Immigration is not a root cause but an outcome and a byproduct of a set of failed economic, social, political, military and educational polices set in place over a long period of time.
People in the past and the present immigrate in pursuit of economic opportunities, livelihood, and in search of security for self and family. The search for economic opportunities away from home is the primary engine for immigration and movement from one part of the world to another.
Colonial forces and troops indeed were forced out in the past 40-50 years, but the economic, political, social, military and educational infrastructure remained colonial at the roots. The colonial companies that controlled the raw materials never left, banking institutions and finance remained intact, and social relations governed by a racial hierarchy, and a military set-up to control and crush the population while keeping them away from contesting the vested colonial system are still present.
This post-colonial state structure managed by colonially educated elites, trained to maintain unfettered access to markets, flow of raw materials and resources to the North while utilizing colonially trained and equipped military forces to keep the system un-interrupted, continues to exist. As consequence, the southern economies never stopped being colonial and were set-up as a service, raw material and cheap labor feeder.
Just as we ponder about illegal and legal immigration to United States, unprecedented numbers of people are also taking dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean to reach countries of the European Union. In 2014, at least 219,000 people made the crossing, up from 60,000 the previous year. According to the UN refugee agency United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 89,500 crossed in the first five months of 2015.
The principal route has long been from North Africa across the central Mediterranean, but increasing numbers are now crossing the Aegean Sea (eastern Mediterranean) from Turkey to the Greek islands. Germany expects the number of asylum seekers it receives to quadruple to about 800,000 in 2015 and the Italian coastguard said some 1,600 migrants had been rescued in the Mediterranean and brought to Italy over the weekend.
On Friday 71 bodies, including those of a baby girl and three other children were found in an abandoned refrigeration truck in Austria. The dead are believed to be refugees from Syria or possibly Afghanistan. At least 2,500 migrants have died since January, most of them drowning in the Mediterranean after arduous journeys fleeing war, oppression or poverty in Syria and other parts of the Middle East and Africa.
Why do people immigrate in the first place? The problem is structural and no longer can be dealt with by building walls or increasing border patrols. As long as the global south economies and resources are ravaged to benefit the 1%, there is no hope of ending the immigration crisis.
How to remedy this begins with a complete recognition of the problem as a shared one and that it is no longer possible to isolate ‘troubles’ from the south as being a global south issue alone. A political and economic collapse in the south means massive migration to the north and as such the problem is connected and must be approached in an integrated manner. Real investment in people and sustainable economies need to take the lead, rather than protecting corporations’ bottom line.
Destroyed economies, fragmented political structures and conflicts may be reduced or prevented by a sustained de-colonialization program rooted in addressing peoples’ needs first and above all. The time has come to make this shift and a global move toward addressing the real and structural challenges. Stop blaming the immigrants and start looking for real changes that will stop their journey both in Europe and the US.
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