What drives people to search for new homes?
From war zones to politics, there are many reasons why people have always searched for a place to call home. In Finding Home: The Journey of Immigrants and Refugees we discover how human migration has shaped our world. We explore its origins and the current issues facing immigrants and refugees today, and we hear the first-hand stories of people who have moved across the globe looking for safety, security and happiness. Author Jen Sookfong Lee shares her personal experience of growing up as the child of immigrants and gives a human face to the realities of being an immigrant or refugee today.
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Orca Book Publishers is proud of the hard work our authors do and of the important stories they create. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it or did not check it out from a library provider, then the author has not received royalties for this book. The ebook you are reading is licensed for single use only and may not be copied, printed, resold or given away. If you are interested in using this book in a classroom setting, we have digital subscriptions with multi user, simultaneous access to our books, or classroom licenses available for purchase. For more information, please contact [email protected]
Text copyright © Jen Sookfong Lee 2021
Illustrations copyright © Drew Shannon 2021
Published in Canada and the United States in 2021 by Orca Book Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Title: Finding home : the journey of immigrants and refugees / Jen Sookfong Lee; illustrated by Drew Shannon.
Names: Lee, Jen Sookfong, author. | Shannon, Drew, 1988– illustrator.
Description: Series statement: Orca think | Includes bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: Canadiana (print) 20200273930 | Canadiana (ebook) 20200273949 | isbn 9781459818996 (hardcover) | isbn 9781459819009 (pdf) | isbn 9781459819016 (epub)
Subjects: lcsh: Human beings—Migration—Juvenile literature. | lcsh: Emigration and immigration—Juvenile literature. | lcsh: Immigrants—Canada—Biography—Juvenile literature.
Classification: lcc gn370 . l44 2021 | ddc j304.8—dc23
Library of Congress Control Number: 2020939258
Summary: A look at how human migration has changed the world. Part of the nonfiction Orca Think series for middle-grade readers, with photographs and illustrations throughout.
Orca Book Publishers is committed to reducing the consumption of nonrenewable resources in the making of our books. We make every effort to use materials that support a sustainable future.
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
The author and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this book was correct at the time of publication. The author and publisher do not assume any liability for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions. Every effort has been made to trace copyright holders and to obtain their permission for the use of copyrighted material. The publisher apologizes for any errors or omissions and would be grateful if notified of any corrections that should be incorporated in future reprints or editions of this book.
Cover and interior artwork by Drew Shannon
Edited by Sarah N. Harvey
Design by Rachel Page
Author photo by Kyrani Kanavaros
Printed and bound in South Korea.
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For my sisters—daughters of immigrants, generational explorers
Profile: Baharak Yousefi
Chapter One: The History of Human Migration
The Very Beginning
Colonization and Its Impact on Migration
The Dark Side of Colonialism
Early Immigration Policies
What Is Decolonization?
Profile: Gaby, Juan and Maya Gomez
Profile: Mishal Saeed and Asia Capri
Profile: Daniel Saiyo
Chapter Two: Migration Today
What Makes People Emigrate?
Legal versus Illegal Migration
Immigration and Diversity
Profile: The Jaridi Family
Profile: Nhung N. Tran-Davies
Chapter Three: Racism and Hardship
History of Anti-Immigration Policy
Why Are People against Immigrants?
Why Are People against Refugees?
Profile: Ruquya Al-itbi
Profile: Mariana Veiga
Profile: Samer Muscati
Chapter Four: Life in a New Country
Immigrants and Refugees in the Spotlight
Profile: Omar Akubar
Profile: Ayelet Tsabari
Profile: Danny Ramadan
Table of Contents
Monument for East Vancouver is a sculpture by artist Ken Lum. It marks the route into East Vancouver from the downtown core. unsplash.com
I grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia, in a working-class neighborhood on the city’s east side, where my friends and their families were from all over the world. There was Shalesh, whose parents had come from Fiji. There was Nadia, whose grandparents had left Italy after World War II. There was Nadine, whose family were members of the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) First Nation. There were the Tran brothers, who came from Vietnam after living in a refugee camp in Hong Kong. And then there was me, Jen. My grandfather arrived in Canada from China in 1913, at the age of 17.
Our diverse neighborhood was the direct result of immigration, which is when people move permanently to a country that is not the one they were born in. By the time I was in elementary school, I knew that everyone’s family was different and that their stories—how they came to live in East Vancouver, what they liked to eat, what they believed about religion—were even more diverse. When I visited a friend’s house after school, their parents might be cooking stuffed peppers or curried goat or noodle soup, but, just like my parents, they also supervised homework, tried to get their kids to eat fruits and vegetables, and looked through stacks of bills with worried expressions on their faces. I learned, by watching my friends and their parents, that all of our families were the same at our core. We all wanted to live in a decent house, eat good food and go to good schools, and each parent wanted their children’s lives to be happier and safer than their own.
Immigration has always influenced the way in which I observe, learn and make conclusions with an open mind. When you grow up in a diverse community, everyone’s home seems different because it’s not like your own. In my family’s dining room stood a row of porcelain Buddha figures that my mother kept for good luck. The one I remember best sat on an elaborate green chair, holding two peaches in his hands—symbols for a long life. In my friend Lina’s house, a portrait of Mary, mother of Jesus, hung above the television, a rosary (a beaded Catholic prayer necklace) draped around the top right-hand corner of the picture. And in Mrs. Fox’s house up the street there was a framed hockey jersey on the wall, from her son’s career playing in the National Hockey League. These objects came from different cultures, but they were all important to the families I knew. They were symbols of happiness, security and good health.
In 2018 Canada welcomed more than 28,000 resettled refugees, the highest number of any country in the world. The United States was second, with just under 23,000, and Australia was third, with 12,700. Significant numbers of resettled refugees were also accepted in the United Kingdom (5,800) and France (5,600).
A migrant caravan walks into Mexico after crossing the Guatemalan border in 2018. John Moore/Getty Images
In this book you’ll read about people who leave one country and go to another. Their reasons for leaving may have to do with jobs or school or family. These people are known as immigrants. Sometimes people are forced to move away from their homes because of war, persecution or crime. These people are called refugees. If you live in a country such as Canada, the United States or Australia, all of which have large communities of immigrants and refugees from all over the world, living with people whose cultures are different from yours isn’t anything new. Maybe you have friends whose family were immigrants. Maybe you know someone from Syria or the Republic of South Sudan or Guatemala, countries where politics, war and lack of jobs have forced many families to flee their homes and seek safety elsewhere. In chapter 2, you will learn more about how people become immigrants or refugees and what drives them to move to other countries.
A Palestinian child waits his turn to fill water bottles at the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City. katib/Getty Images
You might have heard or read news stories about government policies that are designed to keep people from certain countries from entering others. There are the children from Central America who have been detained (held in custody) in the United States, away from their parents, who are called migrants. The word migrant is used for anyone who moves from one country to another but is most commonly used for people who are seeking asylum or who have been living in poverty and are moving to another country where there are better opportunities for education and work. There are the generations of Palestinian refugees living in the Gaza Strip, a long and narrow area of land that borders Israel on one side and Egypt on another. These refugees, whose numbers are growing in an already densely populated place, are often caught up in the tensions between the State of Palestine, which governs Gaza, and Israel, which controls many aspects of life in Gaza, including trade, water, electricity and border crossings. And there are politicians in other parts of the world who are trying to stop refugees and immigrants from entering their countries altogether, claiming that people who are not born within their borders are threats to security, safety and jobs.
It can be difficult to know, when you read these news stories, whether immigration is a good thing or not. In this book I’ll introduce you to people who are or have been immigrants or refugees, whose journeys from their countries of birth to the countries they now call home have been challenging or joyful or long. I’ll explain how human migration can happen and the circumstances that lead to the decision to migrate. And I’ll talk about how immigrants shape their communities, what they contribute and how they live. By the end of this book, I hope you can come to your own conclusions about immigrants and refugees. This is a topic that is complicated and sometimes difficult to understand but is also important to our views on the world and the places we live. Because 1 in every 35 people worldwide is a migrant, it’s a topic in the news, and one that affects every country, city, neighborhood and school. After all, what would your community look like without human migration? I’m guessing very, very different.
In 2018, 173,800 children who were unaccompanied by or separated from their families applied for asylum or refugee status. Children under 18 years of age make up 52 percent of the refugee population.
How Being a Refugee Child Changed Her Life
In 1988, 13-year-old Baharak Yousefi left Shiraz, Iran, with her parents and flew to Seoul, South Korea. Pretending to be on vacation, they stayed for a month before they paid human smugglers to help them travel to Vancouver, British Columbia, where they made a refugee claim and started their Canadian lives. Their journey across the world, however, had started long before.
Baharak as a child before leaving for Canada. Baharak Yousefi
In 1978 and 1979, the Iranian Revolution completely changed the country. The Pahlavi dynasty, a monarchy (a government with a hereditary leader whose powers can last for life and vary from very few to a dictatorship), was overthrown and replaced by an Islamic republic, which loosely based its laws and policies on a very conservative version of the Islamic religion. Baharak, along with her mother, father and brother, lived through this political upheaval and, later, the strict laws that governed their daily lives. By the time they had decided to leave, the new leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, had implemented laws that restricted the rights of women and girls, as well as free speech. As Baharak explains, “Daily life became more and more difficult and suffocating.” It was illegal for her brother to leave the country at all until he had completed his mandatory army service, so Baharak and her parents fled together, and he joined his family three years later.
Baharak (far left) at school in Shiraz. Baharak Yousefi
Like many asylum seekers, Baharak’s family made a refugee claim after they had fled to another country instead of fleeing to a refugee camp and going through the United Nations Refugee Agency, which organizes and approves refugee claims worldwide. Baharak and her parents were able to live in Vancouver while their claim was assessed. “My strongest memory of the early days is the swimming pool and TV room at the old YWCA in downtown Vancouver, where we were housed for the first three to four weeks,” she recalls. “I could not believe my luck at being able to swim every day and watch Nightmare on Elm Street on TV! I was 13 years old, and everything seemed so exciting.”
Baharak at home in Shiraz. Baharak Yousefi
As the Yousefi family settled in, however, challenges started to emerge. Baharak’s father, with his limited English, found work as an overnight clerk at a 7-Eleven convenience store. His pay just covered the basics of food, clothing and shelter. Baharak started high school and found it to be a roller coaster of emotions and experiences. “I wasn’t able to communicate at all those first few months and only took English as a Second Language [ESL], math and physical education [PE],” she explains. “I loved the ESL classes. The teachers were kind, and I felt like I was in similar company, but math and PE were terrible. I was bullied relentlessly by the ‘Canadian’ kids, most of the time right in front of the teachers. I hid this from my parents because I felt ashamed and didn’t want to add to their already difficult lives.”
Baharak today, on a trip to learn about other cultures. Baharak Yousefi
As time passed, Baharak learned more and more English and started to feel more included, but those stressful years took their toll. “I was depressed a lot and begged my parents to return to Iran,” she tells me.
Baharak is now a librarian at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, where she manages communications. She has always been especially interested in how libraries can help those who are challenged by poverty, culture and other types of marginalization. Her experience as a child refugee is directly related to her focus on inclusion and belonging. “I think adversity has made me a human being who can imagine lives, perspectives and desires different than my own,” she says. “It has made me more open—and loving, to be honest—toward other cultures. I guess what I am trying to say is empathy, genuine curiosity and imagination are things you gain when ‘you’ve been there.’ Sometimes it feels like that’s such a high price to pay.”
As an adult now looking back at her childhood, Baharak can see that in most ways, she wasn’t so different from the children who picked on her. “The only difference between a refugee and a non-refugee is luck. Luck is the only thing that divides someone like me and someone born in Canada or the United States.”
She is right, of course, and children who are refugees want and need the same things we all do: a safe home, access to education and a happy family.
Before there were rules controlling immigration and refugees, humans were already moving around the world. This chapter explores the history of this early migration, the reasons families and communities looked for different places to settle and how this migration changed over time.
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