Synopsis : The cause of massive human migration is due to man made disaster like wars that are forcing people to seek safety elsewhere only to find that no one wants them. Some die in the process of finding new homes and yet the migration continues .The blog seeks answers to the issue of migration and applauds the effort of the UN and NGOs.
Source : Google photo
Humans have been migrating ever since they stood upright in the Rift Valley in Africa millions of years ago. They have been doing so in order to find food and shelter when their place of origin could not provide them or were scarce but it was not a serious problem because the population then was very small.
Small groups detached themselves and moved on to find greener pastures or often to avoid conflict with larger groups over resources. This migration took place over a long period of thousands of years and was mostly voluntary. When they found a new land rich in resources like food and water, they settled down even if the new location was colder and less hospitable. They adapted to the new environment by wearing thick animal skin clothes and made strong weather proof shelters with stones or found caves to live in.
Thus our ancestors moved to Europe and others moved along the coast toward the East and settled into small groups everywhere expertly adapting to the climate, food and developed distinct cultures and even their physical features.
In very cold and harsh climates of Europe they shed their pigment and became white while those moving on eastward retained the dark skin to a large extent. The inter breeding within various sub groups changed them into something similar to the Neanderthals and later to Homo sapiens from whom we all descend.
This transformation from dark-skinned Africans into what we have become took a very long time but was the result of evolution and migration but we maintain a strong link with our African ancestors through what the scientists term as the marker gene that has been found in people living in different parts of the world today.
With this back ground let us move on to the present day migration that is taking place from Africa to Europe and from the Middle East conflict areas to Europe and even Australia or North America. It seems that people are migrating in all directions due to economic reasons and political reasons as a result of war.
There was a time when Australia was considered a penal colony where someone in England was transported to just for stealing a loaf of bread but mostly people convicted of serious crimes that included men as well as women and some children. It is a vast country that only had its native population who had arrived there tens of thousands of years ago probably as a result of ancient African migration. They had never met the white people before but welcomed them and were curious about them.
This welcoming attitude and their curiosity diminished when the new comers decided to treat the native population badly as inferior people and called them aborigines. They ignored their rich culture and long history and called them savages. The white population slowly grew and settled into the Eastern shores where cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane etc. were established and thrive today that are a far cry from those early days.
Still for such a vast continent such as Australia, the total population remains miniscule at about 20 million people mostly concentrated in the Eastern part. But the government has very strict immigration policy that restricts who can settle in Australia and accepts very few new immigrants who have to wait for a long period of time to get processed. The average waiting period to get an immigrant visa there is about 8 to 10 years.
Still hundreds of refugees fleeing their war-torn countries in the Middle East or elsewhere risk their lives to reach Australia in rickety boats that are intercepted in mid-ocean by the coast guards and the hapless people are taken to temporary shelters on some off shore islands where they languish for years just waiting for their fate to be decided by the government of Australia.
Often we hear of riots , hunger strikes and deaths in those shelters because people are so desperate to get out to live a normal life on the mainland but Australia does not want them and does not know what to do with them. They wanted to send only 2000 refugees to the USA that President Obama had agreed upon but the new president turned them down. Still more people are found in un seaworthy boats heading toward Australia hoping for a better life and often drown when such boats capsize in storms. The human traffickers make money out of them and do not care what happens to them.
We see this tragedy almost every day when boats full of starving and dehydrated Africans are intercepted in the Mediterranean by the Italian or Spanish coast guards who then bring them to Lampedusa for temporary shelters and processing. Thousands have died trying to reach Europe this way but more follow the same route.
The human traffickers make money but people still die in the process. Those who survive push on to Italy, France and the UK. Some try to reach Germany, Nordic countries or Greece. You will see large squatter camps in Calais or other places where these poor people live like animals and are desperate to get their basic necessities like food, water and shelter while waiting for some countries to take them. You will see them in the street of Rome selling cheap trinkets. You will see them in small towns of France where they sell African carvings, masks or the things they make. Their struggle to survive is long and painful.
Economic migration. : The economic migrants seeking jobs in richer countries were the most numerous in the last century and still number in millions today. They were brought to the colonies by the British, French, Germans and all those countries that needed cheap labor to run their farms and plantations so these migrants spread out to the British colonies from Fiji to many parts of Africa and even Surinam where they still remain today. It was easy for any Indian to travel to any part of the British Empire without visa or custom regulation in those days as bonded laborers but many educated people went to England and settled there. There are now millions of Asians in England alone where you see them everywhere and have radically changed the demography of that small country in ways the British never thought possible.
Some have started to resent them and want a halt to fresh immigration so laws have been tightened and waiting period for an immigrant visa is like in Australia still people keep coming illegally in container vans or trucks often suffocating to death in the process. It is a sad situation because small countries in Europe just can’t cope with the deluge of immigrants that keep coming with no end in sight.
They try to cross from Turkey in rickety boats to reach Greece or Italy and drown. Often their bodies as young as 3 years old wash up ashore that highlights the desperation they face trying to find a new home.
The war refugees: Now due to conflict in many countries like Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan etc. there are hundreds of thousands of very desperate people who have fled their homeland to seek new homes elsewhere where they will feel safe only to find out that no country wants them so what to do? They are not economic migrants because in their country they were people with means to live well but the war changed everything for them. If you ask them why they migrate, they will say that it is to save their lives. They want to return home when the war ends but no one knows when it will end or if new conflicts will flare up again somewhere. Some flee due to persecution and ethnic cleansing by the terrorists like those poor people in Sinjar or the Kurds.
When India was divided into two countries, Hindus living in Pakistan fled to India and some Moslems in India fled to Pakistan and a million people died in the process. These refugees arrived with nothing and had a terrible time resettling in India because they received little help from anyone. This persecution of minorities in Pakistan and other Moslem countries continues even today resulting in migration of these poor people to safer haven.
The UNHCR and many NGOs help to some extent these people within their limited resources and always seek more funds from donor countries but the scale of the problem defies any attempt to help them in a meaningful way.
There was a tent city just outside Khartoum in Sudan where hundreds of thousands of refugees from south Sudan lived in appalling conditions and dire poverty because a war was going on in the south. They went back to South Sudan when the war ended and the UN Secretary General Kofi Anan attended the birth of a new country with great fanfare while people danced in the streets until the war broke out again between rivals and restarted the cycle of misery and death.
I used to see the freight trains loaded with bodies brought to El Obeid during the night but the Sudanese government did not want anyone to see their losses.
The asylum seekers: Then there are those people who speak out against their illegal governments and their corrupt policies so they are persecuted relentlessly while they seek to escape and find asylum in other countries that are sympathetic to their problems. I remember how Svetlana Alliluyeva (Stalin) who was visiting Delhi as a part of a Russian delegation escaped in disguise and reached the US embassy asking for asylum and stunned the ambassador. She was given asylum because she was who she was but this does not happen to ordinary people.
Poor North Koreans try to escape their prison like country and go to China from where they take trains to Laotian border, swim across the Mekong to reach the safety on the other side and escape to Thailand. From there they reach South Korea where they want to live but South Korea is only a stone throw away from North Korea that they cannot leave. They cannot cross the border strewn with land mines and other perils. Many have died trying to cross over just like in East Germany.
The South Americans flee to the north in very large numbers escaping the death squads, the drug war, the poverty and misery in their countries and seek a better and safe life in the United States so they too climb aboard freight trains to reach El Paso or other places. They are routinely victimized by the traffickers called the coyotes who for a good sum of money sneak them into the United States and leave them to die of thirst crossing the deserts on their own.
Now they are talking about building a wall along the border to keep out these poor people who need help and compassion but compassion is in short supply these days.
During the last war in Europe so many people tried to escape Germany to reach Switzerland but very few succeeded the treacherous journey risking their lives. Spain remained neutral during the war so many refugees sought asylum there passing through Casablanca that reminds me of the Ingrid Bergman movie Casablanca. Some allied prisoners kept in the Kolditz castle near Dresden tried to escape and reach Switzerland but only a few succeeded.
The human migration for one reason or other has been going on forever and will not stop anytime soon because people want to escape to a better life somewhere else at the risk of their lives so desperate they are. Poverty, war, persecution, pestilence and other reasons push these people but what is the solution?
The end of war can bring them back to their homes that they can rebuild again. Some people are moving back to Mosul that has been liberated from the terrorists and other cities are being cleared of the jihadists in Homs and Raqqa in Syria. But the jihadists are like cancer that grows somewhere else in the body so as long as deadly ideology of hard-core jihadists remains, the war will flare up in various parts again starting the migration all over.
The more developed countries must open their doors and take in more people who seek their help and not build walls to keep them out. The immigrants are assets and not liabilities because they help the economy grow and create jobs for others. Those fleeing persecution and death should be given priority.
The immigrants in their turn should try to assimilate into their new country as fast as they can and not remain in their own enclaves not learning the language of the country or their customs and culture. It is sad to see their self-imposed isolation in Europe and America that leads to the radicalization of their youth who then start making trouble.
Any person who speaks many languages finds it easier to assimilate into a new society while preserving the essentials of his own. Just watch a Frenchman smile in surprise if you speak fluent French with them. They instantly open up to you and extend a hand of friendship. I know this because I have such experience.
I believe that this beautiful world of ours has room for everyone somewhere .All we need is compassion and understanding.
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