The Faroe Islands are an archipelago between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic, about halfway between Norway and Iceland. With a rapidly dwindling population, desperate measures have been taking place to prevent its long-term, inevitable, extinction. To ensure the sustainability of residents, wives are being sought from further afield, the Philippines and Thailand being the favourite choices. This is as a result of the female to male ratio, with approximately 2,000 fewer women to men. The majority, but not exclusively, of these women are located via a variety of online sources.
Where I can see the necessity for this surge in International marriages, and the desire to secure the beauty and future of these Islands; it does not sit comfortably with me the countries from which these wives are being selected. ‘International’ is not exclusive to developing countries, so why are they targeted as the first port of call?
Unlike human trafficking, these arrangements are considered to be consensual and arranged via legal, International, marriage agencies. But surely we have to consider the motivation behind that consent where a woman would leave the warm climate and culture of her homeland to relocate to an island with a vast chasm of language and cultural differences; a six-month-long winter, with a good summer day only reaching a maximum of 16°C.
One young woman, Adelaimar C. Arias-Jose, from the Philippines writes :
“It pains me to admit but poverty is a big problem for a lot of people in the Philippines. Young women here are willing to be a girlfriend, partner or wife of a retired foreigner because they will have food and a roof over their head”.
Clearly, poverty is an overriding factor for these women, that is one of their motivations. In a similar way that prostitution and stripping can be seen to have an economic motivation, and yet we find people that will tell us that it is their choice, that they have freely made these decisions to follow these paths in life. Yes, they are free to choose to seek a better life for themselves and their families by uprooting and giving up all that they know and hold dear to themselves. But it makes me sad to think that this has become a necessity for survival, on both sides, the Faroe Islands and the immigrants to those Isles.
In an ideal world, I’d like to think that the husbands will be warm and loving, and the wives will be happy and settled. But we know that won’t always be the case. The government is very active on the Faroe Islands in enabling integration, with free language classes and support for the newcomers. They appreciate how valuable they are to the labour market, but the language barrier means they are only able to take on lower level work. Hopefully over time integration will be easier as the barriers are overcome and the next generation of children will rise through the ranks ensuring the Asian population is no longer the lower working class of the islands.