Host society or guest person, where is the center of gravity of integration? 

What is it like to make a journey to Europe as an asylum seeker? Afghan journalist Reza Adib tells his story.

Reza Adib

Reza Adib

Published 31.01.2024 10:34

Updated 31.01.2024 10:59

Morai refugee camp. Lesvos Island, Greece.

A virus has corrupted your computer’s hard drive memory and you need to completely format multiple drives as soon as possible. You talk to some IT experts and they advise you to replace your computer because this computer is no longer secure and you cannot use this computer. If you do this late, more and more parts of your hard drive will be damaged and eventually your computer will stop working. 

Your fingers are shaking and you can’t make a firm decision. These files are the result of your years of hard work and research. You tried for many years to be able to put this information in your computer. If you delete them, there is no going back. You don’t have the chance to start everything from zero, but you have to because of security issues. You don’t want to but you have to. You can’t but you should be able to. You have to have the courage to start everything from zero. 

You hold the shift with your little finger, select the delete option, and then press the enter key to return to zero. 

Immigration and seeking asylum is like this story. When your life is affected by some kind of virus. Maybe the name of this virus is the virus of war, maybe it is the virus of insecurity, and maybe there are dozens of viruses that produce violence and take away the possibility of life. But in any case and for any reason, when there is no place to stay, you have to make the most difficult decision of your life and try the last chance to have a better life. But this decision has a heavy price that you have to pay. 

You have to delete many things from your memory, you have to be without your parents, siblings, friends and acquaintances, classmates and teachers, wedding parties and mourning ceremonies, alleys and streets, parks and mountains and Say goodbye to everything that you grew up with forever. 

But this goodbye is not the end of the story, after this unwanted goodbye you enter a road through a mine field. The first mistake on this road will be your last mistake. In the first step, you have to trust the human smugglers, then you have to cross the deserts, mountains, different seas, and cross the borders of different countries secretly and illegally on foot, on inflatable boats, or on cargo trucks. 

If you are lucky enough to reach your destination country safely, you have passed the first stage of a change. The next step is to apply for asylum, which is as dangerous as illegal travel. Asylum seekers have to wait for years in camps that are miles away from the city, so that the immigration office may grant you permission to stay in that country. The minimum time you have to wait for a response from the immigration office of the destination country is three to five years. In some cases, this time lasts up to ten years, and in some cases, after waiting for years, the immigration office does not grant you a 

residence permit, and you are arrested by the police and accompanied by two police officers and handcuffed to the country from which you fled.  

If you are able to overcome all these problems and risks and the immigration office approves your residence permit, you will enter a new stage, which is called integration in scientific terms. The definition of the word integration is not simple and depends on different cultural, political and social elements in any society. But its simple and common definition means that a person understands the values and challenges of a society well and considers himself as an official member of the society and also the society accepts the person as a member of the society without discrimination. 

To put it simply, integration has two important elements, which consist of the host society and the guest person. Successful integration happens if both agents can perform their duties well. 

Usually, a large part of refugees and immigrants have a lot of desire, interest and feelings for progress and integration in the society. For these immigrants, achieving these dreams has become a reality and only a suitable platform can turn this potential into a fast and successful movement. 

The responsibility of providing these conditions mostly belongs to the society and in simpler words to the responsible and involved organizations in the society. 

The first step to start integration is to learn the language of the host country. Learning the language is an important key that can easily unlock many other strong doors for integration. 

But learning the language in Finland is not an easy task and it is a complicated and bureaucratic process. Due to the difference in educational systems, educational qualifications outside of Finland are considered invalid in Finland for further education, that is why people with high and university degrees are forced to sit next to people who just want to read and write to learn the language.  

Language learning courses in big cities are auctioned by municipalities, and any company that can offer a cheaper price to the municipality can take responsibility for language training for immigrants and refugees. This is the first problem for language learning because language teaching has become a business. In business, what is more important than quality is making money. 

These courses are conducted in three-month intervals, and after the end of three months, one must wait for the next course in higher ranks. Sometimes these courses are not held due to lack of capacity and the applicant has to wait even up to a year for these courses which may not be held. Meanwhile the person has forgotten what he has learned. 

Now we assume that the refugee has been able to learn the language well with his individual capabilities and the use of existing social capacities, and after that he has been able to find job skills in special schools. But this person has not yet integrated into society. Finnish companies are not interested in hiring people with an immigrant background. 

This is not a matter that can be proven or provide evidence to prove it. There are many challenges in the society that you cannot see, these challenges flow under the skin of the city and only the victims are able to feel them. 

Imagine a sick person who sees a crown full of jewels on the heads of all healthy people, but healthy people will never feel that crown and will only see this crown when they become sick. 

It is enough that your hair is black, or your eyes are not green and blue, or your name is not a Finnish name, then you will touch the humiliation and diminution with your skin, flesh and bones. In any case, with the anti-immigrant approach taken by the new government in Finland, it cannot simply consider itself a part of the small global village while there is no desire to accept the indicators and elements of globalization. 

Discrimination, bigotry, self-righteousness and looking down in society will make the host society more isolated before it affects other people, and this is not a small risk for a society.