I had not planned yet again to focus on migration issues today, and maybe you are getting tired of the topic, too? On the other hand, few topics are more important in our time. Well, save for more than a handful of other topics, too, such as: social development, including gender and class equality, environmental issues, cultural and religious coexistence, peace and conflict resolution, and more. Growth and economic development are important macro issues, especially in poor countries and within the capitalist economic system. Objectively speaking, though, they are less important and we can do with what we already have if we find binding ways of sharing the wealth much better. We don’t need more things and gadgets, more growth and exploitation of resources and people. We just need smarter ways of making what we need to live good and decent living. We must learn to harvest the renewable resources better, polluting less and be better stewards of all God gave us. But first, we need to admit that the systems for sharing – for fairness and justices – are inadequate at local and micro levels, and certainly at macro and global levels.
It is important to realise that the issues I have mentioned are interwoven. Migration issues, refugee issues, human trafficking and smuggling, slavery, and other forms of sexploitation are the darkest underbelly of the world we live in. Radical alternatives are need, and they can only be found if we search for new ways ahead, with establishment of new rules and regulations for all people to live good lives in dignity.
If we just take a moment to think about the serious shortcomings in the world in the fields I have mentioned, indeed as regards migration, we will realise that the political and economic sectors are entirely underdeveloped – and we seem not to mind, or rather, we almost seem to have given up, accepting the state of affairs. Those who are responsible are you and me, the middle class, we are fairly alright. We know we won’t become rich, but some few of us might, and only a few will slide down the ladder. However, we are more worried than before about our children who may have a harder time than us to keep the same standards in their lives. Hence, we need to guard what we have, and exclude those who are poorer than us. A perfect capitalist way of keeping us under control!
Currently, the thinking about fundamental political and economic issues, and social issues, too, remain just administrative and status quo. Improvements are rarely more than cosmetic, falling short of introducing radical alternatives that can uplift the 20-50 percent at the bottom, and their demands are ignored. In Europe, a section of refugees and other migrants is likely to belong to the new underclass.
At the same time, some of world’s 65 million forced migrants are beginning to demand a fairer share of the pieture, but it can only happen if the hosts realise that change is required. The number of forced migrants includes refugees, stateless, people forced to leave their lands because of wars, conflicts, and unbearable living conditions, some in slave-like conditions. The UN refugee agency UNHCR, says that 20 people are forcibly displaced every minute, almost 30,000 flee their homes every day because of war and conflict. In addition, there are tens of millions of migrants who leave home to sell their labour, skills and expertise internationally, and there are internal migrants. All have dreams about better lives, if not for themselves, then for their children, nieces and nephews, the old and sick parents, a handicapped relative, who need medical help and care. People migrate for many reasons. Little is voluntary except for people from rich countries, and well-to-do and rich from poor countries. In total, there are hundreds of millions of people who suffer because if underdeveloped and unfair migration systems.
If the situations at home were better and fairer, people wouldn’t leave. Some of the causes for the state of affairs are historical and have international causes. But the conditions must be solved locally. Many countries are drained for their good people; most of the migrants should rather help solve and improve their lands in the South than leave for the North. This must be part of the new thinking about migration and development.
We need to find new political and economic systems, so that there can be more fairness and justice in the world. The old ways of getting major change for the masses through revolution, or for superpowers to force regime change and dominance through war, is outdated. In our time, we must be able to find ways that are less painful and have fewer victims. We must realise that development for all is indeed built on moral and ethical foundations, not on military and economic power. We need to discuss the basics of how human beings can and must live together – only then we will be able to solve the migration crises, the refugee crises, the political, economic and social crises, the religious, cultural and existential crises. Only then we can realise models for the good life for all.
Let me shift gear now; instead of writing about macro issues and structural shortcomings, I will write a bit about the individual level. Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to watch a Spanish documentary film entitled ‘Born in Syria’ (‘Nacido en Siria’), directed by Hernàn Zin, about seven refugee children’s traumatic reasons for leaving home and their difficult journey through Europe in search of a better life, or just, a life, leaving behind broken families and a broken land. The Spanish Embassy in Islamabad with the United Nations Information Centre showed the film in several cities in Pakistan in a series of films, leading up to the International Human Rights Day on 10 December, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the H.R. Declaration. The Spanish film was sad but excellent, showing how difficult everyday life was for a small group of forced Syrian migrants. The Syrian refugee are 5.5 millions; together with Afghans and South Sudanese, they constitute over half of the worlds refugees, and the majority are females, according to UNHCR’s figures. Each person has a history and maybe a future. Half of all refugees are under the age of 18. Pakistan is still one of the world’s main host countries for refugees, but Europe is in more in the eyes of the media.
The chair of the film evening, Fernando Heredia Noguer, Spain’s deputy ambassador, and the European Union Ambassador Jean-Francois Cautain, who has also served in Afghanistan, and others, offered heart warming comments after the film screening. Many diplomats and ordinary people have realised the importance of finding better ways of managing the international migration crises, indeed the refugee crisis. Films are important to make us begin to feel with our heart, not only think with our mind. Bureaucrats, politicians and economists cannot be trusted to solve these issues on their own. We must all be involved, as we were at the film screening in Islamabad. But then we go home we may say: this is a very complicated field, it is too big and sad for me to think, indeed to solve.
At the same time, we know that the pillars of society, the leaders and administrators in individual countries, and the international organisations, are unable to solve the migration and refugee crises. Those in responsible posts are often hindering good individual and collective solutions, and they don’t risk their careers in proposing ways that could lead to real solutions. It isn’t lack of money; it is lack of will and unorthodox solutions that we are in these crises.
However, there are many good people in the world, and there are many good thinkers, too. I suggest that the pillars of society individual countries and international organisations to engage independent researchers and other people to help find solutions. They should ask people who can think with their hearts and minds to come up with what they think are ‘unrealistic’ solutions, because alternative and radical solutions are always said to be unrealistic. But they are not. Unless we think entirely differently, we are heading for more conflicts and wars.
In future, we must build a world so that everyone can live decent lives were they were born, and we must allow everyone to travel, stay somewhere else for some time, even immigrate and settle, if they want. The nation states’ fences and walls belong to the past. We need to create a world with open borders . It is not unrealistic utopia; besides in the long run, it is the only real solution to a new migration and development order. If wish I could live for fifty or a hundred more years, and see this come true; in the meantime, I can only encourage you, especially if your are young, to use your creative mind better than those who rule the world today.