Bosnia American Refugees
Scholars estimate that about 1.4 million Bosnians live as refugees in various countries across the globe. According to Searight (2003), nearly 300,000 Bosnians were forced to immigrate into the United States in the 1990s alone as war refugees due to the Balkan war. These immigrations occurred under varying circumstances in the history of the country, but are mainly tied to issues of war. While there are various issues that scholars can occupy their minds with, the issues of Bosnian Diaspora have remained relevant, and it have over the years caught the attention of academicians from such diverse fields as economics, anthropology, psychology, and sociology (for example, Dimiova & Wolff, 2009; Valenta & Ramet, 2011; Coughlan & Owens-Manley, 2006). The focus of the present article is on the Bosnian Americans. In this case, the history of the migration of Bosnians and the reasons behind these migrations shall be examined. Counties and states where Bosnians immigrants and their descendants are predominant will also be examined. Attention shall also be given to their cultural values, the ratio of Bosnian men to Bosnian women, and how these immigrants compare to other races in the population. Finally, counseling technologies that need to be adopted when working with Bosnian American refugees shall be examined.
The first half of the nineteenth century witnessed the first group of Bosnia immigrants into the United States. These immigrants possessed low-skills and were mainly fishermen and sailors. They thus settled in New Orleans, San Francisco, and Texas (Kisslinger, 1990) where they found jobs. The Serbian/Croatian immigrants came into the United States in six waves, with the first wave of immigration having occurred between 1820 and 1880. Between 1880 and 1914, the largest wave of Serbian immigrants too place, in which nearly 100,000 Serbs came into the United States. Majority of these immigrants came as unskilled laborers and were mainly impoverished and young peasant men. They found low-paying jobs and often worked long hours in the industrial cities of the Midwest and East where they first settled (Malcolm, 1996). The third wave of Serbian immigrants into the United States took place between 1921 and 1930, at the height of World Wars I and II. These migrants were fleeing from their country that was under a dictatorial nationalist regime.
However, between 1931 and 1941 only about 5,835 Serbians migrated to the United States. The fourth wave of Serbian immigrants consisted of war refugees and displaced people, between 1945 and 1965, at a time when the country was under the rule of the Communist Party. The mid 1960s marked the fifth major wave of Serbian immigrants involving 20,381 immigrants at a time when Tito was in power. In the next decade, the surge increased to over 30,540 immigrants (Kisslinger, 1990). Between 1981 and 1990, the United States received some 19,200 Yugoslavian immigrants. These Serbian and Croatian immigrants were mainly artists, professionals and intellectuals and they easily adapted to life in the U.S. In 1992, following a wave of political instability after Bosnia sought to gain independence from Yugoslavia, more Serbian immigrants poured into the United States. Most of them were Muslims (Clark, 1996).
As earlier noted, a spate of wars and political instability forced Bosnians to migrate to the United States. They were therefore in search of not only refuge, but somewhere to start a new life as well. In a similar way to other refuges who had also immigrated into the United States, Bosnians also endeavored to embrace the American way of life; however, they made sure that their cultural values were not diluted (Val & Iain-Walker, 2003).
For most Bosnian parents who have migrated to the United States, upholding of their cultural values is very important (Inman, Howard, Beaumont &Walker, 2007). They have thus made sure that preceding generations are taught the importance of their cultural heritage. Bosnian Americans are characterized by sound informal communication networks. Religious activities such as baptisms, funerals, and weddings are often conducted at places of worship. For many years, Bosnians have enjoyed a strong attachment to the Islamic culture, although there has also been influence from Eastern Orthodox and Catholicism.
In the United States, the highest population of Bosnian Americans is to be found in the state of Iowa. These immigrants moved here from various states, notably New York and New Orleans. Their spoken language is Bosnian. While Islam is the most dominant religion, most Bosnian Americans are characterized by secular practices. Family values and ties are very important to the Bosnians. Grown up children ensure that their elderly parents are well taken care of. Parents also teach their children at a young age on the importance of respecting the elderly.
The literacy and education levels of most Bosnians are quite high, although some of them face language barriers upon migrating to the United States. This is because they cannot communicate in English. They thus opt to enroll in educational programs taught in their native language.
Bosnians immigrants place a lot of emphasis on their native religion and culture, including male-female relationships. However, given how Bosnian refugees are dispersed across the United States (Miller, 2012), majority of the first and second-generation Bosnians are likely to find it hard to interact with other Bosnians. As such, adult Bosnian children are likely to encounter hurdles in finding suitable partners with whom they can form a relationship with, from their own culture. They could also be under pressure form their parents to uphold their cultural identity, religious practices, traditions, and customs (Miller, 2012).
Bosnian immigrants have demonstrated a willingness to take even the low-status jobs and proceed to do them with a lot of diligence. They have also demonstrated an insatiable quest for additional education and language skills. Majority of them find such jobs as factory workers, bakers, and hotel housekeepers, among other forms of service workers in their communities. It has also been pointed earlier that some of the Bosnian immigrants came here already having qualified in various professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and teachers (Valenta & Ramet, 2011). They have proceeded to seek job vacancies in their respective areas of qualifications. However, majority of the Bosnian American refugees cannot pursue their former occupations here, as they are unable to communicate in English. In addition, Bosnian American lawyers, doctors, as well as other professionals have to make do with low rates per hour as they attend English lessons so that they can apply for licenses to practice in their professions.
Counseling techniques for Bosnian Americans
Most Bosnian Americans are normally categorized as refugees and as such quality for several special states and federal benefits in the business, human service and health sectors. Even as most of them are capable of accessing health care, including counseling services, only a limited number of health organizations in the United States that offer counseling services have among their staffs Bosnian translators who have received the necessary training on working with refugees (Center for Health Disparities, n.d.). Considering that they are categorized as war refugees, counselors attending to them should be wary of the fact that majority of the Bosnian have had to ensure a lot of difficulties before they arrived in the United States.
Many lost livelihoods, homes and loved ones who perished in war. Others were deeply traumatized by war injuries, group rape, ethnic cleansing, torture, and other forms of human rights abuses. Accordingly, majority of the Bosnian Americans are likely to present with such significant mental health challenges as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. For this reason, counselors should be prepared to deal with high rates of such conditions among Bosnian refugees, relative to the other immigrants (Center for Health Disparities, n.d.). However, considering that the Bosnian culture attach negative stigma to mental illnesses, majority of them are unwilling to discuss these issues with their counselors. Counselors and clinicians should thus desist from pushing such trauma victims to share their experiences and feelings, until the victim is ready. Instead, they should endeavor to offer ample, supportive, and gentle opportunities for the victims to do so.
In sum, the Bosnian Americans who have over the decades migrated to the United States as refugees did so to escape from wars and in search of a place to restart their lives. Most of the Bosnian refugees came here, as low-skilled workers but there have also been professionals like doctors, lawyers, nurses, and teachers. Bosnian Americans have demonstrated a strong attachment to their socio-cultural values. In dealing with Bosnia Americans, counselors should consider that they are likely to present with various forms of mental disorders triggered by war traumas and injuries. As such, counselors should provide a supportive and accommodative platform whose goal is to deal with the challenges facing these immigrants. More importantly, the platform should enable Bosnian Americans to express themselves devoid of any coercion.
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