was asked how life is here in Slovenia for immigrants.

This is a tough question. I gave a few anecdotes about poor pay, about other people of various backgrounds and their experiences, about how I get the sense that the Slovenian market doesn't really seem to know what to do with immigrants unless they are uneducated Bosnians here to do manual labour. All in all, it is very tough to say exactly how things are. It is one thing to talk about The Erased, but yet another thing to talk about The Invisible -- those who do not appear on public register, and even when they do, they cannot materialize on the social register. The immigrant experience is so very personal in so many ways that I would never be able to (and am not really interested to) comment on. But on the public scale, I rarely see immigrants on television except for the few times that the cart out some fortunate (usually European) foreigner who has triumphantly learned the language. So it's all so tough to say.

Today I came across this fantastic survey of immigration in Malta, Cyprus, and Slovenia. It is only 17 pages and certainly worth a read. Very illuminating.

"Where Slovenia is defined as a country of immigration there is an implicit understanding that this refers to mainly European migrants. People from outside of Europe (i.e. ‘Asians’ as defined in the table) are deemed at best to be a transient population, on their way further west to Italy, France or the UK. The experience of 2000 served to reinforce this perception. Asians, it was suggested during one of the interviews, are not attracted to Slovenia because of its image as a ‘communist’ country.

The distinction between the two migrant groups is problematic for two reasons. There is first and foremost the risk of racially profiling migrants. It is the non-white population who seem not to form part of the Slovenia’s immigration profile. In the case of some Asian migrants residing in Slovenia, this has led to questioning their motives for being there. The recent growth in the number of Chinese migrants, who work mainly in Chinese restaurants, has become a source of intrigue and suspicion. There are doubts over the economic viability of the restaurants, and an assumption that the businesses are simply fronts for illegal activities."

Read more here.


Felicity said...

Very interesting post!

Anonymous said...

Don't have time to read this at the moment, but was interested in this conclusion about Chinese immigrants:

"There are doubts over the economic viability of the restaurants, and an assumption that the businesses are simply fronts for illegal activities."

Immigrants everywhere face mistrust, so I suppose that line of thought isn't that surprising. Not sure on the context but it strikes me a bit odd at best, and borderline racist at worst.

Anyway, I do my best to make Chinese restaurants in these parts economically viable.

george said...

so my blog is now

Kwesi abbensetts

Camille Acey said...

@kwesi/george -thanks for the heads up! recallibrating!

jana said...

Maybe you'll find some enlightening further reading here about various inflows and outflows related to Slovenia...

books on migration studies from ZRC-SAZU

Historical and Cultural Perspectives on Slovenian Migration

a review of above book

lep pozdrav!

Carlitos said...

I agree wholeheartedly on this one Camille.

We immigrants from the Americas experience all different types of lives here in Slovenia.

I still get disbelieving faces when I tell people that yes, I'm here to stay, and no, I don't have Slovenian ancestry in my family. I guess that will continue for a couple of years :-)

Camille Acey said...

@Carlitos - I find that the European attitude tends to be one of protection. As if people who are immigrating here are here to "diminish" or "take away"; Slovenia is such a new country with such a simple culture, I always feel that this should be the last place in the world with any sense of protectionism. They have so very much to gain. Not just in brown faces (oh dear, if someone tells me how beautiful my children are going to be. i might have to hurt someone) but in innovative attitudes and interesting new world views.