Immigration and thinkings


Britain and Canada side by side.

This weekend was full of forms.  Forms and queues and waiting.  However, the outcome was worth it.  I now have a brand sparkly new visa in my passport and at least 3 months before I need to fill in any more forms or make any more decisions about which country I might be in next month or year…

All this waiting got me thinking.  Despite all of the tears and the frustration that we have experienced over the last 5 months, ultimately we have had it really easy.   For as long as civilization has existed people have been moving with intention of finding better lives for themselves.  These people are much braver than I can ever imagine being.  We also moved to have an adventure, rather than to escape.  Many of these people immigrating to new countries have faced harsh, difficult journeys, spending days at sea with no concept of what awaits them on their arrival in this new country.  Then upon arriving in this new and promised land people were regularly subjected to harsh questioning and invasive medical examinations and with potentially little or no grasp of the language of your new home I can only imagine it being a terrifying and bewildering ordeal.

We therefore are lucky, and it’s important to remember this as we begin thinking about whether to apply for Permanent Residency, that however much we hate filling in the same information into multiple forms and oh man I do, at least I can do it from the comfort of my sofa with a cup of tea and a biscuit.

The following pictures were taken on a visit to Ellis Island in December 2007.

Ellis Island main hall

The main hall at Ellis Island

Ellis Island

Approaching Ellis Island



The huge windows cast wonderful shadows across the floor

For other people interested in the topic I would recommend:

Nuovomondo or The Golden Door – a wonderful film starring Charlotte Gainsbourg.  Following the lives of an Italian family as they emigrate to the United States

Stephen Wilkes photograph series Ghosts of Freedom.  Wonderful photographs of Ellis Island.

The Colour – Rose Tremain.  Follows the experience of Harriet and Joseph Baxter who move from England to New Zealand during the Gold Rush.

Shanghai Sisters – Lisa See.  Presents the trial of immigration through the eyes of 2 Chinese sisters moving from Shanghai in the late 1930’s to Los Angeles.

Breath, Eyes, Memory – Edwidge Danticat.  This novel follows Sophie from age 12 into her twenties as she moves from Haiti to New York City.  It began as an essay about Danticat’s own childhood.

The Lonely Londoners – Sam Selvon.  Written in 1956 it follows the lives of West Indians moving to London.

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