We are talking more and more – and ONLY – about immigrants, landings and sea rescues, but words themselves are not enough to describe a huge flow of people leaving the countries they were born in, for lots of different reasons.
And the causes at the basis of their departures define the category which commonly these people belong to: migrants, both those migrating within Africa and those going abroad – nowadays the first ones are more than the second ones.
The biggest migration flow is undoubtedly that of economic immigrants: people leaving their countries because of deprivations they are forced to live in. They move because they need to support their families, which often remains in the fatherland, waiting for help. They hope to find a job and better economic conditions and, often, they are the smarter and most educated immigrants.
Then there are eco-migrants, leaving their countries because of worsening situations caused by climate change. Desertification, drought, floods, are only some of the strongest manifestations of this problem, as much urgent as ignored by powerful people’s agendas.
Finally, there are victims of conflicts, running away from wars’ horrors devastating their countries, as it happens in Syria, or abandoning their houses because of political or religious persecutions, as it happens in Somalia and Eritrea. Lots of these refugees try to flee to Europe, challenging the sea or the land blocks, hoping to be recognized as political refugees. This condition is recognized by western governments through a long and bureaucratic process called “right to political asylum”, provided by UN and absorbed in single countries’ laws.
In the process by which the right to asylum can be accepted or denied, institutions have to decide whether the person asking for international protection has the basic requirements, such as coming from one of the countries undergoing a war or considered dangerous for his/her human rights. Often the borderline between immigrants and asylum seekers is difficult to find and controls take time and are complicated, aiming to avoid mistakes. Only at the end of this process the refugee obtains protection and is considered a political refugee.
In Italy, recent figures by Ministero degli Interni (Ministry of the Interior) show that 1 in 3 requests for asylum is rejected: about 60% of immigrants are economic, not political ones.
A different situation was that created by the war in Syria: in last years, millions of people from Damascus and Aleppo have walked across Europe, forcing road blocks, climbing over walls built in few days, violating international agreements – such as the one between European Union and Turkey – always pushed by desperation. Billions of people in the world saw and was moved by the picture of Aylan, the Syrian child found lifeless on Bodrum beach: the symbol of the political refugee who couldn’t find a new home.
In his book “Exodus: Immigration and Multiculturalism in the 21st Century”, Paul Collier, one of the biggest immigration theorists in the world, uses some important words: «in every democratic society, government must defend its citizens’ interests, but citizens should worry about local and poor countries’ people in need».
In this sense, this expert puts forward an important methodological premise: discussions about immigrants go on through political powers’ clashes and the reasoning about it is lost. Collier states: «Fights about migration politics transformed themselves into values’ clashes more than into debates on valid data. Positions are polarized and each side is going to accept only those data and subjects which could support its prejudices».
Prejudices and values’ clashes. For example, the wall which president Donald Trump would like to build between USA and Mexico, after that, for decades, USA have benefited from cheap Mexican manpower and despite 10% of Americans – about 40 million – have Mexican origins.
Collier adds that the sense of responsibility for poor people and the fear of nationalism could have caused the chaos of countries deciding to stop immigration.
In his work, Paul Collier tries to contextualize some benefits of migration processes: for the country the migrant comes from, the choice of moving towards an area which is potentially richer in opportunities represents the future, which his/her community invests money and hopes in.
The entire community receives a significant economic support when the migrant settles in the foreign country and can send part of his/her income home. It is not pure coincidence that the first people leaving northern Africa’s countries are healthy young men: all people in the village help to pay for the costs of his journey to Europe, as they consider it not as the departure of a single man, but instead as an investment for their own community’s future. Just have a look at data about the remittances: you will understand how much real this mechanism is.
According to Collier, migration processes are natural flows and wondering whether they are positive or negative is completely useless – as it should be if talking about eating. What should worry is excess: eating too much can lead to obesity and in the same way an excessive emigration rate can cause tensions and problems, which shouldn’t be underestimated.
However, we must analyse and understand carefully the causes of the migration flows’ speed, avoiding ideological prejudices.