According to the Cambridge dictionary (2020), an immigrant is explained as a person who comes to reside in a foreign country with no intention to leave and therefore anthropologically and historically everyone is an immigrant. Through the study of our human lineage and early migration as well as the study of our past and present, it is very evident that we are all immigrants. We originated from different areas and explored this vast earth to locate the unexplored regions and thus created our civilizations or different countries we know today (Al-nighaoui, 2019). Though we might find comfort in our current location, we all departed from our origin due to varies reasons (Al-nighaoui, 2019). The truth of the matter is that we are all the same, we are all one and “inside our blood runs the history of humanity” (Al-nighaoui, 2019).
Anthropologically it has been proven that the origin of human beings is the continent of Africa (Bouwer et al., 2014).Scientist have reached this conclusion through the analysation of our mitogenome which is commonly known as the mitochondrial DNA (Hayes, 2019). Mitochondrial DNA is the type of DNA only inherited from the mother unlike nuclear DNA which is inherited from both parents (Hayes, 2019). This means that it is not corrupted or mixed with the father’s DNA and can be tracked and compared to the remains of the early humans (Hayes, 2019). This is possible because DNA can survive for a maximum of one million years under ideal condition (Panganiban, 2013).
Using mitochondrial DNA by the process of comparing the modern humans and the remains of the early humans found in many different regions around the world, we have been able to pinpoint a definite location of the origin of the ancient human. According to Hayes (2019) the earliest population of ancient humans lived in the southern parts of ‘’ Great Zambezi River’’, this means they lived in the parts that covered Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe about 200 000 years ago. This evidence alone means that everyone is an immigrant because the people in these had to emigrate to the different parts of the world we know today. They started to emigrate out of Africa due to the Earth’s climate changes as well as resource depletion (khan academy, 2016).
Scientists have suggested that they were able to explore other continents because the tectonic plates had not moved a tremendous distance yet (Kowalski, 2015) and the Pleistocene Ice age had produced a land bridge that connected the continent of Asia and North America about 15 000 years ago. They used this bridge to migrate to these continents and eventually migrated to neighbouring continents such as South America using the land bridge (Khan academy, 2016). They only reached the Australian continent about 60 000 years ago with the aid of canoes (khan academy, 2016).
If we analyse more recent time of colonisation, slavery and war, the idea that we are all immigrants is just further strengthened. Slavery involved the involuntary migration of African people to other continents such as Europe and America. They would be taken from their homes and forced to work. Although this oppressive system was later abandoned the slaves that were taken during this period were never actually returned to their birth places, rather they established new lives and settled in the land they found themselves.
It was reported that over 12 million Africans slaves were transported by the following Portugal, Spain, Britain, Netherlands, America, France and Denmark between the 17th and 19th centuries (Otele, 2017). It can easily be argued that a large number of this 12 million could have died at sea after a ship wreck or killed during this unmatched time, but a large amount survived and produced offspring and their genealogy continued. Although they were not home, they settled and developed new life’s wherever they were. This also reveals that they, the people of today are immigrants because their predecessors involuntarily migrated there to begin with.
During World War One a number of people fled out of their countries of birth to neighbouring countries to escape the effects of the war such as death. The war lasted from 1914 until 1918 and after the war was over some of their homes or countries were destroyed due to all the fighting and the bombs. This also did severe damages to the environment and economy and for those who had established new life’s elsewhere, they did not return rather remained in their current locations and moved there permanently. They were immigrants in those areas but lived there long enough until this foreign land became all that they knew. Until this foreign land became their home.
During the war countries that had colonised other countries, deployed troops to fight for them. According to Shrover (2014) Great Britain along brought in 31 200 South African civilians, 92 000 Chinese, 82 000 Egyptians, 8 000 West Indies, 1 000 Mauritius and 100 from the Fiji Island. France also deployed half a million troops from all over the world ranching from Somali to Madagascar to fight in the war. Other major players being Russia that deployed just 14 million soldiers, officer’s wives and doctors and Austria- Hungary with deployed 8 million soldiers (Schrover, 2014).
The Americans also deployed 2 million African-Americans to fight in the war. (Schrover, 2014). After the war had ended the soldiers were not returned to their homes, but rather settled wherever they found themselves during the war as they marched from country to country in Europe fighting against one another. The Central Powers which comprised of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria fought against the Allied powers which were England, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Japan and America. It would have been very expensive to return all the soldier’s home and the countries did not have that kind of money as they were still repairing their cities after the war.
The other major war that impacted immigration was World War 2. This was caused by the instability and destruction created by the first world war. Before the war had even started Jews were already filled with fear because of the Nazis and thus some fled to other countries with the fear of their life’s and their family’s life’s. Jews fled all over Europe from of the major countries to some of the smallest. Some Jews fled to other continents and settled there. Continents like North and South America. During the war millions of people lost their houses and property and therefore they moved. They fled as refugees seeking help and permanently moved there thus becoming immigrants.
Some of the biggest reasons for migration today are war, persecution based on different things like race, wanting a better economic status and a thirst for a better live (Wester, 2017). This has resulted in people leaving their homes clueless about the future but being driven with hope and ambition. These reasons have played a major role for migrations for so many years and have impacted heavily on the population diversity. These reasons has led to the sub divisions of the word immigrant, for example people can now fall under legal or illegal or undocumented immigrant. Immigrants leave their homes just wanting better opportunities for themselves and their families only to find discrimination waiting for them, here on the continent where life started, Africa. Where we are all one, where we are all immigrants ourselves
Currently people especially in the African continent have established their own perceptions about immigrants and this has led to ideologies and actions like xenophobia and Afrophobia (Tizora, 2019). In Africa especially due to racial injustices as well as political situations, this anger has been expressed to immigrants (Adjal and Lazaridis, 2013). Even with this violence, immigrants still come, only to find disappointment. Immigrants give up their sense of belonging and identity due to discrimination. Lack of knowledge overpower us and we treat our fellow brothers and sisters as the enemy whilst they are not. We do not do to others as we would have them do to us, which is a concept emphasised in all religions and constitutions. Immigration has also led to the coin of words like expatriates while others are called immigrants (Koutonin, 2015). If South Africa with all of its diversely cannot be accepting of immigrants and cannot acknowledge the fact that we are all the same, there is no hope for the world.
The truth of the matter is that we all the same. We just want to play this game we call life to the very best we can. Moving around does not change who we are. Along our pedigree tree we are all the same and we are all immigrants. Our ancestors were very fortunate to receive protection and acceptance when they needed it most. At some point in history we had to migrate and develop and survive. Most people judge the outward appearance, but our genes, the very essence that makes up our identity are 99,9 % similar to every human on earth, we are one, we are all immigrants (Ramsey and Lee, 2018).
- Adjal, C. and Lazardis, G. 2013, ‘Migration, Xenophobia and News Racism in Post-Apartheid South Africa’, International Journal of Social Science Studies, 1(1), p. 192-205
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- Tizora, J. 2019, ‘We are not xenophobic, we are Afrophobic’, Mail & Guardian, 25 April [Online]. Available at https://mg.co.za/article/2019-04-25-00-we-are-not-xenophobic-we-are-afrophobic/ (Accessed 13 March 2020)
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