How a Budding Economist Became an Advocate for the Human Rights of Migrants
I had not seen a great number of economists focused on the migration situation, so why not do it myself?
Spain, Southern Europe
Story by Natalia Ruiz Gómez. Edited by Stéphanie Hamel
Published on February 28, 2021. Reading time: 4 minutes
This story is also available in
When you think of an economist, you might envision a person wearing a suit working on bank investments, or someone keeping the financial accounts of a company. This is not a wrong perspective, but it is not my case. I became determined to focus professionally on the human rights of migrants in May 2015 when - along with the rest of the world - I witnessed over 4000 immigrants in need to be rescued within 48 hours on the coast of southern Italy. The lack of political motivation to guarantee immigrants’ human rights became obvious when two months later, the Citizen Security Law effectively made “hot returns”  legal in my country, Spain. Similar policies were being executed in other European countries. As months went by, the tension in the Mediterranean corridor increased and so did hate speech. The Mediterranean became the deadliest migration route in the world.
When I found out about the different political mechanisms that states were using to avoid facing the migration issue, I was deeply outraged. I felt as if the world was differentiating between first and second class human beings. At the time, I thought: why are the great economic powers allowed to appropriate the resources of developing countries while criminalizing the mobility of people from said countries?
I had not seen a great number of economists focused on the migration situation, so why not do it myself? During my college years in Spain, I realized that the academic system was distancing social science from economic science which, in my mind, made no sense because they are empirically related. Economics to me is not just about unemployment and interest rates, it is also about how to guarantee the welfare state.
My mission is to make use of my academic background in Economics in the service of the human rights of migrants. In 2019, I had the amazing opportunity to study “Refugees, Realities and Rights” at universities in the Netherlands involved in sustainability and social equality research, where I met people from different nationalities with incredibly enriching ideas. I found it encouraging to participate in debates in class with a large group of young people about such a sensitive and complicated topic. We found within this program the perfect space to share our concerns on the migration critical situation.
I realized the importance of facilitating environments for young people to debate and address current issues. We must leave no one behind to achieve a broader vision by gathering as many perspectives as possible in order to define common policies. Moreover, today’s society has a vital role of raising public awareness to stop hate speech. Moved by this motivation, I participated in events as a volunteer in the Spanish Commission of Refugee Aid, giving lectures in schools about the migration situation to raise awareness and fight misinformation. The youngest participants showed great concern for the topic which was truly comforting to me.
I am convinced that we need to give more importance to the social side of the economy that is responsible for covering current needs, ensuring equal opportunities and human dignity. As a society, we have the responsibility to restore the integrity and dignity of immigrants. Guaranteeing human rights is not an option, it is a duty.
 Hot returns: direct deportations without individual examination directly at the border.
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