According to a report at The Telegraph a collapse in world wide poverty is feeding a ‘Great Migration’ that is likely to last for decades.
It is not war, but money, that drives people abroad. That is not going to change any time soon
War must be a factor in prompting people to migrate. But it’s also true that many of those migrating by sea and by land from Africa and the Middle East into Europe must have money to finance their movements, whether they pay people smugglers or do it on their own.
When the crew of HMS Bulwark first fished immigrants out of the Mediterranean, they were expecting to find the world’s hungry, wretched and destitute. Instead, they found them relatively healthy, well-dressed and carrying mobile phones and credit cards, which they intended to use upon arrival in Italy.
The military learnt then what politicians are only slowly beginning to work out – that this is not simply a refugee crisis. The world’s poor are on the move because they’re not quite so poor as they used to be, and can afford to travel. A great migration has begun, and it could be with us for decades.
A report on the news right now – there has been an influx of 20,000 refugees/migrants onto one Greek island alone, Lesbos. “As soon as people are processed more arrive”.
This Great Migration was not expected because, for years, politicians believed that there would be less of it as poor countries became richer. Give aid, not shelter, ran the argument. “As the benefits of economic growth are spread in Mexico,” Bill Clinton once assured Americans, “there will be less illegal immigration because more Mexicans will be able to support their children by staying home.”
When José Manuel Barroso led the European Commission, he made the same argument: third world development will tackle the “root causes” of the problem. In fact, the reverse is true.
Never has there been less hardship; since Clinton’s day, the share of the population in extreme poverty (surviving on less than $1.25 a day) has halved. Never has there been less violence: the Syrian conflict is an exception in a period of history where war has waned. It might not feel like it, but the world is more prosperous and peaceful than at any time in human history – yet the number of emigrants stands at a record high. But there is no paradox. As more people have the money to move, more are doing so – and at extraordinary personal risk.
So the Great Migration is a side-effect of perhaps the greatest success of our times: the collapse in global poverty. The Washington-based Center for Global Development recently set this out, in a study drawing on more than a thousand national censuses over five decades.
If you misjudge the refugee crisis, you incubate a political crisis: this is the lesson that David Cameron has learnt.
We’ve seen similar here over the past week.
Efforts intended to help can end up causing harm, costing more lives. Since the Italian navy decided to send rescue missions to the Mediterranean, the number of people making the crossing (and perishing) has trebled.
Doubtless Angela Merkel meant well when she invited every Syrian to apply for asylum in Germany. But she will be toasted by the new breed of people traffickers, who will now have far more families to extort and leave stranded in Budapest or pack into boats on the coast of Libya.
Allowing and aiding mass migration encourages more of it. The Syrian migration may be only just cranking up.
So there is a growing dilemma – propsective migrants will have been encouraged by the surge in refugees successfully breaking through borders in Europe.
The Great Migration is a 21st century problem, far bigger than Syria and bigger than the authorities in Brussels seem able to comprehend. To panic now, as Mrs Merkel is doing, will just bring more to panic about. The solutions of the last century – refugee camps, or the notion that you can stem the flow of migrants with foreign aid – need to be abandoned, and a new agenda needs to be forged. Europe, in short, needs to begin a new conversation.
It’s a conversation we should also have in New Zealand. Our geographic isolation makes ikt far easier for us to control how many migrants make it here. But the ‘humanitarian’ and political pressure to take may more migrants has significant implications for New Zealand’s future.
A photograph of a drowned child is heartbreaking, but should not change policy: a botched response can lead to many more dead children. Hundreds of Yemeni children will likely starve this winter, victims of its civil war – we won’t see the pictures, so we’re unlikely to see anyone petitioning Parliament about them. But it’s no less of a tragedy.
Rather than media driven “we must do much more right now” perhaps we should be looking at how ‘the Great Migration’ may impact on us in New Zealand over the next few years and the next few decades.
It could have much more impact here than any climate change.