More than thirty years days ago, a journalist and information director in the Norwegian government aid agency (Norad), Halle Jørn Hanssen, spoke about how important development aid was in order to avoid an immigration crisis in Europe. That was not the only reason for development aid, of course, but Hanssen used to say that if living conditions in Africa didn’t improve, many people would try to ‘wade across’ the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. Today, that happens, with Southern Italian ports as entry points; desperate people cross the ‘Eurafrican Sea’ in vessels that are hardly seaworthy. Since January, almost 2000 people have drowned.

In my youth, perhaps more than today, we were aware of ‘How Europe underdeveloped Africa’. That was also the title of a book by Walter Rodney (1972) which we read and discussed, by committed students searching for a just and fair world as the colonial era had mostly ended that time.

We believed that we could find sustainable development solutions, so that life in Africa and other developing countries could become bearable, even good, for people – not only for the upper classes, as has turned out to be the case. Since then, the populations have doubled or more, with two-thirds being young people. Most have some kind of basic education; they have mobile phones and Internet access. They are aware of the fact that they are being shortchanged by their own leaders and by the international community in today’s world order. No wonder they try their luck as illegal immigrants.

The West’s hegemony continues, and since the Soviet Union collapsed twenty-five years ago, there is no alternative development model in our time. China is coming, but it is not quite seen as having a model to be copied. Its South-South cooperation will perhaps benefit other developing countries more than the West’s cooperation, with different modalities and strings.

Except for free trade and the market economy, the West has after WWII built its military alliance of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which now has 28 member states. The 70th anniversary of the end of the WWII was marked last week. Unfortunately, NATO has moved from a defence alliance to an organization with some aggressive tentacles, including in Central Europe, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and through proxies elsewhere. Again, a virtual (trade) wall is being rebuilt between Western Europe and Russia, further to the east than during the Cold War, creating an unstable and unfriendly atmosphere in Europe and beyond.

If only the West’s leaders could see that the military expenses are extravagant and not even in their own interest. If the leaders could only realize that much of the causes for the current migration and refugee crisis have to do with arms trade and military spending.

Instead, the West should spend money on aid, fair trade and improved relations between the North and South. There are over 50 million refugees in the world today, mostly outside Europe, and they are basically ‘warehoused’ with limited help, and durable solutions are far and long between. Immigrants and foreign workers, who Europe needs in its labour force, are often poorly integrated. This happens in spite of the West’s good administrative systems, knowledge, research, and other resources, but often with ethnocentric mindsets.

Isn’t it time that the West – and all other countries for that matter, especially if they are sending or receiving many refugees and migrants – begin to analyze and discuss the issues from a more enlightened point of view?

Today, in a wealthy world, refugees and migrants should never have to stand with cap in hand, indeed not in front of the ones who stroll with bowler hats?

Sweden has done much of what is right to do. When the former Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said to his countrymen and women before last year’s election: open your hearts (in Swedish, öppna era hjärtan), he did the right thing. He lost the election and a right-wing anti-immigration party gained seats in parliament. Yet, the former PM’s attitudes and values were those that people everywhere should have in our time and age.

We must realize that the rich countries have a moral duty to share their resources with people from the poorer countries. Often they are poor and in wars, conflicts, environmental and natural disasters, because of the West’s lack of help, even exploitation over hundreds of years.

No, I am not saying that everybody can come to Europe – and I don’t think everybody wants to come either. Most people want to live in peace and prosperity where they grew up and feel at home. But then today there are also many people who pay anything and take any chance to get out of the suffering they are in – to no fault of their own. Many may be traumatized from wars and conflicts, poverty and mismanagement by their leaders – which the West often directly or indirectly has a responsibility for. We all have a moral duty to help. But even if we put that aside, people from abroad also enrich ‘old Europe’.

I wish that the European Union, and the West in general, including America, could have alternative analyses and approaches to the dramatic refugee and immigration situation in Europe. To look for fast-track piecemeal measures will not lead to long-term solutions. The structures will not change much with increased charging and sentencing of traffickers and ship owners. Stricter policing and returning undocumented refugees and migrants will only give Europe temporary relief. This week, the EU wants to be authorized to use military force to keep illegal migrants out. This is indeed a sad measure.

We must admit that much of the current world order is unsustainable; it is unfair for those who didn’t get born in the ‘right’ countries, in the upper socio-economic classes, getting the right education and job experience, living in well managed and peaceful environments.

Also, Afghan refugees in Pakistan, who have been treated quite well by the hosts, should not be pushed back now; positive pull factors should be applied, but realistically, most will stay on in Pakistan. And then, in our time and world, national borders aren’t water tight, and should not be either, although fair rules and regulations should be obeyed.

There is still time to mend the migration and refugee system and our thinking about it, I hope. The current crisis in Europe is probably quite moderate as compared to what might come. Let us turn the tide; we must analyze issues, discuss and search for solutions together for a fairer world for all – in a spirit of compassionate realism.