Series #4: More Than Migrants

 MIGRANT: a person that travels to a different country or place, often in order to find work.  

A migrant is anyone who moves from one place to another in the hope of finding better opportunities. In China, the topic of migration is connected to the hukou system: a system of household registration.

The hukou system

China has had different forms of household registration systems for thousands of years, primarily in order to ensure taxation, military service, and to control migration. Since the 50’s, the hukou system divides the people in two: people living in urban areas, and people living in rural areas. People from rural areas are allowed to move to the city, but without the urban hukou, they don’t have access to social security, like unemployment benefits. Though efforts have been made in recent years to grant more urban hukous, it remains difficult for migrants to actually obtain an urban hukou, especially in first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai. Moreover, obtaining an urban hukou means losing a rural hukou, this means losing the right to own land which can be used both for agriculture and personal use.

In 2015, approximately 169 million people in China lived in an urban area with a rural hukou. Besides practical problems, there are a range of difficulties migrants deal with: they live in a place very different from what they know; parents, partners, friends, and children may be left behind; they speak different languages; have different customs; and are seen as outsiders.

Why do we do the Series?

All B人BEL Series share one goal: to understand groups that are often misrepresented and more vulnerable to prejudice; and to explore ways to act positive and in an inclusive way.

As we introduced in our previous Series, we focus on a category in order to deconstruct it and understand the reason of it being. Categories and labels are limited, sometimes misleading, and in certain situations just flawed and incomplete, but they can also be very useful. They are necessary to understand groups that share an experience and history different from yours, to recognize discrimination, to help people guide themselves through their identity, and to build supportive communities – not to mention promote and consolidate rights.

Although categories and labels can guide us to explore ourselves, and others more, we shouldn’t end there. That is why each article, video, etc., compasses the category, but underlines the individual.

Why More than Migrants?

As said, migrants are anyone who moves to a place distinct from the birthplace in search of opportunities; people migrate for all sorts of reasons, but only sometimes by choice.

Migration follows differe

nt ends, but it is often followed by a number of challenges, along with the same old xenophobia and classicism.

There is more to migrants than moving to a place, there is more to migrants than finding opportunities; there is what is left behind, and there is all that it takes to search for and build a better life in a strange place that often treats you as the stranger.

And there is more to migrants than the struggle as well.

In every migrant we can anticipate common stories, but in every migrant there is a unique experience that belongs to a unique individual.

There is always more than a migrant.