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Curriculum guide – Migration and refugees

Migration presents opportunities for improved employment, educational resources, and an escape from political persecution and natural disasters. Factors such as poor economic conditions and political/religious conflict can ‘push’ migrants to leave their own countries in favour of those that attract and ‘pull’ immigrants due to high demand for labour, that indigenous populations refuse to fill, better employment conditions and pay. The exchange of labour between countries, however, is not equal. As labour-intensive production has moved South, a segmentation of the labour force has occurred along the lines of gender, age, origin, location, legal status and ‘race’/ethnicity. The North attracts a highly skilled, young, secure labour force on the one hand (usually educated men), draining the South of its skilled workforce, whilst also maintaining a demand for low skilled, low paid casualised, guestworkers on the other. Simultaneously, increasing numbers of refugees and asylum seekers (AS), propelled by political conflict and natural disasters, have been systematically excluded and criminalised by draconian immigration legislation. With the associated threats of terrorism, and surrounded by a culture of mistrust, these refugees and AS are subjected to biometric tests, x-rays for age-assessments, detention, destitution and surveillance. Whilst undocumented workers, refugees and AS are often vilified and held culpable for increased levels of unemployment, crime, low wages, welfare abuse and threats to national security, the welfare and care sectors continue to be supported by work provided by migrants.

Migrants, refugees and AS often come into contact with social workers due to adverse circumstances. Since the professional values of social work embody the promotion of social justice, inclusion and equality, effective work with this group is an important area for social work students to address.