The Voice of the Migrants’ Feet

Text and photos by Ranya Al Najjar

My name is Rania Al Najjar, and I am a Lebanese Cypriot woman.

When living in Lebanon, my country of origin, I witnessed the arrival of millions of migrants to the land of Cedars, and they continue to arrive.

Now, as a Cypriot citizen, I reside on an island that has been and continues to be a refuge for thousands of migrants from the Middle East, the African region, and Asia. Cyprus is the bridge for many of them passing through to continue to other lands, and Cyprus is a safe place for the majority who remain considering it as their home.

Cyprus’ history as an immigration destination began in the mid-1980s when economic growth spurred a demand for low-skilled migrants. After joining the EU in 2004, the majority of migrants came from other EU countries, comprising 10.4% of its population. More recently, there has been a steep increase in third-country nationals, including applicants for international protection, now making up 8.4% of the population. In addition, Cyprus’ authorities have also been offering relocation incentives to foreign companies and high-skilled workers, leading to growth in labour migration to the country.

By April 2024, the rising number of migrants arriving have left Cyprus in “a state of serious crisis,” prompting calls for the EU to intervene and curb the flow of migrants to the country. According to Cypriot government data, in the first three months of 2024, more than 2,000 people arrived in Cyprus by sea, compared to just 78 in the same period last year 2023. The President of the Republic Mr. Nikos Christodoulides called for EU aid to Lebanon to be contingent on it blocking migrants’ departures. Despite high migration flows, the lack of a sustainable integration plan in Cyprus has left many displaced migrants in precarious living conditions.
 The conditions of migration and integration have become particularly challenging for refugee women. Migrant women, in particular, face unequal access to resources, education, protection, and labor markets, affecting their ability to make decisions in both their origin and host countries.

On behalf of many migrant women, I raise my voice to give prominence to what I metaphorically call in my AGENCY campaign, ‘the feet of Migrant Women’. These are the feet that carry them towards an uncertain future and new realities. By “shaking off the dust of their feet and moving on” (Luke 9:5), they seek to maintain their dignity, face new destinies, and empower themselves to effect positive change, especially when they return to their homeland. 

All the stories of migrant women started from these feet that led every wounded heart facing insecurity, social injustice, misery, wars, conflicts, instability, discrimination, persecutions, trafficking, abuse, and any kind of challenges. Guided by their feet, struggling, and facing danger in their journey especially in the sea, these women became migrants searching for a better life.

Migrant women arriving in the EU, carried by their feet, have given up their homeland, their roots, cultures, and traditions, sometimes their families, their dreams, and much more. They can have a positive impact in their new countries, if given the chance.

Those women are the first in line to lead the new generations. They are, in majority, the ones occupying jobs in the care sector, allowing our societies to survive and thrive even in front of crises.

So, let us all make the right choice and vote properly for the right people who can be the key to supporting migrant women, to protect their health, ensure their right to education and training and fund migrants’ women projects.

In that way we will be efficient and effective in transforming the agony and the suffering of migrating feet into hope and self-development. We will enable migrant women to become leading examples of survival, overcoming and change-making.

Its time to take action towards a tangible inclusion of migrant women in the EU. On Sunday 9th of June, YOU have the power to bring a change and make people’s lives better!