Migration is defined as the movement of persons away from their place of usual residence, either across an international border or within a state. It can be viewed both with positive connotations (e.g. moving to start a new job, seeking better living conditions) or with negative connotations (e.g. escaping political oppression, conflict, violence, disaster or human rights violations). It is generally accompanied by a significant change in the cultural set up of both the migrants and the host community. According to the Migration Data Portal, at the end of 2020 there were 280.6 million migrants globally. Migration may begin internally but often crosses international boundaries, just as international migration may one day cycle back home.
Displacement specifically is the forced movement of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or 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 generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters. There have been displaced persons spread throughout history as long as there has been natural or man-made disasters, climate change, conflict, war, persecution, and political instability. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), at the end of 2021 there were 89.3 million people worldwide who have forcibly had to flee their homes as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing public order. This includes 27.1 million refugees, 53.2 million internally displaced persons and over 4.6 million asylum seekers. Currently there are more displaced persons world-wide than there have been at any time since the end of World War.
There is a wide range of terminology focused around the movement of people, with terms often mixed together and sometimes used interchangeably. Although breaking down terminology might not seem important, it is increasingly recognised that language shapes our perception of reality. Thus, the words we use to talk about migration have an effect on how we think, talk and act about migration. Having a good understanding of these various terms is important for our understanding of displacement and its impact on the individual, family and community.
Carlos Sluzki’s Model of Migration
The process of migration can be divided into the following discrete stages. Each step has unique features that trigger different coping mechanisms and showcases different kinds of conflicts and symptoms.
The first stage begins with the decision ‘to move’ made by the members of the family. It involves the exchange of letters, a request for visa applications, or any other act that substantiates the intent to migrate. It has a varied time frame. The stage is marked by a course of ups and downs, a short period of euphoria followed by a brief period of dismay. The poor performance of individuals seen in this stage is due to the result of efforts, tensions, and emotions.
The Act of Migration:
The migrant undergoes a painful journey with little or no celebrated custom upon arrival. The act of migration may take a considerable amount of time. War-displaced people may have to stay in transient camps in various countries before making it to their final destination. The mode of the migratory act may also vary considerably.
Period of Overcompensation:
The stress following the migratory act is generally not seen in the weeks or months following the migration. Most of the time, the participants are unaware of the stressful nature of the entire experience and its cumulative influence. In the period immediately following migration, the priority of the family is absolute survival, i.e., the satisfaction of the basic needs. The new immigrant may show a clear focus of attention-of-consciousness, but the overall field of consciousness may be blurred or clouded. Many families manage to establish a relative halt on the process of acculturation and accommodation for months, so the conflicts tend to stay dormant in this period.
Period of Decompensation or Crisis:
The reshaping of the new reality, identity, and compatibility with the environment takes place in this phase. This stage is marked by conflicts. There is a frequent need to retain certain family habits though they differ from the new context while letting off other traits as they differ from the original culture. This phase is delicate and often challenging but is unavoidable. It creeps into the family, leading to clashes. The family coping effects express themselves in the course of the months, sometimes years, after the migration.
Delay in the adaptive mechanism becomes evident in the second generation of migrated families. An environment similar to the country of origin generally slows down the adaptive changes, and no consequences are seen if the second generation socializes in this secluded environment. However, if the process of socialization occurs in diverse habitats, then whatever has been avoided by a first-generation will appear in the second one. This is generally expressed as a clash between generations called an intergenerational conflict of values.