Migrants and borders

Migrants and borders

The word they dare not speak.

The President of the EU is right. It is not being European – or even human – to let people starve, freeze or die of lack of basic healthcare when they cannot live reasonably in their own countries. Unfortunately, the need for asylum encompasses so many, that the old solutions no longer work. Europe cannot, however, accommodate the entire population of Syria or of any part of the world that engages in civil war or unchecked terrorism.

It is difficult to identify who is a refugee and who an economic migrant. The former we are obliged to help out of charity. Aspiring economic climbers are by definition entrepreneurial so they may add to the wealth of the adopting country. They may even do jobs the citizens no longer regard as suitable for themselves. They may be good news or they may not. Once established and qualified in their new country they attract all the benefits other citizens enjoy.
Taking in a lot of ageing retirees is unlikely to boost a country’s GDP.

We are seeing the start of the world revolution we have been talking about for so long. Media teach how the other half lives. The first half then quite reasonably want a slice of it. If they can’t get it where they are they will go to where they can. That is exactly what is happening. The EU leaders have recognised the people tsunami that has begun and have wisely concluded that it can’t be stopped. So they have opened the door much wider than before. Quite right too, and well done Chancellor Merkel for leading the way.

But the flow of migrants has only just started. It will become much bigger when the northern winter has passed. Then Europe – and many other countries, including the USA – will have to instigate strict border control. “Immigration” will soon change its name to ‘Border Guard’. It has already done so in Australia where they usually say what they mean.

A colleague had a good thought. There are 450 cities in Europe with 100,000 or more people, so four million migrants would be distributed as to an average 9,000 per city. If no city got more than 5%, the numbers would vary but the net effect would be the same. There are also entire cities and multiple airports built and abandoned in Spain. They could house many migrants. So we might have a combination of integration and forward-migration. If new arrivals were economically viable after 12 months then keep them. If not, forward them to another wide area to prevent cliques and drug dens from forming.

“Hard cases make bad laws” was a political grounding I received when working with the British Parliament many years ago. It is a harsh tenet but a true one. Parliaments all over the world have to balance strict immigration rules with humanity and practicality. You cannot shoot people crossing your border regardless of whether they are genuine refugees or economic migrants.

The migration tsunami is assuaged for the moment. What should we prepare to do to deal with its impact on our own lives?

The answer is clear. We should ‘migrate forward’, except where there is civil war, and build the societies that have lost their best leaders and developers. It won’t be a tsunami of course but it will open up excellent opportunities for entrepreneurs. Border reciprocity will be a pre-condition and the approach won’t stop the flood of refugees from war-torn countries.

If it is going to be a global village all of it must develop. The pioneers who built empires may have sometimes done it the wrong way but they are certainly needed again – and now.