Mass migration is now one of the big social issues at the end of the 2nd decade of the 21st century. As of 2015, there were 244 million migrants in world (~3% of world population)- IOM
Africans and Middle East migrants die in the mediterranean trying to get into Europe. Central Americans pass through dehumanising journeys to get into America. Organised criminal gangs in North Africa, the Middle East and Americas take advantage of the migrants through passage fees, enslavement and abuse (physical and sexual). Many others numbering 62M+ (IOM) who are often forgotten are internally displaced and are refugees stuck in limbo in refugee camps in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia- mostly living in appalling conditions- unable to achieve their dreams and potential.
Many of the migrants are fleeing conflict such as those from Syria and Afghanistan trying to get into Europe. Most are fleeing ghastly living conditions- crime ridden cities, unemployment and poverty such as those from Africa and Central America.
Public opinion in the USA and Europe has now turned mostly anti-immigrant. Many Americans and Europe fear that the migrants do not bring the values or skills that align with their culture. They feel that many of the migrants will become a burden to the public system and overall cause higher crime rate and even lead to higher taxes. Many feel that the countries where these migrants come from should be responsible for taking care of them. Some even wonder why these migrants do not go to relatively prosperous countries close to them such as Saudi Arabia rather rather than coming all the way.
However there are some Americans and Europeans who feel it is a moral duty to take in migrants, treat them well, train them and get them integrated. This way they fulfil the humanist code of liberal societies and add in new productive members that raise the overall wealth of the receiving countries.
All arguments have merit. However it is important to address the cause of migration. Why would people leave their families and the life they know for a life of suffering with only the hope of a better life? What are they fleeing?
They are running from
- Death: Many flee from death as a result of military conflict such as in Syria or gang violence such as in El Salvador. Both cases reflect a bad central government. What can be done to enable poor countries have good governments that are able to run their countries properly- avoid civil wars and eliminate gang culture? Is inequality, poor justice systems, poverty and oppression the cause of conflict and violence? What can be done to eliminate these?
- Unemployment: Limited job prospects mean people have no way to earn a living or find outlets for creativity. In what ways can we ensure that people have access to income and a way to be active in their communities? Can rich countries set up a direct payment scheme that pays people in these countries? Set up vocational centres that teach them how to create music, arts and write code? Will these actions help stop emigration?
- Poverty: Often times poverty is tied to low or no incomes, high cost of living and inadequate supply conditions for basic necessities of life. Can providing universal incomes help? Can empowering communities to create and supply the things they need help? Can teaching a life of content and self-sustenance through the religious centres, media and schools help?
- Lack of freedoms e.g. religious, sexual etc.: Can empowering governments to create secular societies that do not oppress minorities work? How about empowering the justice systems to protect minorities who suffer harm? Can the governments be empowered to drive social change through religious centres, media and schools?
Some may argue that it is not the responsibility of the Americans and Europeans to help poor countries run themselves. This may well be the case. But as long as there are wide disparities between the quality of life people can hope to get where they are born vs. other places- they will migrate to where the grass appears greener.
Stop gap measures such as enforcing safe 3rd country hosting such as that provided by Libya and Turkey to the EU and that that the US is now forcing Mexico to offer are not ultimately sustainable because they lead to social tensions in the 3rd party host who don’t want the migrants either. They also lead to conflict of the morality of Europe and the US and also promote enslavement as is happening widespread in Libya.
Open mass migration that requires migrants to work, pay taxes, pay for public services and even hosting fees to receiving countries can help bolster the public purse and reduce negative impact on public system. However they do not solve the concerns of cultural incompatibilities that anti-migration skeptics rant over. Unless there was a balanced approach where hosts accept new migrants for who they are while helping them adopt the host culture and where migrants make effort to integrate, the social tensions of open mass migration will destabilize the receiving countries.
What appears to be the sustainable approach is to stem migration from source by helping to drive the creation of new social programs that reduce violence, poverty, inequality and oppression in the countries where people are running from. This may be cheaper overall for Europe and the USA when assessed against the direct cost of integrating new migrants, social tensions in host countries and the moral and financial cost of paying 3rd countries to camp migrants en-route.