STRANGERS IN NEW HOMELANDS CONFERENCE
International Conference dedicated to examining how immigrants and refugees deal with life change:
This annual gathering of researchers, academics, and practitioners in the migration and settlement field, dubbed Strangers in New Homelands: Deconstructing and Reconstructing of ‘Home’ among immigrants and refugees in the diaspora is an idea an idea mooted and launched in 2008. The dream of growing that initial idea into a larger annual event bringing together critical stakeholders in the field of migration has really borne fruits and blossomed into an exciting international annual event.
This Conference began, and has run through very critical times in world migration history: the unprecedented displacement and movements of people from their homes into other countries, especially to Europe seeking safety as well as better life conditions. The images of these mass movements are sometimes nerve-wrecking and difficult to watch. These are new forms of diasporic movements in which desperate people are challenging the existing national borders of nation states.
These challenges have brought out the best and worse in some of the nation states: some have received and welcomed these desperate people with open arms, while others have shut their borders with barbed wires and left the desperate people to their fate. Erecting barbed wires and pushing desperate people into the cold will not stop people from moving to seek new homelands. Knowing from the concept of “geography of opportunity” which is driven by push-pull factors, erecting barbed wires or “beautiful walls” made of concrete or steel, would not solve the problem. It is therefore pertinent to find innovative ways for meeting these new challenges. As Karen Armstrong succinctly puts it, “our differences define us, but our common humanity can redeem us”. The societies into which the migrants seek to settle, and the migrants need each other for their mutual benefits. The diversity that migrants bring should therefore be seen as assets that can enrich the host societies as well.
The exchanges of ideas and discussions that have been taken place at this conference over the past twelve years have be essential for those who design and implement immigration and refugee policies and settlement, as well as those who provide services to, and work with, immigrant and refugee groups. These exchanges are more crucial than ever and we should continue to engage in these discussions as well as engage policy makers and governments to embrace the reality of world migration and the challenges and opportunities that the phenomenon offer.
This year’s main conference Theme is on the critical issue of human rights. Whether the migrants are those who voluntarily move to seek better life and economic conditions in new societies or displaced persons from conflict zones seeking sanctuary in safer societies, they should all be accorded and exercise the fundamental human rights that are accorded citizens of the societies into which these migrants seek to settle. Individually and collectively, we all have the moral and in some cases legal responsibility to afford safe haven and settlement assistance to our fellow human beings from other countries who are either fleeing from danger, persecution, injustice and deprived economic conditions.
The Conference celebrates its twelfth anniversary this year. For those of you who have been at previous editions of the conferences in previous years, we welcome you back to this twelfth anniversary edition of this annual gathering. For those of you participating for the first time, we welcome you to this conference, and to the Province of Manitoba. We hope to see you all again at subsequent conferences until we solve, or at least attenuate, the lingering issues and challenges that confront migrants around the world every day.