Despite being an age-old natural phenomenon, migration from developing countries to developed ones has become an alarming trend in recent years. This is evident when we see Tribhuvan International Airport filled with thousands of students and workers flying abroad every day. This indicates that if youths are allowed to fly unrestricted, millions might leave for abroad every day, like locusts in swarms.
Nepali migration to a neighbouring country in the South is mainly due to geographical proximity, economic prospect, and cultural similarity. Moreover, it is relatively more convenient because there are no visa provisions for border crossing and no severe restrictions on earning, saving, and investment. Many Nepali youths also opt for overseas countries chiefly due to the attraction for better education and lucrative job opportunities. In both cases, their lives are not without problems. Nepali migration has thus become an issue of grave concern.
There are different types of Nepali migrants who go to other countries. One type is the students who fly to abroad for higher studies and live there permanently with green cards or the status of permanent residents. The favourite destinations of Nepali students for higher studies are the USA, Canada, Australia, and European countries. It is said that about one hundred thousand graduates receive no-objection letters from Education Ministry every year for "study abroad" purposes. This is both awkward and painful. Their parents and relatives bid farewell to them, waving their hands and pretending they are happy with success (not sure if it is a success at all) but with broken hearts in the real sense.
This is not to say, however, that going abroad for higher studies is a bad practice, even though some chauvinistic patriots might criticise it without knowing the significance of multicultural experience in education. It is obviously better for students to be mobile in a rapidly globalising world, which can be done under the student exchange programmes between universities, not individually. The issue is whether the students would like to return home after their studies or stay there pursuing jobs and receiving green cards or the status of permanent residents, intending never to return to their motherland.
The other type is workers who go to foreign countries with work permits. The workers who go to countries in South East Asia and the Gulf counties under a work permit visa system usually return home. In this short-term migration, thousands of high school graduates from rural areas seek job opportunities in their destination countries to earn some amount to fulfil the basic requirements of their household affairs. They are compelled to do so due to extreme poverty and the lack of employment opportunities at home. Ironically, our government also encourages them to go to work in other countries for remittance, which is an easy approach to operating the national economy instead of increasing productivity. This cannot be called a good practice by any means.
Anyone who goes abroad for a short visit might see Nepali students looking happy. But if they furtively look at the latter's face, then the former can see the troubled life of being a migrant student who has to be engaged in a rat race to earn a meagre amount of money only to keep body and soul together in addition to saving some amount to pay university fees. Despite such troubles, migrant students in Europe, America, and Australia like to live permanently in those countries after completing their studies, even if they cannot afford a moderate house to live in and a comfortable car to ride. Except in cases of those who have gone there for higher studies with a handsome amount of scholarship, most students experience the same plight.
No matter how sincerely the non-white migrants make invaluable contributions with their knowledge and skills in their host countries, they are treated as second-grade citizens devoid of equal rights and opportunities. The migrants often say that some white settlers in America are still racists who hate non-whites, even in public places. I recall a striking account in Ronald Takaki's book Strangers from a Different Shore that tells a heart-rending tale of a Japanese-American non-white boy who was a descendent of Japanese parents some three hundred years back but was segregated at school from children by a white community of European settlers.
The condition of migrants on work visas fares no better either. We can hear many stories in newspapers and other social media that working-class migrants' lives in Gulf countries are terribly miserable. Many youths return home only in coffins to the bitter frustration of their parents and wives who had sent them abroad with golden dreams of altering their lives with basketful money. If the workers are females, their lives turn into hell with incidents of terrible violence against women with rapes, abortion, and even deaths. What can be more detestable than these heinous crimes? In this respect, the life of migrants in a foreign land is never secure.
It is thus evident to suggest that the future of migrants from a different land remains hanging in a precarious balance, and thus it is always insecure to live in other people's land. For instance, most youths feel lucky to be able to enter America and live there permanently, which they think is a matter of pride and glory. They are led by false consciousness that being an American is being a glorious citizen of a superpower country. I wonder what it means to be a second-grade citizen of a superpower country.
Undoubtedly, being mobile is always better than being confined to a single country. Earning a handsome amount of money is also a good idea, but it might be a stupid practice under any pretext to spend the whole amount of hard-earned money and energy with the false consciousness of having good luck and boasting of being a powerless citizen of a powerful country. In essence, it is a hollow arrogance, signifying nothing.
(The author is the chairman of Molung Foundation. email@example.com)