Friday, August 03, 2018

Policies to Address the Migration Problem

I wrote this back in 2016, but never posted it for some reason. Now I am involved in a debate about it on Twitter, so it is time to put it up.

Mass migration on the scale we have seen over the past few years is a symptom of global political and economic dysfunction. It cannot be met by individual countries putting up barriers, with simple obstruction or unthinking denial. Mass migration is a major international challenge and demands major international action to address it.

Addressing the present situation

First it is necessary to accept that we are in this situation. Mass migration is a reality at present. We may or may not like it, but it is necessary to accept it as a given, and react rationally rather than just with negative emotions such as fear and anger.

Short term policy may be sorted in two ways: Obstructive or Humanitarian.

Obstructive measures against migration aim to make it difficult for migrants to travel. They are epitomised by Donald Trump with his "beautiful wall".

British Government foreign policy is often based on a crude behavioral psychology which aims to apply negative reinforcement (punishment in common speech) to unwanted behavior. For example, they are deliberately driving immigrants into povertyi.

This punitive approach is shown in the non-involvement of the UK Government in Operation Triton, where the Government specifically stepped away from saving lives of drowning people because being saved from drowning might (in their view) encourage other to migrate.

The shameful situation at Calais is another example of the punitive approach, as is the failure to honour promises to help children in Calais.

The punitive approach is irrationally applied by the UK Government if it does not also supply authoritative information to the people in sending countries stating that they are putting themselves at risk by taking the journey, and that the British Government will not help them if they get into difficulties. The suffering caused by the policy would have no impact on the motivation of the next wave of migrants unless this information is widely known in sending countries.

The Channel is our wall, but it is pretty certain that if we completely stop taking people in from the continent as UKIP and some Conservatives seem to wish, the busiest sea lane in the world will be filled with boats stuffed with people trying to enter illegally.

The punitive approach is simply inhumane. By pursuing this policy the Government is not only denying the humanity of migrants, it is also degrading Britain's own claim to being a nation that pursues high standards in human rights. Many within Government will be prepared to accept this status, and will be able on that basis to talk down many other points of humanitarian action within Government. The end result will be a continuous movement away from democracy and towards authoritarianism within Britain itself.

This is clearly not acceptable.

Therefore the obstructionist approach must be opposed. In its place, we must put a humanitarian approach to the present cohort of migrants, and a preventive, global approach aimed at reducing future waves of migration.

Humanitarian response to the present cohort
Since the obstructive response is not effective or humane, a humanitarian approach must be used instead.

Basic needs - water, food, shelter, sanitation and health care - must be provided at set points on the journey.

There is no reason that "Processing" (filling in official paperwork) cannot be carried out in camps and at way stops while travelling. The data gathered in this way will help to filter off children, women, bona-fide asylum seekers, and those with relatives in host countries, who can be put into a fast track to their destination.

The Green Party's policy of amnesty to all illegal immigrants at present in the UK, pulling them out of the black market and away from the control of the criminal underclass, and enabling them to contribute to the economy and pay taxes makes good sense.

Government should take out one page advertisements, advertorials and commission articles in newspapers and broadcasts in sending countries to inform people of the difficulties of the hardships and mortal risks of the migrant trail.
An extension of this information policy is to increase integration with well communicated information about the cultural norms that obtain in our society, such as respect for all regardless of their race, sex and sexuality.
Goverment must expand services (education, NHS, housing, social services etc) to meet the need of the UK's expanding population, whatever the cause.

Addressing the root causes of migration

In this section, we can only put up the headlines, sketching out the kind of political changes and reforms that are needed to create a world where people feel less motivated to migrate.

It will be objected that we have been trying for ages to address these international problems, without success, and why should it be any different now?
First, there has been success. Wars are on the decrease over the last 70 years. More countries are democracies than ever before. The literacy rate is growing. We are making progress.
On the other hand, there has been a concerted effort to downgrade and denigrate the UN as a legitimate source of authority, because the dominant neo-liberal ideology deeply distrusts any pooling of power.
The key here is the political will. These problems are permanent items on the agenda of international summits, and as such, they become routine, and do not get addressed urgently. Once the connection has been made in the minds of public and politicians that we will never control migration until we control war, poverty, oppression and environmental degratation, we can expect to see positive change.

  1. War
    Politicians are treading water on issues like war and militarism, paying lip service to peace initiatives, but in reality the interests of corporations carries more weight. It is shameful that the UK is one of the major arms producers in the world.

    If we look at the wars happening in the present century, we find that Separatism, War on Terror, Ideology, Dictator/political, Corporations, The "War on Drugs", Ethnic rivalry and warlordism account for most of the larger conflictsii.

    There is a case for the United Nations to set up a framework for discussion and resolution of separatist aspiration, and also to provide diplomatic and logistical help both for areas where separatist conflict is ongoing, and where there is a clear separatist sentiment that has not yet turned to violence.

    The UN has recently concluded a successful arms control process, and it is time now to move on to ammunition control. A practical possibility for inhibiting irregular fighters is to concentrate on seizing ammunition, which is detectable by trained dogs. Without ammunition a gun is nothing but a very expensive clubiii.

    Future wars will be fought over resources, especially oil unless we rapidly move away from reliance on fossil fuels.

  2. Poverty As we have seen above, remittances are an immensely important component of the economy in Less developed Countries (LDCs). Increasing aid budgets is unlikely to be able to compensate, since remittances are three times greater than the aid contribution. Therefore the only sustainable solution is to increase the wages paid to workers in LDCs, as part of a new package of workers rights, perhaps mediated through the Internatinoal Labour Organisation. This would put prices up for good originating in emergent economies, which would in turn help UK manufacturing.

  1. Oppressive , authoritarian and totalitarian regimes cause people to try to emigrate, and also tend to become embroiled in civil war as people try to break free of the regime. The Green Parties of the world have adopted the idea of a Global Human Rights Indexiv published annually by the United Nations to show clearly at a glance the relative position of every government in terms of human rights. The worst performers could then be helped to improve their record, and regimes on the slippery slope to dictatorship could be given incentives to move towards democracy.
  2. DfID's international Aid programmes should be comprehensively reviewed. If there is a large amount of migration from any country, the causes should be examined in case and adjustment of the focus of aid might be able to help to stabilise the situation.

  3. Climate change is being addressed in a desultory way. The Paris Agreement is excellent, but there is widespread expectation that it will not be ratified and implemented byu many countries. A change in attitude and urgency would make a huge difference. Many measures are required, but the most important issue in the UK is fracking. If this can be blocked, we will be constrained to meet the energy niche filled by gas from biogas and also energy storage.
  4. Population growth needs to be discussed seriously. We should look at successful non-coercive programmes as in Thailand and Kerala, and focus on empowerment of women, provision of contraceptives, and education.


Migration is not just a phase that will go away of its own accord, it is a part of human social behaviour, but is on a rising trend that is amplified by war, oppression, poverty and environmental degradation. Its impact on the economies of receiving countries' economies is weakly positive, but right wing tabloid newspaper stories stir up resentment that threatens social cohesion. Migration contributes significantly to a population overshoot in the British Isles. Therefore efforts must be made to reduce migration at source.
Obstructive policies are incompatible with humanitarian values, and migration pressures can only be reduced by an intensive and serious global, long term drive against militarism and for peace, against dictatorship and human rights abuses, against poverty, and against climate change. Addressing the causes of migration therefore will motivate us to work for true improvements in the state of the world.


Anodyne report on migration and climate from the British Government

Richard Lawson

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