On the face of it, the travails of the Rohingya boat people have nothing to do with those of the Axact company. And little to do with those of the refugees from Africa and the Middle East going across the Mediterranean to Europe, but all these phenomena reflect the attraction of the West.

The Rohingya boat people are trying to get away from their native Burma to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand or Australia, and thousands are stranded at sea, as these countries refuse them admission. The Rohingya are accused of being ‘economic migrants’, as well as including in their ranks Bangladeshis, who are most definitely ‘economic migrants. This ‘economic’ label is accepted, and it is generally accepted that a Rohingya from Myanmar would want to make that migration to the above mentioned countries. There is a further acceptance that Bangladeshis would want to shift to those countries. This serves a double purpose; for it also means that not only are Bangladeshis such desperate economic migrants that they are willing to ‘fly under a false flag’, but also that Rohingyas are actually Bangladeshis, not Myanmarese. Rohingyas claim Myanmarese citizenship, something the Myanmarese state denies. It claims they are all recent Bangladeshi migrants, which Bangladesh vociferously denies. The Rohingyas are Muslim, in contrast with the Buddhists who make up the Myanmarese majority. The good Myanmarese should be a Buddhist. Muslims are not the only religious minority in trouble. There is also a serious problem with the Christian Karen people. However, while the state claims Myanmar once attracted migration from West Bengal, it now claims to become unattractive enough for those same people to carry out another dangerous and uncertain migration. The role of the state in denying them citizenship, and thus its protection, is thus pushed under the carpet.

The discovery of mass graves by both Thai and Malaysian authorities, along the Thai-Malay border, is strongly suspected to be of Rohingya victims of human trafficking. If confirmed, that would indicate so high a level of disaffection with the Myanmarese state that the risk of death is acceptable. That does not seem to be typical of economic migrants.

In Europe, on the other hand, there is none of the confusion over citizenship. Nowhere in the Middle East did any colonial power leave a citizenship tangle like that of Burma. However, those migrating across the Mediterranean are a combination of economic and political migrants. The economic migrants are primarily motivated by a wish to improve the reward for the work and are heading to Europe in search of work. Political migrants are fleeing unrest and instability at home, both in the Middle East and Africa. That is one of the most pressing reasons for such migration in a hurry, or under such difficult conditions. However, even political migrants prefer to migrate to places where they will find work or business opportunities.

At this point, it is probably useful to point out that neither economic nor political migrants are ideological migrants. This means that, while they might be migrating from societies without proper economic opportunities for them, or because political instability has made life unlivable at home, migrants retain the right and ability to disapprove of the ideology of the society that they have moved to. That might explain why the next generation does not acculturate fully. This refusal to acculturate, and thus assimilate, is also behind the anti-immigrant sentiment visible in Europe. Thus there is the paradox of the UK, which has a long tradition of accepting economic and political migration, which has made it host to a large migrant population, also being the home of a vigorous anti-migrant movement, so strong that the present Conservative government include a promise to hold a referendum on continuing European Union membership. It is not just the Middle East and African migrants who come across the Med, but also the migrants from the newly admitted members of Eastern Europe.

While Muslims have become the new boat people, the Axact scandal has shed a new focus on degree mills. The idea of a degree opening doors is not just the result of experience of the modern world, but is also a selling-point used by degree-awarding institutions. Axact is merely using this marketing, and is accused of providing a short cut, where the piece of paper is provided, but not the knowledge and skill-set that piece of paper is supposed to represent. Somehow, Axact is supposed to have brought a bad name to Pakistan, though the degree mills in the West do not seem to be blamed for bringing infamy down upon the heads of their countries. Those degree mills do not seem to have lessened the value of a Western degree.

The whole affair does highlight the value placed by employers on a degree from a Western university, and thus by employees. It also serves as a reminder of the attempt by Muslim countries to introduce Western educational institutions at home, thus providing for the students who could not afford to go abroad, financially or because the requisite permission was lacking. It also highlights the centrality of education in spreading a belief system. It is the mirroring of Western educational systems in the Third World that allows migration, or at least greases it. The Third World’s sending to Europe of so many educated and skilled people is based on the ability of Third-World educational institutions to equip graduates to run the machinery of the West, and only secondarily to develop their own societies.

That attraction is based on technology. It may be that non-Western countries, China and Japan, have got larger economies, outstripping the West, and it may be that both countries have mastered technologies that allow them to remain in that company, but it is also true that they have done so because of an adoption of Western ideology, which in turn acknowledges their superiority.

There is a debate whether this acknowledgement signals the ‘End of history’ as Francis Fukuyama predicted, or whether it signals a ‘Clash of Civilizations’ as Samuel P. Huntington predicted. It is worth pointing to two things. First, the debate is within Western academia, and is not the old First versus Third World debates, which were between the old imperialists (Europeans) and their newly freed colonies. Second, the three-way clash Huntington saw between Confucianism, Islam and Western civilization, seems to have become two-way, at least on the current evidence. Muslim boat people, whether Rohingya or Arab, are the foot soldiers in this conflict. Axact degree selling might be less orthodox, but it is part of the same clash.