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Immigration, why, and for what purpose?
Sher Ali Umera Afghanistan(27, Female )
Immigration and the change in its global dynamics have become highly important topics of modern time. Recent large-scale immigrations have overwhelmed a number governments, mainly in Europe. In addition, immigration, together with economy and security, was one of the key topics of electoral campaigns in Europe and the United States. Hence, this 21st century challenge needs to be addressed by international community, which is possible only through full commitment to tackling its root-causes. And as global citizens, both the blind and sighted, it is up to us to help our leaders take the right decisions on immigration.
In this essay, I will explore the causes and purpose of immigration. In order to do so, I will begin with the big picture and then focus on why people immigrate. I will end with what we can and should do to play our role as active members of the society.
Immigration can simply be defined as moving to a new place (Which can be another country) in order to live there. According to UN’s 2015 report, there are more than 200 Million international migrants worldwide. Majority of them live in Europe, Asia and North America; and the international immigration is continuously rising. Meanwhile, the number of internally displaced people (Inside a country) is far higher: close to 800 Million. If both international and internal immigration are counted, every seventh person in the world is an immigrant.
In order to find out why and for what purpose people immigrate, we need to understand the drivers behind immigration. In general, people immigrate for two reasons: 1) they want to immigrate for attaining better living conditions; or 2) they have to immigrate in response to difficult conditions. The issue of ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors (Factors that stimulate emigration and immigration) plays a key role in decision making process of migration, as well as, choosing a destination.
The first category of immigration (Seeking better living conditions) comprises of people who have one thing in common: they have options, and they make a choice. In general, their pre-immigration living conditions are comparably acceptable. Rather, their perception of ‘better life’, together with other factors, contribute to their decision of immigration. It is worth mentioning that technological development, notably in transportation and communication sectors, has further facilitated this type of immigration.
Having said that, a highly important reason of immigration is the presence of ‘opportunity’, which can be economic opportunity, employment opportunity, or educational opportunity. The majority of international and some internal immigrants fall under this category, including investors, entrepreneurs, skilled workers, manual labor, and students. Within this group, poverty is a prominent reason of economic immigration, especially manual labor. The rural-urban migration (Moving from villages to cities for better jobs and income) is mainly the immigration of manual labor.
Another reason is ‘family’, since family reunion is also an important part of immigration statistics. Not to forget, the tendency of reunification is almost always towards those partners living in countries with better quality of life. Finally, a new trend of immigration is ‘retirement immigration’ where retired individuals from developed countries move to other places in pursuit of perceived better quality of life. Resources play an important role in this type of immigration.
In the second category of immigration, people are forced to flee their home, village, city, or country. In addition to refugees, majority of internally displaced fall under this class. In most cases, such displacements are not pre-planned or coordinated with host community/country putting pressure on the later, such as immigration of Syrians to Lebanon or the wave of immigrants that hit Europe recently. Moreover, majority of these immigrants are in dire need of humanitarian assistance due to psycho-medical conditions and financial loss.
There are a number of underlying causes for forced immigration such as conflicts and persecution, developmental projects, environmental degradation, and natural disasters. Conflicts and persecution lay at the core of this category. According to UNHCR, refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia make half of all refugees worldwide alluding to the role of war in forced migration.
On the other hand, development-related migration is an outcome of public or private developmental projects such as dams, mining, etc. It is somewhat different from other forced immigrations due to the fact that it is generally pre-planned internal displacement, and these immigrants are not protected by international law.
At the same time, environmental degradation and natural disasters can bring about large-scale internal or international immigrations. Deforestations, pollution of water, soil and air, and lack of political will to protect environment can exacerbate climate change. Which will, nonetheless, result in more frequent and intense natural disasters. If not halted, this may become a leading cause of future immigration.
Immigration offers diversity, multiculturalism, economic opportunities, as well as, saves lives. Immigration can also change socio-economic foundations and demographics. It can pave way for human-trafficking and unregulated immigration resulting in concerns about national identity and state sovereignty. Further strengthened by misconception of correlation between immigration and crime and/or terrorism, it has resulted in the rise of extreme right parties and development of anti-immigration policies. Therefore, we, the blind and sighted, must work at the grass-root level to help our societies/governments make informed choices. We can do so via advocacy, and giving chance to political parties which are willing to address the issue. Comprehensive societal, inter-sectoral, national, regional, and global efforts will pinpoint the causes and purpose of immigration; develop proper policies; and can benefit from the untapped potential of immigration.
In conclusion, there are a vast number of reasons and purposes of immigration. They can be rounded up in two categories: 1) voluntary immigration; and 2) forced immigration. Considering the destination, immigration can also be international or internal. Boundaries between voluntary and forced immigration are blurred in some areas such as droughts, especially when the severity is topic of interest. Such complex issue needs further research, political will, collective action, short and long-term solutions, and most importantly, citizen participation.