As I continue to look for a job, I attended this morning the last virtual session of The Global Careers Fair 2014, organized by several UN organizations. Among others, I had the chance to chat with recruiters from the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), UN Women, and both the World Bank and the IMF. 

unnamed girlDespite the friendly platform and the chance to check out several organizations’ lists of openings gathered in only one site, I found out after an hour that I was basically wasting my time. At odds with its international vocation and its claimed support to migrants, women and equal opportunities, these organizations enforce specific protocols that make it impossible for me to apply to their openings. Why? Well, I was born in Cuba and I’m currently a permanent resident in the USA. In order for me to take an international officer position with one of these employers, I should relinquish my current status of permanent resident in the USA. Yes, in the hypothetical case that I was still living in Cuba I didn’t need to relinquish anything, but obviously I wouldn’t be able to access the platform there -access to Internet and then bandwidth and software compatibility would have been insurmountable obstacles.

“My best advice is for you to wait to acquire the US citizenship and then come back to apply with us” -it’s the feedback I received from a very nice, very helpful recruiter (I mean no irony nor sarcasm here). So, in order to have a shot at an international officer position at any of the UN institutions and others of similar sort, I need to wait.

This wasn’t in fact such a big surprise. During my MA studies in Europe, I applied for a summer internship at the FAO office in Rome. I was informed I wasn’t eligible as a Cuban national. No further explanations given.  The funny detail now is that I already gave up my citizenship rights in Cuba. Lawyers will understand that nationality and citizenship are actually different concepts, that I won’t explain here. But if I would relinquish my status of legal permanent resident here, I would remain in a sort of limbo, without a place to call home, where I know I could go back, no matter where in the world I get to be, doing what.

Erasmus Mundus MA Journalism (2009-2011)

Erasmus Mundus MA Journalism (2009-2011)

That’s a very peculiar situation that immigrants from other countries, asylum seekers and refugees usually don’t face. Unless your country disappears from the map -it has happened before, ask people in their 40’s from the Balkans and they tell you stories- or because of some very bizarre circumstance, migrants aren’t estranged from their citizenship rights. Ask Eritrean diaspora members and they will tell you how much they weight in their homeland’s politics.

I wonder, isn’t the UN the kind of organization that could use more people with my background? Aren’t people like myself better equipped to understand the hardships and problems of those to whom the UN organizations mean to help and support? Aren’t we prepared to assess possible solutions for diverse problems in diverse environments?

As a professional candidate born in Denmark, Italy, Australia, Canada or the USA, there is little chance to really understand and empathize with any of this. Maybe a representative from a minority, a second generation son or daughter of immigrants can grasp something and imagine a bit more, but nothing close to the actual first hand knowledge.

I think global institutions who are supposed to serve the under-served should actually revise their policies and protocols.


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