By Arianna Babraj
This summer, I am spending six weeks in Paris, France, where I am taking a Public Policy in the European Union course through the American University of Paris. I have been in Paris for 3 weeks now and I am so grateful for all of my experiences and for all of the amazing people that I have met here thus far. I selected this course because I saw that it would cover migration in the EU, a concept which interests me given recent events. Since being here, we have talked about models of integration and governance, citizenship, and the concept of belonging for specific groups within Europe, like Roma and refugee populations.
After I finish this course, I will be traveling throughout Italy to conduct independent research on people’s opinions of immigrants in light of the recent elections. While I have been here in Paris, I have kept up with the current situation in Italy. The most alarming event thus far has been the newly elected government’s choice to begin turning NGO boats carrying immigrants in life threatening situations away from Italian ports. During the same period, we have seen the US immigration policy take a dark turn with the President’s decision to separate families at the border.
Unfortunately, more and more countries, particularly within the EU, are choosing to close doors instead of open them. Politicians with anti-immigration stances often ignore the positive impacts that immigrants have had on their countries, economically and otherwise, and, instead, push rhetoric fueled by emotional reactions related to isolated cases that show immigrants in a negative light, resolutely bypassing statistics that display the positive impacts because these facts negate their wayward position.
Since these politicians rely on exploiting the fears of the populous to further their careers, it is our responsibility to not only to think rationally, stay informed and react accordingly, but to open ourselves up to dialogue with those who do not think like us and to render down what is emotion and what is objective truth. Being aware of the facts and sharing those facts are some of the most important steps that anyone who cares about these issues can take because, in the end, the electorate still has a big impact on policy, meaning that peoples’ opinions are massively important and influential. Everyone’s opinions are legitimate and have their worth, but only through open conversations can all sides develop opinions that are not based on fears and stereotypes, but on facts and understanding.
I do not know where the EU or the US are headed, but I believe that migration is at the heart of many of the decisions that world leaders will be making in the coming years, and these decisions have the potential to reshape the world we are living in now. Whether it will be for better or for worse is yet to be seen, but in the end, the direction is up to the voters.
Arianna is a senior majoring in International Relations. Before coming to USC, she studied abroad for an academic year in Rome, Italy and has continued studying Italian ever since. She loves traveling and learning about other cultures and, in her free time, she likes to take dance classes, go hiking, and watch movies.