|The Earth is but one country and mankind its citizens|
Fleeing terror, poverty and conflict, they risk their lives to travel in leaky vessels bound for strange unwelcome shores, which they may never even get to see. These are the odds weighed up by the parents and their children who undertake these dangerous voyages driven by despair. 1,800 migrants have already died in the Mediterranean in 2015. This is a 20-fold increase on the same period in 2014.
Former EU commissioner Peter Sutherland, who is a special representative of the UN on migration, said: "The fundamental issue here is saving people who are drowning in the Mediterranean . . . this is not about getting into battles about quotas when we are facing a humanitarian crisis."
Yet as this blog has posted the refugee crises are worldwide with many in Asia suffering from draconian government policies.
“This issue is quite urgent,” said Panitan Wattanayagorn, a government adviser and security expert at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. “It’s a very clear humanitarian issue — you need to rescue these people — but you have political complications and economic complications.”
Yet it is the immigration opponents who are making themselves a factor in politics. They are the ones influencing politicians. Britain’s newly elected Conservative government, for example, said it would not take part in any EU plan to resettle refugees using quotas for each EU country. Migration issues are often swept under the carpet because they are considered too contentious
Sriprapha Petcharamesree, a former Thai representative to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, describes continued obstruction by Myanmar at regional meetings. The issue of the Rohingya is proposed but not discussed because Myanmar delegates argue that the Rohingya are not Southeast Asian people and that discussing the matter is interference in Myanmar’s internal affairs.
“I have been arguing that it doesn’t matter where they are from,” Ms. Sriprapha said. “To me, as a human rights worker, it doesn’t matter where they are from — they are now in our territory. They are entitled to our protection.”
The European Commission will introduce a “European Agenda on Migration” on Wednesday, following criticism for what U.N human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has called its “callous” approach to the 219,000 migrants who sailed to Europe last year. The European Union should recognise the potential benefit of migrants fleeing to its shores, not try to keep them out for fear of the burden they will place on Europe’s economy, labour and human rights say.
Zeid said EU politicians should stop “pandering to the xenophobic populist movements that have poisoned public opinion” and admit the EU needed “the low-skilled labour that migrants are desperate to contribute”.
“The elephant in the room surely is the issue of economic migration, and the rational way to deal with it is in a managed way, rather than ignoring it and hoping it will go away, because it ain’t going away,” Leonard Doyle, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, told a regular U.N. briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.
Studies have found that if the conditions are right, waves of low-skilled foreigners can bring economic benefits. One published in March by Mette Foged at the University of Copenhagen and Giovanni Peri at UC Davis looked at a refugee influx in Denmark between 1991 and 2008. The study found it improved wages and job mobility for young and low-skilled Danes.
In labour market migration, the impact is often positive, and certainly one cannot detect what would be a natural fear, for example the decline in wages and working conditions with a significant number of incomers,” said Raymond Torres, head of research at the International Labour Organization. A 1990 study by David Card at Princeton examined the Mariel Boatlift, when 125,000 Cubans arrived in Southern Florida, and found the sudden 7 percent increase to the Miami labour force had “virtually no effect on the wages or unemployment rates of less-skilled workers”. “All the evidence points in this direction,” Torres said. “When you have growing inequality in society, there’s a certain tendency to try to find culprits.”