Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Expat vs. Immigrant

I have long been aware of the benefits of being an expat; the numerous ways my life here is easier than back in Canada; the countless advantages I have over locals. And I admit I enjoy my expatriate life.

However, every so often I am reminded of the flip side, immigration, and feel guilty. It's not fair that I should so easily be able to change countries and adapt to a new life, while the reality of millions of immigrants, many of them likewise well-educated and having had good jobs in their home countries, is a constant struggle. Whereas I am considerably advantaged as a Canadian in Turkey, especially since I've learned the language, Turks in Canada, for nexample, are more often than not disadvantaged.

Does the difference lie in the person, or in the destination country? My brother and fellow expat just got his Leave to Remain in Great Britain. A Canadian citizen like me, well-educated and well-employed, he doesn't 'need' to stay in the UK, he just wants to. However, the application process he went through was slow and cumbersome; it was the same process immigrants to Britain go through.

Canada is, like Britain, a first world country, and Turkish immigration applicants don't have an easy time of it. However, more often than not, even once they've become citizens, their new life is difficult. Their degrees may not be recognized, and where they may have had a whitecollar job back home, they often find only labourer positions in Canada. It is their children who will benefit from the move to Canada, not the migrating generation.

This is all horribly simplified, I realize. If I had time, I'd turn this into a thesis or a book! But for now, just a few musings. Of course all this becomes irrelevant every time I reenter Turkey and spend two hours sweating in line waiting to go through customs at Ataturk Airport. The area is badly ventilated, under-lit, and under-staffed -- in glaring contrast to the area for Turkish citizens.

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