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Facing the dilemma of the return

Immigrant families often find themselves into the puzzle of family separation which may carry unfavorable side effects either sociologically or psychologically.

By Ola Noureldin and Júlia Manresa

Some maps on the wall and a small flag beneath the television was enough to keep the memory of Romania alive.  Even though having settled in Spain for 8 years, this family chose to hold on to their national roots.

Rodica Colta came into Spain the summer of 2002. Her husband, Viorel Colta along with their daughter Diana, 21, followed her and settled  3 years later.  “You always get to miss a place,” Diana Colta said. She expressed that she always feels homesick to the country she isn’t in.

Transnational family from Júlia Manresa on Vimeo.

The second part of this story in a video

“You always feel attached to Romania.” Rodica said. She would like to stay in Spain until she retires. However, the problem of unemployment and the fact that her husband lost his job is what’s making them think about their return.

“ I would like to go back to Romania because that’s my country, I recharge my energy there,” she added.

Who is transnational?

Settling into another country for  labor reasons due to economic crisis, social difficulties and professional success makes a person a transnational and not an immigrant, Núria Fabra, a psychologist at the University of Barcelona and co-author of the book “Children’s right in action, Improving children’s right in migration across Europe said. The book researches and  analyzes the condition of Romanian children migrating to Italy and Spain and identifies the challenges they face in their integration process. In the other side, the research also analyzes the cases of children who return back  to Romania after their experience  of migration.

The families are considered transnational because they don’t leave their country forever and they never lose the link. A person is not an immigrant, he or she is in the situation of being an immigrant,” Fabra said.

The migration is a circumstantial situation in someone’s life. “It doesn’t define him or herself as a kind of human being,” she added. The idea of a possible return or even moving to a totally different country is always possible to someone who is transnational. Therefore, their identity is built in multiple places.  Keeping a map and a flag is a way to hold on to one´s identity while acquiring a new one.

Emigration doesn’t mean failure

Leaving the country one more time could be a challenge. Rodica believes that having to deal with the people back in Romania is the hardest part of going back.  “A lot of people think that if we come back it means that we failed.” She added that even if they tried to explain that the situation in Spain is hard, they won’t understand. They expect them to return with “pockets full of money.”

Fabra agrees that the idea of coming back is often related with  failure. However, she explained that a way of prevention from the psychological consequences to adults and children is making the families understand the advantages of being a transnational. “Every change has to be related to an opportunity, even the return,” she said. Emigration doesn’t mean failure.

Mario Tataranni: "I decided to leave when I felt that I am becoming a slave of the system"

Mario Tataranni: “I decided to leave when I felt that I am becoming a slave of the system” . He owns the restaurant Tatarà in Barcelona, where he arrived 6 years ago. However, he is planning to move to Philippines in February next year due to the economic crisis. He doesn’t look at the emigration as a failure but as a new opportunity.

An immigrant in your home country

Rodica believes it won’t be hard for her to get back. “It will be hard for young people like Diana,” she said.

However, they don’t plan on leaving Diana behind. “There is no words to explain how it feels to be far from your family, I did it once and  I’m not going to do it again.” Rodica said.

According to Fabra, the more time the children has lived in the reception country, the harder it is for them to return as they begin to feel a strong attachment to this country.

“They will be again immigrants in their home country”, said Llorenç Olivé, the chief of Coordination and Territory in the Welfare and Family  Ministry in Catalonia. He agrees with Fabra that when the family starts to rethink their return, they realize that their children will have to face another migration process.

Suddenly and quickly

The lack of mental  preparation in the situation can carry psychological consequences such as depression, aggression and hostility, said Joseba Achotegui, a psychiatrist in Sant Pere Hospital (Barcelona) and a general secretariat in the International Psychiatric Association.He also explained that the immigration process usually involves a long thinking process unlike emigration, sometimes it happens “suddenly and quickly”. Regarding prevention and treatment, he added that the most of the time is hard because it happens in less than a month due to economic reasons.

“There is limited research and data on this topic because it’s a new trend,” Achotegui said. Nowadays Catalan and Spanish hospitals are used to work with patients who were immigrating and had integration problems.  However, a few years ago more patients who are leaving and are concerned about integration in their home country started to visit.

When facing the return, children can highly influence the family’s final decision.

Continue this story: What happens when immigration involves children?

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