Categories
Migration

Migration: New Perspectives on an Old Story

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Courtesy of Jean-Marc Desfilhes/Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This article was originally published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on 18 December 2016.

Migration has persisted in one form or another throughout the centuries: from nomadic hunters to industrial labourers, from traders to seafarers, from colonists to persecuted minorities. Many migration routes—like those that traverse the Sahara or meander through the Amazonian border regions of Brazil, Ecuador and Peru—pre-date the states whose borders they cross. And yet, the study of vulnerable human mobility and our commitment to the protection of migrants and their rights are relatively recent.

Comprised of numerous and often competing narratives, public discourse on migration is indicative of its complexity. However, often framed at the state or regional level, it also obscures the human dimensions of migration. On International Migrants Day, it’s worth reflecting on the number and experiences of people on the move.

Categories
Migration

Seven Worrying Trends in the European Refugee Crisis

Sea Storm, Blue Moon
Courtesy stainedglassartist/Flickr

This article was originally published by the European Council on Foreign Relations on 13 October 2016.

EU leaders could soon come to regret having crossed their fingers and moved the refugee crisis off the urgent pile in their in-tray.

As part of his final UN General Assembly, President Obama hosted a leaders’ summit on refugees. In his speech he termed the global refugee crisis one of ‘the most urgent tests of our time’. But the list of commitments coming out of the summit did not live up to this description. The Bratislava EU summit earlier this month barely touched on refugee issues among the list of priorities to address, and there seems to be a general sense that Europe has more or less weathered the refugee storm that appeared so threatening in 2015.

There is some truth to this – for now. The number of sea crossings to the EU in the first nine months of 2016 was indeed down, at around 300,000, compared to 520,000 in 2015. But despite this there are a number of worrying trends that EU leaders would be foolish to ignore.

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Migration Conflict

Why Borders Matter

The Sykes-Picot line, separating Syria and Iraq. Image: Royal Geographical Society/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) on 23 July, 2015.

Events in the Middle East seem to make some commentators and officials forget the fact that borders matter—everywhere, including the Middle East.  Most borders reflect the vagaries and irrationalities of history.  Sometimes they look arbitrary—history does not usually produce straight lines.  Borders frame states, and states are the constituents of the international system and order.  Borders bound sovereignty.  Their recognition implies acceptance of power within boundaries.  For these reasons alone, governments and commentators should take them seriously and be wary of too-easy calls to change them.  Just look at the Balkan bloodbaths of the last 150 years for examples other than those in Iraq and Syria of what can happen when borders are torn up or control of borders becomes a politico-military issue.  In short, borders are at the heart of international peace, order, and prosperity.

Categories
Government Migration

The AU’s Plans for an African Passport a Pie in the Sky?

Stamps in an African Passport. Image: Jon Rawlinson/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by ISS Africa on 15 July, 2015.

Amid the furore over Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s attendance, along with celebrities like Angelina Jolie, some of the discussions at last month’s African Union (AU) summit in Johannesburg went largely unnoticed.

One of these is a renewed call for African countries to open their borders and for regional economic communities (RECs) to do this by no later than 2018.

Is the AU way ahead of its time? Or is this just a desperate measure to find alternatives for Africans who are so eager to leave their own countries that they risk life and limb to settle elsewhere?

Categories
Human Rights Migration Humanitarian Issues

The Push and Pull of the World’s Most Dangerous Migration Route – What’s Really Behind The Flock of Thousands to Europe These Days?

Migrants arriving on the island of Lampedusa in August 2007. Image: Sara Prestianni/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Politics in Spires on 22 February, 2015.

The  Mediterranean Sea is today’s most dangerous border between countries not at war with each other. Just last week, 300 persons departing Libya on four rubber dinghies have gone missing at sea, after drifting for days without food and water. News reports in the past six months have regularly commented upon the rising number of persons disembarking on Italy’s coastline – benefiting from its search and rescue operation Mare Nostrum. Despite the increase in new arrivals from 33,000 to 200,000, the life-saving mission has now been discarded. Italian policy makers believe Mare Nostrum is as responsible for overcrowded reception centres as it is for the rising number of persons risking their lives at sea. But is it truly to blame for the surge? Because more than 50 per cent of arrivals are either Syrian or Eritrean, news commentators have provided some other potential explanations. Some point to the protracted conflict in the Middle East, whilst others highlight the strain on neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq in continuing to receive thousands of Syrian refugees. “Poverty in Africa” is mentioned occasionally, and for the better informed, an oppressive military regime and indefinite conscription in Eritrea are to blame. Yet these supposed  ‘causes’ of the latest wave in irregular migration to Europe are speculative at most and have in fact been ongoing for many years now.