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Opinion Piece – Baltimore bridge tragedy highlights the plight of migrants

11 April 20240 comments

Cath Scath, CEO AMES Australia

The deaths of six workers who were fixing potholes when an out-of-control container ship destroyed a bridge in the US city of Baltimore is metaphor for the plight migrants across the world.

The six men were migrants from Latin America – from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – doing jobs most Americans would spurn.

And their tragic deaths highlight the crucial role migrants play in keeping their host countries running.

During the COVID pandemic, migrants were at the forefront the teams of people doing essential work – in customer service, in testing facilities and in places meatworks and food factories.

And this flies in the face of the toxic rhetoric of nationalist populists across the world and at home, who stigmatise them as “invaders” or “criminals”.

In Australia, we have long known that migrants do the jobs that we don’t want.

They toil for long hours in difficult conditions and often for modest pay.

From the Afghan cameleers of the 1880s to the factory workers of the 1950s and 60s, migrants have helped build Australia. 

The Baltimore tragedy comes at a time when migrants across the world are being denounced by politicians – from the US and UK, to Holland, Turkey, India, south Africa and many more nations.

Often, these verbal assaults are motivated by domestic politics and are attempts to foment fear or division.

For instance, the strident anti-immigrant messaging circulating in the US includes suggestions that, if elected, a new government would embark on a mass expulsion of people wrongly blamed for crime and drug addiction that are supposedly besetting America.

But many of these demagogic nationalists do not see, or do not care about, the damage they are doing to social fabric.

We are fortunate in Australia to have a robust brand of multiculturalism that offers some protection against the divisive forces of nationalism and racism as well as acting a bolster to social cohesion.

Australians continue to show strong support for multiculturalism and migration with a record 78 per cent of the population saying they are good for the country, according to the latest Scanlon Foundation social cohesion survey.

The Australia Cohesion Index 2023, which measures tracks national progress on a number of personal, social and societal measures, found recognition and support for multiculturalism and diversity are growing, enriching Australia’s social fabric.

Thirty-eight per cent of people agreed that ethnic minorities should be given federal government assistance to maintain their customs and traditions, up from 30 per cent in 2018, the survey found.

But there was also a warning flag in the findings.

Levels of reported discrimination were up, with 16 per cent saying they had experienced racism or discrimination in the past year – up from 9 per cent in 2007.

What this tells us is that our high levels of social cohesion and successful brand of multiculturalism are no accidents.

They need to be supported and nourished through government policy and legislation; and also through people and communities taking an interest in, and caring about, the benefits they deliver to all of us.

Next time you hit a pothole in the road think about this.  

Baltimore bridge highlights role of migrants in U.S. workforce – The Japan Times

Baltimore Tragedy Highlights Role Of Migrants In US Workforce (