-The first few days in a new country are always full of transition. Transition to the new time zone, transition to the new culture, transition to the shower that opens up right by the toilet causing the entire floor to get wet every time you want to wash off, and even transition to the endless looks and stares we get from people when we speak a different language. It can be difficult to feel like you fit in in a situation where you do nothing but stand out.
Today, we visited the University of Sassari - Alghero, and learned about the road of migration for many refugees. What resonated with me the most about this path to a new home is how temporary everything is. People who are living as refugees are bounced around from place to place until they're finally placed in a brand new culture and expected to assimilate, often without a lot of help. From my own experiences in Europe and away from my own home for the last week, I can’t even begin to fathom how this path would feel for a refugee, especially with the knowledge that they could not return to their home country. In perhaps the biggest and most dangerous transition of their life, individuals who are refugees are, more often than not, not given the help and resources they need to be fully successful in their new “home.” They become marginalized groups with limited access to social services such as healthcare and good education, which can have major effects on their future prospects in their new country.
I have a passion for health, particularly that of marginalized groups. Throughout my learning experience I have come across the concept of institutional racism many times, which can almost always be related back to an individual’s health. Institutional racism is what happens when racism is so embedded within a society that it evokes negative treatment from a society’s institutions (such as government or schools) towards a group of people based on their race. Institutional racism is common among many marginalized groups, including refugees. Institutional racism and oppression cause an inevitable stress on both the mental and physical health of marginalized groups, which in turn affects the health of future generations. With institutional racism, its becomes difficult for an individual to advance beyond whatever situation they were born into, and a cycle of oppression, discrimination, and poor health persists throughout generations.
Connecting these two concepts, I question what changes can be made within a society that can both aid in assisting refugees so they can combat becoming marginalized in the first place and improving the health of marginalized populations. I think our guest speaker for today, Silvia Serreli, who researches and is involved in “emergency architecture” (which emphasizes creating sustainable and safe housing in emergent situations such as the refugee crisis), is definitely on the right track with what needs to be done. She believes that “intercultural cities” that have refugees placed throughout the city in houses built on empty space as opposed to those concentrated in slums are one way that we can work to combat the marginalization of refugees and maybe even combat the systematic discrimination towards refugees. Health of refugees could also be drastically improved parallel to the improvement of their living conditions. We need more forward thinkers such as Silvia working in tandem with refugee populations in order to ensure that they live healthy and successful lives, and have a successful transition to their new home.