"I don't think people are afraid of migrants. They're afraid migrants will change their way of life if too many of them come. It's all about integration and respect of the people who were there before you. It's also about the fear that they're taking the local's jobs or have a negative impact."
A great comment and a very good place to start talking about migrant integration which is a very sensitive topic everywhere that migrants go. Migrants negotiate the terms of their acceptance into the host country and culture. They have to because even if they come in large numbers there is no guarantee that the "people who were there before" (the majority) will accept them and to some degree migrants' happiness and economic success depends on that acceptance.
"They Will Change Our Way of Life!"
Absolutely they will and I think it's very human to fear this. In a sense migration is one of the great Cosmic Crapshoots of Life because neither the host country citizens nor the migrants themselves can know what will come out of the encounter.
Chiang Mai, Thailand, for example, has a large "international community" (code word for "migrant population from the West") estimated at around 30,000 people in a city with a population between 300,000 and 400,000. The foreign community is clearly a minority so one would think that some sort of negotiation had to occur. It's worth asking the question How has life in Chiang Mai changed because of the presence of these people? And how do the people of Chiang Mai feel about that? Is there a minimum level of integration into Thai society that the local community expects or can impose on these migrants? Or is it the other way around where the migrants have the power to decide to integrate (or not) as they like?
These are fascinating questions for which I have no answers. I used this case deliberately because 1. I knew an American who lived there long-term and died there not too long ago and in our email conversations he admitted that he was not as integrated as he would have liked to be and 2. it seems to me that an awful lot of the conversation about integration is about people from the Global South moving into the Global North which completely ignores the presence of large communities of Europeans and North Americans living in Latin America, Asia and Africa.
Why is it normal for us to question the motives and the capacity to integrate of immigrants to OUR countries, while at the same time idealizing our very own migrant communities abroad (often referred to as "expats" even when they have lived in those host countries 20+ years): French in Tokyo, Americans in Kenya, Canadians in Cambodia, British in rural France?
So, Flophouse readers, let's do a thought experiment just for fun. Think about your home country and the immigration/integration debates going on there. Determine what you think successful integration by immigrants would look like in or back "home". For example, you might agree with the following statements "they should learn the local language" or "they should not have a negative impact on the natives" or "they should be respectful of the people who already live there" or "they should avoid conspicuous expressions of religiosity."
And then turn around and apply the exact same standards to a fellow citizen from your home country who lives as part of a migrant/expat community outside that home country. Do you find that you can apply your integration standards equally to immigrants in your home country versus emigrants from your home country living abroad? Or do you feel that you can't because the situations are simply not the same?
Please let me know what you come up with and leave a comment. There are no right or wrong answers here, folks, it's just a thought experiment. No grade and no pressure. :-)