The migration of people, both immigration and emigration, has been a reality since the very beginning. Homo Sapiens, who originated in the Western Coast of Africa, migrated to other parts of the world. Similarly, the Aryan Theory speaks volumes about how the immigrants from the ancient Persia migrated through Afghanistan to enter India. The entire North American population that we see today is essentially the result of a migration from the 16th century Europe. These transnational flows of people happened freely, and there were few restrictions on the people in doing so in those days, primarily because the ideas of nation-state and state borders weren’t as strong they are today.
Today, migration has become a serious issue of political debate and national pride, with countries becoming increasingly worried about the impact of influx as well as outflow of population. The people are sceptic about the future of their societies, with the addition of a foreign communities. While many countries are largely embracing the path of protectionism, there are also few exceptions like Canada, New Zealand etc. which promote the migration of foreign nationals as a State policy.
Migration of the people is often portrayed as a positive addition to the welcoming country if not the loss for the home country. One fact that the proponents of open-boarders use to support their argument is that this will help the welcoming country to increase the supply of labour, which in turn will reduce the costs associated with the production activity, which in turn will increase the economic growth. They also argue that migration will add to the social nature of communities by making them more pluralistic and thus bringing in the joy of diversity and cooperation.
Though this has been the mainstream thought prevailing for the past several decades, it is now being challenged by several recent studies that have been conducted on the realms of the sociology, economics, politics and diplomacy. A study conducted by the UK researcher Robert Rowthorn, The Costs and Benefits of Large-scale Immigration, explores the relationship between immigration and the national goals of development, progress, growth of the welcoming nation– in this case, UK.
The study argues that the optimistic, mainstream idea that immigration will fill the labour supply gaps is a short term impact. Countries that welcome people from other nations have to have a sound economic system that is devoid of the threat of recession in the near future. The labour surplus created by influx of foreign communities will in fact be largely unskilled, and the welcoming country may have to spend a sizeable amount of their resources to train them to make them fit for the labour market.
Another argument in favor of migration is that it will create a new pool of potential income for the government in the form of taxes and payments as the immigrants are largely young men women. However, this argument is also being put into question by studies, including the one cited above. Though the new population may create a new source of income for the governments, they also bring in a lot of liabilities like relocation programmes, rehabilitation, medical aid, and so on.
These arguments don’t imply that the countries should be sitting on armchairs doing nothing for the welfare of immigrant communities. What must be done would be solving issues at the grass root level rather than focusing on moving them out of their countries; continuing the war in Syria and then proposing programmes for their rehabilitation is not going to work. Similarly, granting the Rohingya Muslims citizenship in India and Bangladesh, while they are being attacked in Myanmar, is not going to yield any results. What the world needs today is a holistic, comprehensive yet a focused approach to settle the migration and refugee issues.
Indeed, the whole issue poses a lot of ethical and legal dilemmas for policy makers. How they are going to tackle this issue is something that the world is keenly observing.
-Contributed by Jiss Palelil
Picture Credits: Daily Mirror